We all do it at one point or another. We play some kind of game with ourselves while we are on the bike. Match your cadence to the beat in your headphones, intervals between street signs, maybe see how many green lights you can hit in a row, or even a beer century. Lately, I have been messing around with what I like to call the “No Brake Challenge”.
It all started last year when I had the opportunity to road trip around West Texas with a few friends. Since the organizer and main cat herder of the trip was photographer Devon Balet, we were on the trail every day at sun rise and sunset so that he could have the best possible light. This particular morning in Fort Davis, TX we were treated to one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. As we rode the trails and Devon made pictures, we would constantly stop to huddle around the three inch screen of his camera. All of us trying to see what the pictures looked like with the surreal morning sky as a backdrop. No matter how amazing the photographs were, the boys still took the time to bust my chops about always having my fingers on the brake lever, even when I was climbing. Up until that point, I had no idea that I was even doing it.
Then, a few days later in Big Bend, it was brought to my attention again.
Anyone that has ever ridden with me knows that my riding style is all about getting to the top of the hill by any means necessary and then blasting down as fast as I can. I basically slog up every climb knowing that the reward for my efforts will be the downhill on the other side (is that Enduro?). I will never set any land speed records going up, but I sure do like to go fast on the downs. The teasing from my friends got me thinking. If my fingers are always on the brake levers, I bet I’m using my brakes a lot more than I need to.
Enter the No Brake Challenge. Although it might be slightly terrifying at times, it’s a pretty easy game to play. Any time I am on a familiar downhill I simply try to keep all of my fingers on the bars for as long as I possibly can. It is sort of like playing a game of chicken with yourself. It doesn’t discriminate, you can play on the trail or on the streets. But you have less chance of getting run over by a car or hitting an old lady crossing the street if you are on the trail.
I’m sure there is some other name for this and people have been doing it for eons, but it’s new to me so I get to name it whatever I want! After doing this for a few months, I definitely feel like my speeds are higher and I am learning a new sense of control. Plus I am hitting turns so much faster because I’m not grabbing a handful of brakes right before them. Let’s face it, there are few things in life better than perfectly railing a turn at speed. So give the No Brake Challenge a try and scare yourself all the way to the bar.
Until next week… Keep it dirty!
**A huge thanks to Devon Balet Media for the great photosby