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Are Brakes for Flakes?
13.10.05 by Buffalo Bill

Are Brakes for Flakes? Or does no front brake = no f***ing brains?

The law requires pedal cycles with a saddle height over 635mm to have two independent braking systems with one acting on the front wheel(s) and one on the rear (Pedal Cycles Construction and Use Regulations 1983 and section 81 of the Road Traffic Act 1988). London couriers have been riding fixed wheel since messenger Year Zero (1983). Up until around 5 years ago, we always always rode with a front brake. However, a substantial minority now ride without a front brake. My own views on this are in the public record, but in the interests of even-handed debate, MT asked 2 experienced fixie riders from either side to contribute. Both these riders are now participating in the Moving Target Witness Protection Programme. Names have been changed to incriminate the innocent.

Brakes by Winston

Winston works out how many brakes he wants on his new Veto

Riding fixed wheel bikes without brakes in London has become an emotive subject. I am 100% for all London fixies riding with a front brake and here’s why:


You often hear of claims that some rider’s skill level on a fixed wheel bike is so high that they can stop in the same distance as a regular bike – well this may or may not be true, but however quickly you can stop, if you bolt a brake on to your bike you will be able to stop quicker!


As we couriers are paid piece-rate, the speed we can ride can massively affect our earnings; brakeless riders, knowing their ability to stop is not as good, ride slower…..I’m sure there will be many people who deny this but it’s a fact. We’ve all got a good idea who the fastest riders and top earners are in London and they all use brakes.


As a generally left leaning / socialist kind of person, I don’t just believe in the government looking after us as best it can, but also in having some kind of social / communal conscience. There are other more vulnerable people than you out there – Which leads me to:


Is being a courier is an athletic / image lifestyle choice for some, not that different from being a surf bum maybe? I have limited experience in three sports: competitive cycling, surfing and snowboarding. When you sign on for a race, head for the slopes or paddle out you can be sure that everyone else on the track, mountain or in the line-up are there knowing that their chosen pursuit is dangerous. They are all taking a shared and joint risk or they wouldn’t be there.
The street, the courier’s playing field isn’t like this. Pensioners, children, disabled people etc. have not agreed to share in YOUR risk but if you ride brakeless you are making them without asking.


By this I don’t just mean: ‘it’s naughty so don’t do it’, I’m talking about liability……
Consider the following (highly possible in London) scenarios:
A black cab / white van/HGV runs you over, it’s completely his fault. You’re injured, your bike’s broken – you think you might get compensation totalling your lost earnings and a new bike at least? If the driver or the cop spots you’ve got no brakes: that’s “contributory negligence”. You may not get a penny and that driver will be free to go and run someone else over without having received a single point on his licence.
You’re riding casually along Oxford Street when one of those idiot parents decides to use their child in a pushchair as a “traffic tester”. There’s an impact, you feel terrible, it’s not your fault and the policeman spots you’ve got no brakes…. Think about the consequences….

Well that’s it, except to say, if you do want to ride fast and brakeless with a bunch of people who enjoy it as much as you do and are more than happy to share your risk then see you down the track on Saturdays!

No Brakes by Jedi

Jedi with his bicycle guru, pic Elisabeth Blanchet

This ones for the masses! yerr yerr what ever!

Dirty Donna in the house.
so to start, let it be known i never asked to write this, it was asked of me, if i would, init?!
so i agreed.
like a woman with no make up, bikes with out the brakes rub me up. “elegant and sexy” the way it should be.
It’s true i ride a brake-less bicycle. though the question that haunts me is, WHY THE CONTROVERSY! A lot of people seem to be getting by rather fine without them the whole world over, thru and thru the globe, complete which says enough in it’s self, one would believe.
so why do it?
cause it’s fun…..and fun is FOLLLOW.UNDER.NONE
and that should speak loud enough for it’s self.
this is not to encourage, riding brakeless.
bikes should be a personal and enjoyable discipline and one should be able to ride as they choose with out being persecuted.
For this kind of behaviour to be viewed as a hard-core, macho, testosterone driven act, is not fair!
It’s quite the opposite, it’s a graceful expression of ones self and the ability to flow with the surroundings, which in turn inspires a better understanding of ones own.
If you choose to take this path, allow politeness to be your best ally and remember a good sense of humour is priceless.
If you think it’s dangerous – don’t do it: simple!

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  1. I once knew a man with no brakes
    Wos amazing the risks wot he takes
    He looked pretty sweet
    With his bike all neat
    But it’s not all about you for goodness sakes
    — Tommy two brakes    27 October 2005, 22:39    #
  2. So winston thinks Wookie, Jamie and Tofu ride slower??
    — tomas    29 October 2005, 11:57    #
  3. Yes I do, look at the SSS2 results for clarification…...
    As far as I’m aware top 10 all ride brakes, Tofu only came 11th….Jamie and Wookie were too pussy to ride. Speaks for itself I think.
    winston    30 October 2005, 21:26    #
  4. ok.. thats on a track.. on the street do you really think they are slower? Maybe next alleycat some of the people that feel strongest either side should put some money where their mouths are?

