Practice Makes Perfect Just like you practice other skills, you should practice braking, too. For example, you might pretend a car has suddenly pulled out in front of you and execute a panic stop, throwing your weight rearward as you forcefully apply the brakes. If you can train your body to react like this it's more likely to do so in a real emergency.
Brake Tuning As you ride and use your brakes, the brake pads wear slightly. You feel this as more travel in the levers and you need to adjust the additional travel out before it gets to the point of jeopardizing your braking.
Fortunately, there's an easy way to do this on almost all modern bicycles. Look for knurled adjusting barrels on the levers (on most off-road bikes; illustration) or on the brake calipers (most road bikes). By turning these barrels (usually counterclockwise), it's possible to make up for the worn pads and improve braking.
Check Pad Wear Don't forget to check the pad wear from time to time though. Because, if you just keep tightening brake adjustment with the barrels, you'll eventually find that the pads have worn out. To check, look at the pad surfaces. When new, most pads have grooves in them. When these grooves start to disappear, it's a sign to replace the pads. Depending on the design some are easily replaced, others require tools and know-how. We're happy to advise if you have questions.
Brake Safely Remember that different weather conditions and riding surfaces affect braking performance. When it's raining, it's important to anticipate stops and brake early, pumping the levers to allow the pads to wipe water off the rims so they can grab and slow the bike. And, when you're riding on slippery surfaces such as sand and mud, reckless braking can cause the wheels to lock, which may throw the bike into a dangerous slide.