Controlling Your Speed Without The Front Brake
Unless you’re barreling toward a brick wall and don’t discover you’ve got no brakes until the last second, this really isn’t an insurmountable problem. Resist the urge to lay ‘er down and instead roll off the throttle and, when the revs are low enough, downshift until your speed is under control. Your back brake, if it’s still working, will obviously help here too. Just try to avoid downshifting or hitting the rear brake if you’re leaned way over in a corner. Easy peasy, you already know how to do this.
If You Can’t Stop In Time
Well, ask yourself what you’re approaching. If it’s an intersection full of cross traffic, borrow a trick from fixed-gear bicycle riders and, after doing what you can to shed speed, turn with the traffic. Doing so eliminates the perpendicular trajectory with moving cars while minimizing the speed differential between you and that traffic. That also has the effect of maximizing the gaps — you should be able to find one.
If you’re approaching a tight corner, now’s the time to use all that look where you want to go, trust the bike stuff. Again, shed as much speed as possible, then just tell yourself you will make it around. 99 percent of the time, on the road, engine braking will be enough to slow you down in time.
If you’re approaching a stationary obstacle — stopped traffic or whatever — again try to shed as much speed as possible, then just focus on avoiding whatever is there. We’re small, use it to your advantage.
How To Prevent It From Happening
Say it with me: “Pre-ride check.” Aircraft pilots do it and what we do is much more dangerous, so we should too. I’d never have had the brakes go out in that episode of our show if I’d taken the time to examine the bike ahead of time. Old Man Teller really should have noticed the slashed brake lines before needing to emergency brake. A mechanical failure like this will never catch you by surprise if you thoroughly familiarize yourself with your bike’s condition every time you ride it.
Have you ever lost your brakes? What other mechanical failures have you overcome in a riding situation?