Backpedalling & taking weight off the front

Hi folks,

I flipped my rear wheel around the other day to start weening myself off the freewheel, however I’m having some issues with slowing the bike down. When I (attempt to) backpedal, I find my arse lifts off the seat and all the effort seems to be focused around my ankles rather than my knees. Does it usually take a while to get used to braking with your legs, or is it just me? At the moment I find it impossible to bring the bike to a stop on a decline without reaching for the front brake. I don’t have super-strength calves & quads, but they’re not exactly feeble either after riding 20-30km every day for the past few years.

Another problem I’ve been having regardless of whether I’m riding fixed or free is that I can’t shift my weight backwards and forwards on the bike. I can’t lift the front wheel over a gutter, nor can I flick the back up even if I managed to do the former…so it pretty much goes without saying that I can’t skip-stop etc. In an unrelated conversation I was told that my frame may be a little too large (despite my nuts being on the cross-bar when I stand over the bike) - would this have an bearing on being able to pop up the front? Or do I just need to improve on my balance?

Any tips would be great. I’ve already scoured the forums and picked up as many of the tips I could get my head around.


what gearing do you have on the bike?

toughen up those leg muscles sunshine.

come for a ride and practice skipping and skidding on some gravel.

Not sure if i missed something, but that makes sense to me.

Great news is that all you need to do is keep riding, keep trying to do all of the things that youre talking about, little by little getting better at them. you dont need to be super strong to stop a fixed wheel bike, any nancy can do it, its all just knowing how it feels and where and when to apply pressure. it takes time. I never learned tricks and havent ever felt a need to skid, but skip stopping is something that just happens in time. after that you can get yourself ready to go up gutters without thinking about it.

Everyone goes through what youre talking about, its a fun part of riding fixed. good on you for keeping your brake on as a back up.

How many gear inches are you riding? Lowering it will make stopping and skidding easier.

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Get into that for a year, the bucking will stop soon enough.

just cos the frame is sitting at the right height off the ground doesnt mean it isnt too big for you… it’s to do with length of the top tube as well, comparitive with your height(or to be exact the height of your torso and length of your arms)
there was a decent link a little while ago that talked a bit about frame size comparitive to height…link
dont take it to be the be-all and end-all, but it gives you a rough estimate of what size you might be comfortable on.
for instance: it tells me I’m a solid 55, but I’m really comfortable on a 56. stuff can be changed with different bars, headstems etc.

kind of weird that you have problems shifting your weight forward and back though… is that even when you leave the saddle?

stopping on descents is all about pulling up with toeclips/cleats for me, I can’t stop just by trying to reverse the revolution on the crank with only gravity.
fwiw: I can’t skid for shit either, I only hurt my wrists, so I try not to do it.

probably making a fool of myself cos I’m so tired. Can’t go straight to sleep from work as soon as I walk in the door, no matter how exhausted I am

Just counted then - 48 teeth on the chainwheel and 19 on the cog. Wouldn’t mind going for a ride, but I’m leaving for Borneo tomorrow so it will have to wait until the end of the month.

If I took it off I’d need to get used to yelling out “CANONBALL!!!” whenever I started heading down a hill. It’s staying on.

Great link. I’ll measure myself up when I scrounge up a measuring tape.

Yeah, even when I’m out of the saddle I find that my weight drops the front down again almost immediately.

So you do a combination of pushing/pulling with each leg as the cranks turn? Perhaps I need to tighten my toe clips, because it felt a bit off when I tried to do that. I’ve only been using downward pressure.

Yep, it’s all about pulling up.

maybe finding the right shoes to cycle in too.
Some people like hard soles, personally I really love soft soles with toe clips, hard soles with cleats (although I havent ever really experienced soft soled cleats!)
keeping the toeclip strap tight will help, but it still should feel pretty natural, you should be able to pull up into your seat, or against a locked leg, so that you can exert more force than what gravity lends to you.
How do you cycle with toeclips normally? Does it feel natural if you drop one leg off the pedal, and just pedal with one leg? Is it a relatively smooth revolution when you do this?
I guess I’m asking if a normal revolution under pressure feels normal to you.

Stopping via pulling up accounts for well over 50% of my stopping power. I have to learn to not put so much weight into my wrists when I do this, but pulling up is pretty much vital (imo) to stopping, especially on an incline