Why Do Bikes Have Front Brakes?

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A bike's front wheel - Why Do Bikes Have Front Brakes?

There have been long debates on the importance of the front brakes of a bicycle and if they are genuinely required pieces of equipment. The truth is that, alone, the front brakes could pitch a rider over the hand bars, leading to severe injury.

In reality, the front brake is where most of that will be when it comes to stopping power, and the rear brake helps regulate speed. So the answer is to help prevent the bike from going when needed and provide enough stopping power for even downhill situations.


When were the Front Brakes Introduced?

The front brake of a bicycle was introduced by one John Kean in 1873 but became standard on all bicycles in 1880. This was a relief for bike riders who required more substantial stopping power when riding fast or going downhill.

As time went on and braking systems improved, they evolved into what they are now.

However, the role of the front brake has not changed; when a cyclist is bombing down the mountain and needs to stop, not slow down, but stop on a dime, the front brake might need a solid squeeze.


What are the Front Brakes Made for?

As mentioned in the article above, there will be downhill situations, along with other reasons cyclists must stop quickly to avoid injury. The role of the front brake is to provide stopping power for the rider and their ride.

Be careful at high speeds, for a front brake might cause a pitching effect casting the rider forward and off their seat. Logically, the second brake in the front is to help slow the bike down and take pressure off the rear brake, which stops twice as effectively as a single brake.


Are Front Brakes More Effective?

Depending on the effectiveness scale, front brakes make the whole system more effective. For example, the front brake is the best stopping brake out of the two found on a bike, and when both are engaged, the system’s effectiveness improves.

Therefore, it is recommended that you use the front brake less and only sparingly when going downhill or needing to come to a complete stop in any other situation.

The rear brake will then, in effect, be your go-to in most cases, maintaining the effectiveness of the front brake.


Do Front Brakes Wear Out Faster Than the Rear?

Let us examine this from a few viewpoints, including overuse of the front brakes.

In a situation where the brakes are brand new, the rider would be savvy if they were to use the rear brakes as a primary means of maintaining the speed of the bike and sparing the front for downhill or emergency stopping situations.

That being said, a mountain bike rider will likely need to use the front brake more often than, say, a road bike rider that stays on the flats. In a professional rider’s case, that front brake might burn out faster than usual amid competition.


Is it Safe to Use Front Brakes?

There are a few situations where it would be unsafe to use the front brakes on a bike, and most involve going at high speeds. However, the most significant danger of using the front brake in the wrong way would be to stop too fast and pitch the rider over the handlebars.

This may cause serious injury in some cases and potentially damage the bike in the process.

The smart thing to keep in mind is to gently use the front brake and, in emergencies, smash that rear brake down. All in all, it is safe to use the front brakes.


Final Thoughts on Why do Bikes Have Front Brakes

There will be growing pains when learning how to ride a bike; one of the first lessons will be not to squeeze the front brake too tight, or you’ll receive an unexpected fright. The last thing any bike rider wants is to end up on their back, out in front of their bicycle.

The generally accepted theory is to use the rear brake primarily and to use the front brakes only when going downhill or needing additional braking power. Following this maintenance plan, a bike rider can effectively extend the longevity of their brake pads.

Then again, different brands of brakes will have varying durability levels and could be worth doing a little research on.