How I Went Brakeless

by by Jeremy Till.

Editor's note: When my old-skool compai Vince read this, he said,

"Wow Jeremy, I kid you not when I say that I found that testimonial very gratifying and inspirational. (I know, I should get a life right?). But you are living proof of what has been said 1 billion times over by street track riders everywhere. We are brakeless and better riders for it. No daydreaming allowed peripheral vision open to the max like a fisheye lens, give respect and get it back on the road. If you werent hooked before your'e sure gonna be now!"
How it Started
After two crashes in as many days last week, I knew something must be up. At first I thought it was a sign that I needed a better brake, but then I got to thinking (and riding) and it came to me....
Am I Really Doing This??
Of course, I was somewhat dubious about my conclusions. My "common sense" kept flaring up: this is berkeley after all, and I don't live in the flat part anymore- I live in the hills. How could it be safer to ride without brakes? So I devised an experiment, of sorts- I'd ride brakeless for a week, or at least as long as it took the new brake to come in the mail, and if I still had faith in my conclusions, I'd keep the brake off.
Yes Am I Really Doing This!!
Well here we are, a week later, and I am brakeless, and a safer rider for it. I am more aware of traffic, of pedestrians, of doors. I ride more flow, no sprints followed by quick deceleration at the other end of the block, simply because I have to. I find myself not taking the same risks I would with the "safety net" of the brake. I ride at a more laid back pace, to facilitate braking by backpressure, and I'm not tempted to go faster, especially because I have not yet mastered skipping/skidding. I wear a helmet where I wouldn't where one before.
Perfect Control
The culmination of the week was last night, when I took the fix to the Berkeley critical mass (yeah, we like to do things differently here in Berkeley...) and rode 2+ hours brakeless, feeling perfectly in control the entire time. Besides this fact, I met another brakeless rider (with an awesome old skool cinelli) who had come to the exact same conclusion- and he'd been riding brakeless for a year.
So I thought I'd make my joining the ranks of brakeless riders official. This is my testimonial.

Ride ON!
© Jeremy Till, 2004

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