Tuesdays with Dirty: The No Brake Challenge

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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. And for an extra dose of excitement in your life, why not check out these cool swords for sale to add a unique and captivating dimension to your adventures?

Until next week… Keep it dirty!

**A huge thanks to Devon Balet Media for the great photos

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About dirty biker

I am a fan of singletrack, singlespeeds, single women and single malt. Currently in Carbondale, CO Follow on Instagram @dirty_biker

13 Replies to “Tuesdays with Dirty: The No Brake Challenge”

  1. Pingback: Tuesdays with Dirty: The No Brake Challenge | PEDAL CANTON

  2. I like to play no brakes, no pedaling on ski hills and steep empty roads. Just turn uphill to slow down. The Strava tracks have loops and swirls that look like a pile of short and curlies. I’m easily amused.

  3. Had a few epic rides that stick out in my mind for this- when riding the Monarch Crest last summer, my derailleur got wrecked about 14 miles out on singletrack, car pickup not optional. I ended up after trying to lock out my rear shock and having my chain seperate a bunch of times just simply riding the last 13 miles or so completely chainless- needless to say, once I had accepted my fate, the challenge actually became pretty fun and in a weird way, it brought me back to riding like I was on a rigid and back to just flow and conserving speed

  4. Me likey the no brake challenge as well as the no pedaling contest. Be it with yourself or your homies. It all helps wit dat MO.

    I pretty sure DB (the photo guy not the dirty guy) got a weird light experience here in PA late last spring after the TSE (and it’s epic intestinal fallout) in my front yard. He said it reminded him of mountain weather.

    Good times, well kind of.

  5. I do this all the time biking home (uphill). If I tried this on my commute going to work I’d crash into a busy intersection at 40 mph. Aka splat.

  6. Been running my beast of a hound lately on a skijoring set up (he chases deer, done with letting him ruin a whole ride for me for his own enjoyment). You have no idea how badly he needs this to not be a total asshat the rest of the day.

    Any rate, no brakes when I have a serious power source out front?

    Sorry, not me, not now!

    Good idea under my own power though, will have to play….

  7. We called it the death grip, usually when we were hitting a big jump for the first time so we couldn’t pull out. Nobody ever died using this method.

  8. No brakes game is super fun even on flat singletrack in some tight twisty stuff. When you get it right it’s like a nice tight buzz. Control ya steed, yo!

  9. I always cover my brake lever. Getting too old to give a fuck about epithets such as “chicken”.

    What I WILL do for fun, though, is to see how far I can go without coasting. Or shifting.