Like with any of your equipment, you should read your machine’s owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with your braking equipment. It depends on what you’re riding, but your machine will have either front and rear brakes or, linked brakes on both ends that function using a single control.
Your brakes should never feel sluggish or sticky and if they do, there’s a problem that needs fixing. You should always check the brake lever or pedal before each trip. They should operate smoothly, without sticking. Practice using your brakes at low speeds to get a feel for how quickly and abruptly (or slowly) they are able to bring the machine to a stop. Keep in mind that different machines operating on different types of terrain will respond differently to braking. Remember, mud, dirt, ice and snow are not like pavement under your tires and if you slam on the brakes while riding an OHV, you might be facing some ‘slide time’.
Some ATVs, such as newer model “clutched” utility machines, are equipped with internal engine brakes, which automatically engage and slow the machine when the throttle is released. This type of braking system can come in handy when traveling down a steep incline, but they can also be dangerous if you’re not familiar with them. Be sure to check your owners manual, and practice using this braking system in a controlled area before heading out on the trails.
RIDER SAFETY TIP: STOPPING DISTANCE MATH
Stopping distance is calculated as: Reaction Time Distance + Braking Distance.
‘Braking distance’ is the distance traveled while the brake is engaged and the machine is slowing to a complete stop. Your machine's’ braking distance will depend on two factors: the speed you’re traveling and the amount of drag (the friction between the tires and terrain). This will vary, depending on the scenario, so do the math in your head before hitting the brakes!