by Fred Matheny
Being able to stop suddenly in a short distance can get you out of big trouble. Think about those times on a ride when you are happily pedaling along and need to “stop on a dime.” It could be that a car suddenly pulls out in front of you off a side street. Or comes around you and cuts you off. Or a rider in front of you approaches what seems like a clear intersection and then yells out: “Car right.”
If you’re not able to safely stop almost immediately, things can get very bad very fast.
Learn this skill if you’re new to road cycling (and refresh your ability even if you’re a grizzled veteran) with a few minutes of practice on a quiet stretch of pavement.
Here’s how to practice a panic stop on a bicycle:
- Pedal up to a decent speed. About 15 mph is enough.
- Stop pedaling, with the crankarms horizontal.
- Extend your arms to push your body back as you grab the brake levers. Let your butt go off the rear of the saddle, putting you in a long, low position over the bike.
- Squeeze the front brake harder to stop faster. Maximum stopping power is in the front wheel as weight shifts forward. Having your body low and rearward prevents tipping over the handlebar.
- Squeeze the rear brake a little less to prevent the tire from skidding. Of course, in a real panic stop this is a low priority.
Be very careful as you practice! This technique is meant to prevent crashes, not cause them. Always keep the bike on a straight line. Trying to stop like this while turning could easily make you lose control.
Once you’ve added panic stops to your bag of tricks, you’ll do the right thing when a car, dog or any other danger suddenly appears out of nowhere.