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Old 04-27-2010, 03:21 PM   #1
The stranger
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Default Locking up the front wheel

So this morning I did something stupid. I was just leaving my place going down a road when I'm approaching an intersection. In my sleepy morning daze I was watching out for left-hand turners but what i should have been doing is also pay attention to the traffic light. Suddenly I 'wake up' and notice the light has gone red and panic. I grab a handful of the front brake, as well as press down on the back break. As a result of too much force, I locked up the front wheel for the first time and it suddenly starts swerving from side to side (not quite a tank-slapper, but not a million miles from it). LUCKILY the bike stayed upright and I managed to come to a stop before the light. I learned a few lessons:

1) WAKE UP! Pay attention, not doing so almost cost me my life/intact limbs/bike/dignity
2) Don't panic and grab the front brake

One thing I'm not sure of though is WHY the bike didn't topple over? Maybe it was just me but I felt the swerving was pretty violent and in the middle of it I felt like a gonner. I was going at 50km/h, and might have eased on the front brake. Is that what ultimately stopped a bad situation from becoming worse? Let me know if you guys have any insight on this, and feel free to berate me for being stupid and not paying attention.
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Old 04-27-2010, 03:36 PM   #2
ejis
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Are you sure that it was the front that locked and not the back? Typically, a rear wheel lockup makes the bike feel like it's swerving significantly, even though it's generally more stable than it feels. And typically, a trully locked front wheel becomes a lowside very quickly, but if not feels very jerky, bucking the front end around as the fork compresses and extends.

Either way, glad you made it without more than a soiled seat! If, in fact, it was the rear wheel that locked, the common wisdom is to keep it locked until you're stopped because if you regain traction with it off to the side, you run the risk of a high-side. You will almost certainly be able to keep the bike upright with the rear wheel locked, even if it doesn't feel very comfortable.

With a front wheel lockup, on the other hand, immediately decrease brake pressure to get the front spinning again, then squeeze the lever to increase pressure and slow down. You always want to squeeze the lever (or pedal), applying pressure smoothly, as this give the bike time to settle the suspension and transfer weight without upsetting the bike's balance. Don't grab the brake aggressively, even if you need to apply it very quickly.
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Old 04-27-2010, 04:15 PM   #3
Dr_Sprocket
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I agree with Ejis, that if you locked the front and the wheel was not pointed straight forward, you would very quickly meet with the ground. It was more likely, based on your description, that you locked up the rear wheel.

It's always a good reminder to pay attention, no matter how tired we are or how early/late in the day. If you are too tired to pay attention, then best to leave the bike at home.
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Old 04-27-2010, 04:28 PM   #4
The stranger
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Hi ejis, thanks for the response. I assumed I locked up the front since the handlebars started wagging from side to side, but perhaps it was the effect of the rear wheel wagging reverberating through the rest of the bike? Hard to tell as in the heat of the moment, I was more focused on how much it was going to hurt hitting the ground than on what exactly the bike was doing. Also, I practice panic stops from time to time and I use the back brake less, but again, in the middle of panicking, it's hard to tell exactly what I did.

This was the first time I've ever lost control of the bike like that. I don't think I took the pressure off the back break. Thinking it was the front might have actually saved me from a high-side.

Dr. Sprocket - Thanks for the input. I can't argue with the insight of two experienced riders, it must have been the rear brake then. That was not a pleasant way to learn what that feels like. And you're absolutely right, city riding+not being focused = disaster waiting to happen. Lesson definitely learned!

Last edited by The stranger : 04-27-2010 at 04:36 PM.
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Old 04-27-2010, 06:45 PM   #5
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I'll second (or 3rd) ejis here, and (likely) as the rear went back & forth, all you remember is trying to correct the steering, hence feeling like the front end was moving. You should've also been unloading some gears, the tranny will do wonders slowing a bike. Regardless of what you did right or wrong, the reduced speed alone could've broken the skid & I'm glad to read the story first party. When your in a panic situation your second nature & skills youve developed usually take over. I low sided my bike on ice this winter into a snow bank not injuring myself & hardly at all damaging the bike, and honestly was impressed with how I handled the situation. You'll handle it better if there is a next time.
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