Cycling notes: the pros and cons of braking with the heel – archive, 1896 | Cycling

October 26, 2021
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Apropos of my statement last week that “a rider never has complete control of his machine when coasting”, CG of Pendleton, writes as follows – “I find I have perfect control without a brake at all, in this way. The feet are on the rests on the front forks; if both heels are pressed inwards simultaneously they grip the rim of the front wheel, and in a very few yards the machine can he brought to a standstill. This brake cannot be applied, of course, with a metal mudguard in use, and of course it wears the shoe leather; but the control of the machine is perfect and absolute, and requires no practice.”

I admit that CG may have, in a sense, “perfect” control, but at what a sacrifice! I am a rider of some experience, and even when assisting its action by back-pedalling I should be very chary of using a brake to any extent on a light machine. The strain on the forks and crown is too great. To coast on such a machine, trusting to pressure on the rim to check its pace, I should characterise as foolhardy, and it would be an excessive strain to apply even to a roadster machine. Apart from this, however, it is impossible to have “complete” control as regards steering and facility of dismounting when the feet are off the pedals. Finally, this system of breaking is only possible when the mudguards are removed, and with such a climate as we enjoy the man who does not use guards cycles very little or is careless of dirt and discomfort.

If one is obliged to ride a machine built rather too low, and consequently necessitating a long length of saddle pillar pulled out of the socket, it reduces the strain on the latter somewhat if a saddle with a high spring is used, as the pull on the socket is then not so direct and strong. The rider who keeps for permanent use a machine with this defect must make up his mind to face a certain amount of risk, as it is always possible that the down tube may give way. Saddle accidents of all sorts should always be most carefully guarded against, as they are often the cause of serious injury.

Lady readers, or their friends, may be glad to know that the Dunlop people have lately introduced a special ladies’ tyre, made in sizes 1⅝in and 1½in. This has almost all the advantages of the path-racing tyre so far as speed is concerned, but is made rather more strongly, so that there is not so much risk of puncture.

I have always been of opinion that not nearly enough thought is given, either by manufacturers or by lady riders themselves, to the differences that ought to exist between a man’s machine and one intended to be ridden by a lady, having regard to the undeniable difference in strength. The average woman rider can seldom be got to understand that ease and speed are all interchangeable terms, and that even if, as the usual expression goes, she “does not want to scorch and need not be so particular,” she still wants to go as easily as may be. The ordinary maker certainly does not encourage her in “notions” of the kind, preferring rather to give her just what he thinks good. It is, however, possible to make the average cycle a good deal faster, and consequently easier, than is usually the case by attending to such details as the fitting of light instead of heavy mudguards, racing tyres protected with a strip, instead of full roadsters, and – in the case of a delicate, slow-going, or elderly rider – the fitting of a 52 gear instead of the standard 56 or 60. This last, of course, is purely for ease.





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