As much as we love to talk about the sled’s throttle and all the joy our thumb draws from a screaming turbine, there’s an awful lot to be said for the left forefinger and the control it brings to our ride. Though its not a conversation we share very often – if at all.
We recently rode with a couple of young fellows, one of whom realized his brake lever was missing when we drew up at the foot hills of our first ascent. In fairness, this was at the end of a pretty level stretch of wide-open groomed trail, but really?
“Sure, it can’t be far. You must have just lost it.”
“Not certain.”, he said.
“Really? How can you ride a sled without hovering a finger over the brakes?”
“Never knew nothing about it.”
Hmmm…. Okay, lets talk about that.
1. Right Flight – Ironically, it seems the only mention we ever hear about brake control happens when you’re really “flying”. Most riders realize that a sled’s skid and track create enough momentum to alter a sled’s pitch in mid air. Tapping the brake to bring her nose down and goosing the throttle to bring her back up on the level.
2. Enter at your own peril – Braking is a surprisingly important part of a mountain ascent. Slight brake pressure will help bring your sled's nose down without sacrificing throttle control when she starts lifting at the vertical. They must be applied in unison. Like using the front brake on a motorcycle.
3. Trail rails – Light braking pressure through the entire length of a curve will bring the sled to a tight inside line that allows you to carry a safer speed with a proper sling shot onto the next straight away.
4. What Goes Up – Braking is a huge part of any riding environment and we are constantly making adjustments to alter our riding position, direction, and momentum. Especially on steep downhills or sudden run outs.
5. Reverse – Some really tight descents require such extreme braking that the sleds are shifted to reverse for additional resistance.
6. Wheelie World – Just like a motorcycle, a sled stands much smoother when using brake adjustments along with proper throttle control
7. Courtesy Lights – If you’re not using the rotors and rely mostly on engine braking you increase the risk of a rear end collision. Tap out the brake lights whenever you begin to decelerate
8. Tree Free – you may need a little brake to help start a power dive that accommodates the next tree well curl. Its also a good practice to apply slight brake pressure when you’re goosing the sled up on one ski to begin a directional change from a stopped position. Really important in tight, steep terrain
9. Hand Brakes – Whether you need two free hands while stopped on a steep incline or you’re helping a buddy extract a sled from a sheer pitch – there will be times when you will want, wish and need to apply a secure hand brake.
10. EMERGENCY – The unexpected will require immediate braking. You don’t want to be grabbing for the lever when a moose pops in front of you! The brake should always be in your fore finger, ready and stating!
Sweat Your Brains (or the brakes) Out!