There has been a long, drawn-out battle over whether skilled riders need mountain board brakes. One school of thought feels like riding using brakes will hamper your ability to master the mountain board and view it as a shortcut. The other lot believe that riding with a brake makes the learning process faster, safer, and easier.
These are both valid points, and because we believe in versatility, we will review mountain board brakes throughout this guide to see if they are worth the trouble.
The Different Mountain Board Brakes Systems
Four main braking systems are used on mountain boards: mechanical drum brake, hydraulic disc brake, hydraulic rim brake, or cable-pull V-brake. They all have individual strengths that come out when riding the mountain board.
You should also check for compatibility with your mountain board, whether the system can be mounted directly on your board if it works with the available hubs, or you need to order spacers separately. The easier it is to install and operate, the better your overall experience when boarding.
See more: how to change mountainboard parts
Mechanical Drum Brakes
These entry-level brakes are great for emergency braking as they facilitate instant stopping. They are, however, not the most efficient braking systems as there is no way to counter friction, so they will get extremely hot. They can get hot enough to melt the plastic wheel hub and damage your mountain board. The brake pad is attached to the wheels with screws.
Hydraulic Disk Brakes
These work by pushing the ceramic brake pad against rotors that resist the wheels’ motion. The controls trigger a hydraulic system that exerts pressure on the brake pad. They are smoother and have more power than mechanical drum brakes, but they also allow a lot of heat buildup, and the discs are susceptible to damage. They also add extra weight to the board, which many boarders don’t like.
Hydraulic Rim Brakes
They use a different approach to hydraulics to stop or slow down your mountain board. The hub serves as the braking surface against which polyurethane blocks are pushed to generate friction and stop the wheels. This approach also provides exceptional braking power, although the bearings are exposed to wear and tear and may need replacing often.
These are the most popular mountain board brakes due to their simple application, maintenance, and pocket-friendly price tags. They use the hub or metal discs as braking surfaces and are operated using a hand lever that tugs at a metal cable that pushes the polyurethane blocks against the hubs or discs.
The discs are fitted to the wheel hubs, and the hand lever makes the brake calipers push out the discs, slowing you down. However, their braking power is lower than the hydraulic brakes, and they need more adjustments to work optimally.
Hydraulic disc brakes are more precise and powerful than standard cable V-brakes. V-brakes, on the other hand, are lighter and more affordable. You should also look at the cable routing because smaller cables produce less friction, don’t get in the way, and deliver better braking action.
Braking a Mountain Board
A good number of experienced mountain board riders enjoy the activity without brakes. They rely on braking techniques that have been refined from hours on the board in different terrains instead. The basic concept is to produce enough friction to counter the downhill momentum. The two most common techniques are turning the board and the power slide.
Turning Back Up the Slope
Whenever you feel like you are going too fast and need to slow down the mountain board, you simply have to resist gravity and reduce the momentum by turning the nose of the board to point back uphill. To pull this off successfully, you should lean into the turn as much as possible, so you don’t topple over on the opposite side.
The Power Slide
This instant stopping technique can even be applied on steep slopes but requires advanced mastery. You make a sharp turn up the hill and allow your back foot to slide to a halt. Depending on your speed and the steepness of the slope, you might have to grab the front side of your board and pull it up with the turning motion for the best results.
Are Mountain Board Brakes a Good Idea?
While we can’t completely rule out the possibility of developing bad riding habits because you are used to a braking system, these braking methods require agility and advanced skill levels, which take time to master.
Circumstances might also not be conducive to executing an accurate turn. It could be a long run on a steep mountain that requires more control or a single-track trail without space to turn.
A decent braking system will come in handy on a steep, single-track trail where the space is too tight to execute a turn or power slide and shave off speed. Sometimes the descent might be so steep that sliding is ineffective or dangerous. You hold the controls in your hand and squeeze them whenever you need to slow down. This makes learning easier and faster for beginners and intermediary riders.
The safer you feel, the better you will ride, and a brakes system gives you more confidence than the helmet, leather gloves, elbow, and knee pads will. Because it allows you to slow down the board, execute controlled turns, and make sudden stops when necessary, it can prevent that tumble you are otherwise gearing up for.
On the flip side, brakes add weight to the mountain board and cost a premium to install. Holding the brake handle also interferes with your upper body movement. Many boarders find it cumbersome and restrictive, especially when racing, free riding, or kiting.
Mountain boarding does not need to be extreme to be fun. With the right precautions, all ages and skill levels can be accommodated – including kids. A braking system is a nice way of retaining control when you lack experience, or the terrain is hard.