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Brake Settings

This page is a chapter in 'BASE Wiki Packing'

Brake Settings: Brake settings are finger-trapped eyelets in the brake lines which determine how deep the brakes are when the canopy opens. Properly adjusted brake settings are one of the most important gear-related factors in walking away from an off heading opening, giving the jumper a critical few extra seconds to correct. Improper settings will leave you flying more quickly toward the object, and can even be a cause for unpredictable openings.

How many brake settings?

Most jumpers have two brake settings — “deep” and “shallow”. Deep brakes are used for most slider down or slider off jumps. Shallow brakes are used for slider up jumps and (by some jumpers) for specialized, very low slider-down jumps. The goal in having two settings is to account for differences in airspeed on opening, as well as the amount of line taken up on a slider up jump by routing the brake lines through the slider and guide ring, so that the opening configuration of the canopy is optimal in both environments.

Tuning your brake settings

It is important that you take the time to tune your brake settings before BASE jumping a new canopy. Factory settings are designed to be safe in the sense that they can be used on a skydive or from a forgiving span with minimal risk. They are not ideal. Better to tune them now than to wish you had when you’re thirty feet from a wall and looking right at it.
Deep brake settings are perhaps the more sensitive of the two settings, since they are typically used in an environment (slider down or slider off jumps) in which the object, if it is behind the jumper, is very close behind. A proper deep brake setting allows the canopy to open with very little forward speed, but does not keep the canopy from pressurizing quickly — it is therefore different for vented and unvented canopies.

Pack your BASE canopy into a skydiving rig, slider-up and in shallow brakes. Take a Sharpie with you to mark the brake lines, or a pen and something to write on. Open at 7,000 or 8,000 feet. Keep track of your altitude and where you are; stop testing before 2,500 feet.

Under canopy, transition slowly to a stall. A stalled canopy can be recognized by a feeling of falling backward, perhaps accompanied by a chordwise “collapse” of the canopy. Make note of the stall point relative to the guide ring. Repeat until you are certain of the static stall point. Now, transition to a stall quickly. Make note of the dynamic stall point.

As a start, place the bottom of the deep brake setting halfway between the bottom of the shallow brake setting and the lowest of the points measured under canopy. The deep brake settings can be fine-tuned from a forgiving span.

Err slightly on the side of brake settings which are too shallow, if at all. Settings which are too deep can lead to unpredictable openings and increased frequency of off-headings.

Deep brake settings and forward speed

It is important to understand that a canopy which has just opened in deep brakes has very little forward speed — that was the point, right? You need to be aware of two side effects of this.

First of all, a canopy with little forward speed is particularly susceptible to winds at opening altitude. Even a small headwind can push the canopy back into the object. See that bluff to your left? A small crosswind from the right could put you there quickly. Know your canopy’s forward speed on opening, and be prepared to pop the toggles quickly, if you need to get away from something. (NOTE: "popping your toggles does not mean quickly release the brakes and let your canopy go into full flight mode, you should always release and hold your control lines in order to maintain control and keep your canopy from surging forward"

Second, particularly if you have set your brakes very deep on a vented canopy, you may find the canopy unresponsive to riser input on opening. A parachute needs horizontal speed in order for the controls to be functional. There are at least three ways to deal with this:
  1. Move your deep-brake setting a little shallower.
  2. Plan on going directly to toggles in the event of an off-heading.
  3. Pull hard on both risers in the event of an off heading, flying the canopy backward and therefore generating horizontal speed before letting one riser up to execute a turn.



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