    Said by a braked rider who belives in letting other do what they want…

    — tomas    26 November 2005, 14:43    #
  5. In an alleycat you’re not going to be riding as defensively as on a regular day…

    — Ice    2 January 2006, 17:21    #
  6. Let them ride with no brakes, its their fault if they do. I think using the brake helps me stop quicker but thats just me.

    Ed    17 December 2007, 03:23    #
  7. It’d be nice if the no brakes rider could write. He’s got stuff to say but he seems to have difficulty with spelling and grammar.
    I realise he may not have English as a first language in which case wouldn’t it be better to have someone edit his text?

    — bingo    9 March 2008, 01:19    #
  8. yeah he is from South Africa innit, can’t do much wiv words but you should see him skid

    — Get up and run    9 March 2008, 12:06    #
  9. imagine explaining to a jury why you didnt have a brake when you get in to an accident with a car and then try to sue the driver. “uhhh…it makes the bike heavy.”

    no one looks cool with a brake. but then again, no one looks cool in a wheelchair either.

    seriously the thing that pisses me off about these no brake zoomtards is that the bicycle is the most utilitarian of inventions, and in many ways the most noble in our present age. and it really sucks dick when snobbery has to be imported in to the activity, because this makes it pretty much like every other aspect of human culture.

    — Douchy McDoucherton    7 July 2008, 22:07    #
  10. mmmmm….just found this.I’ve ditched the brake recently and it’s changed my ride to the extent that I feel safer.You have to look out more for what’s ahead and yeah maybe you do go slower but it isn’t a worry.What’s snobbish about that?Nothing.

    — overdrive    14 January 2009, 10:52    #
  11. You feel safer do you Overthelimit? Riding around like an OAP with your fricken false teeth, your bad shakes and your inch thick glasses. “It helps me see better up the road youngin, in my day we used our foreheads to slow down…” yardyyaryyada. I find the best way to stop is to stick your brake in between your forks and wheel…

    — zack speedfast    14 January 2009, 13:15    #
  12. Zacky my little ozzy yogi.Wallop.£50 to Uxbridge.By train.Bang!loving it still!
    Give Lord Angus a blowie for me.xxx

    — overdrive    14 January 2009, 17:11    #
  13. ok.. Overdrive, please explain.
    I am Yogi from ozzy. now make it straight.

    brakes, well if your running 38 or a 42 or a bit bigger its quite easy to ride brakeless and stop even from full cadence. when your pushing a 51 or bigger a brake comes in really useful to initiate a skid to either slow or alter your direction. I have had a few spinners get on my bike and not be able to skid… not the first time anyway.

    brakes or no brakes, WE RIDE. If you don’t want a brake cause your a traditionalist then so be it. if you run a brake cause you like your face and you push over a 48 tooth chain ring… so what.

    Yogi    1 February 2009, 10:16    #
  14. hello there yogi,hope you are well.You have every right to your opinion and I respect that but what the f*ck are you on about,man.It’s doing my f*cking nut. dont need this crap in my zone,dude.Fuck,man!
    Good day to you.

    — overdrive    6 February 2009, 17:20    #
  15. brakes, you need em on your fixed gear.

    fixed gear bikes    9 June 2009, 02:01    #
  16. you lot sound like a bunch of dickheads are you just thick obviously its better to have breaks if you value your chances of being knee deep in clunge by the end of the weekend also those who ride breakless have 45% more chance of being in an accident down to you not having breaks

    — mysterious 1    5 September 2010, 16:09    #
  17. Oh dear. ‘Breaks’? Oh dear, oh dear.

    — Bill    5 September 2010, 16:18    #
  18. Blah blah blah, blah blah blah.

    — Stephen    18 September 2010, 09:51    #
  19. Deleted!

    — Bill    18 September 2010, 16:33    #
  20. to funny, i rember about eight yersa ago when Thadius, Chrisima, Ben, Kuba, Makaka, Domonik, marco, Andrea, Email, pretty boy and myself where running no breaks the amount of shit we got from you lot, as far as im aware none of us are in wheel chairs, today you look around and every second fixxie is breakless?

    — dirty donna    2 December 2010, 15:57    #
  21. You’re not suggesting that we were all wrong, and you were right, are you? :-)

    — Bill    2 December 2010, 16:01    #
  22. And you still can’t spell ‘brakes’! Ha!

    — Bill    2 December 2010, 16:06    #
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