How many times have you come out of a corner and said to yourself, “I blew that one!” as you slowly roll away? If you are an avid rider, we are willing to wager that phrase has been voiced more than a couple times. In mountain biking, we do not often have the time to pedal and accelerate out of a corner. Instead, we rely on gravity and momentum to carry ourselves down the hill. This makes your brakes the most important driver of speed, which is why we are going to share some of our braking expertise from years of research and development with our professional athletes on World Cup tracks in this column and those that follow by diving into Part 1 of Braking Points. By the end of this you’ll have a better understand of what they are, why they are important, and what you gain by having them.
In literal terms, a braking point is a fixed position on the trail subconsciously derived by the rider as the best area to decelerate the bike with the goal of maximizing momentum and traction through a corner or technical area. You want to be able to track the terrain and check speed at the same time, so this point usually lands on a smooth section of trail before the corner or technical area. This point can differ based on variables such as trail conditions, steepness of the slope, rider weight, the braking equipment being used, and even how much tread is left on your tires. However, one thing is for certain, every professional racer on the World Cup circuit has them mapped after the first track walk for a reason: jump for show, corner for dough.
Before we get into the technicality and importance of braking points, you might be wondering what different sections of trail that we think the rider can benefit from the use of braking points look like. Below we have selected some photos from past World Cups to serve as examples, but they mainly fall between corners, rock gardens, jumps and heavy G-outs.