Whether you are an experienced racer or a casual rider looking to increase your skills, having a defined plan of when and how to use your brakes effectively will make all the difference in how your bike operates over rough terrain and ultimately, how confident you are to push the limits of speed.

Relying on gravity to propel yourself down the hill makes your brakes the most important driver of speed on the bike, 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 getting into Part 2 of Braking Points: How to map them.

As mentioned in Part 1, the earlier you get on your brakes before a technical section or corner, the lighter you can apply the pressure and the slower you can release it, thereby comfortably maintaining speed and allowing your suspension to actively track through these areas. But to do this effectively, we first need to understand the terrain around and the equipment being used. Below are some best practices we recommend following when looking to use braking points to increase your cornering speeds.

  1. If you know the trail and corner already, draw it out mentally or on paper to distinguish what kind of corner it is. Is it a Constant-radius corner (radius never changes throughout corner), increasing-radius corner (radius starts small but increases as you exit), or a decreasing-radius corner (corner starts with a larger radius that gets progressively smaller throughout)? Knowing the exact corner type will influence where the best braking point is, and how much or how little speed to carry into it for optimal exit speeds.
  2. If this is a new trail and you have no idea what is coming up next, we need to learn to scan with our eyes to create single focal points as you approach the corner. This will allow you to find your point and apply the brakes before entering the critical area. At the same time, your eyes should still be following the corner ahead and continually scanning what is in front of you. This is one reason why the DH world cup guys are so fast. They have learned this skill instinctually. It is not easy and takes years of practice.
  3. Understand your terrain and braking traction before arriving at the corner. Meaning, know the amount of brake lever force it will take to lock up the tires. If you ever observe a top-level DH or Enduro rider, they will often do front brake stoppies and rear brake skids leading up to the start box. This is not for fun. This is to memorize the braking traction available in the conditions they are riding in. You will have no idea how much brake pressure to apply for a given braking point if you do not have a sense of the available grip first.
  4. Understand the equipment you are using and how the brakes react to changes in pressure. Different brakes will offer different levels of power and feel. Some brakes will have less power, and some will have more. Some have a more on/off feel while others have a more gradual range of modulation. Differences in how the brake feels and reacts when squeezing the lever influence how the rider’s weight will shift and when the tire breaks traction. While there is no right answer to which brakes are best for navigating braking points on a trail, it is important to ride a set of brakes that offer a consistent bite so you can accurately hit all your points and feel confident knowing exactly what is going to happen when grabbing a handful of the lever.

By following the tips above, determining your braking points will become instinctual and your pace will increase as you gain experience on different trails in different conditions. A wise man once asked, “when do you go to your brakes?” The most truthful answer being – “WHEN YOU ARE SCARED.”

Now that we are in tune with some of the basics and you are standing in front of a corner or technical section ready to map your braking point, what are you actually looking for? In a nutshell, deviations from flat terrain where the suspension becomes more active.

In flatter areas, the suspension is not needed as much, and the tires can consistently bite while rolling in the forward direction. Without lateral changes in direction influenced by rough terrain or a cornering compression, the tire is better able to keep traction and allow the brakes to slow momentum quicker. These flatter areas are where you want to set your braking point and do the bulk of your braking. This point can be set further away or closer to the corner based on how much momentum you will have on approach, how much traction the terrain allows for, and how much power your brakes can give. When you scrub speed in flatter areas and let off the brakes in undulation areas, you can better utilize the movement of your suspension giving you more traction and more confidence to start increasing your exit speeds.

To understand this better, let’s bring in 5-time World Cup Overall Champion and the main contributor to the design and function of TRP brakes, Aaron Gwin, to see how he likes to approach mapping his points.

To reiterate what Aaron was saying, when entering any section, focus on the following:

  1. Analyze terrain for best spots to apply the brakes.
  2. Judge your targeted entrance speed and choose the best point on that chosen spot to set your braking point.
  3. When you are approaching the corner, don’t jam on your brakes. Instead, smoothly apply the brakes to keep traction on the tires and keep the geometry of the bike unchanged. When you keep your bike planted, it allows you to slow down faster and enter the corner with more control.
  4. Don’t drag your brakes though the corner. Do all braking ahead of time so you can let off them sooner and keep as much exit speed as possible.
  5. Find the best line to straighten out a corner so you aren’t leaning over as much. The more you lean, the less contact the tire will have to the ground and the harder it will be to accurately brake.
  6. Be smooth, keep the wheels on the ground, and don’t overshoot the corner.

Learning these techniques is one thing but practicing them is the only way to ensure your braking is dialed and your friends are left in the dust. Find a corner on your local trails that you are comfortable hitting over and over and use it to test different points until you find the one that gives the most control and the most exit speed. Try braking sooner, try braking later. You can even disregard all of the information above and try heavily braking through the corner to see what we are talking about. The important thing is just to safely experiment with it to become familiar with the feel of your brakes and with the process of picking points and sticking to them. The more you practice on terrain and equipment you are familiar with, the faster it will become second nature and the faster you will be at riding trails blind.

Now that you have a comprehensive guide to braking points from the experts at Tektro Racing Products, we encourage you to reach out with any questions on this column or about how our products can differentiate you from the pack by emailing us at or sending us a DM to our social media pages, @trpcycling. With 35 years of manufacturing experience and a countless number of podium position over the year, you can trust TRP to deliver the expert technical knowledge and performance products you need to become the fastest rider in the world.

Follow closely as next week TRP Presents everything you need to know about brake rotors and pads.