I started racing 'cross back in '95 and since then I have been running my brakes backwards, ie., left lever controls the rear brake. It seemes that this was more prevalent back in the 90's, now I rarely come across anyone that runs them backwards. Am I the only one that still does this?
you're not the only one. i've got a SS that's still like that too.
i've found that i don't often need to slow down much heading the barriers, esp. out here in norcal there are very few high speed barriers anyway. and courses don't have as many barriers nowadays either. so all those reasons make it not very compelling to reverse them.
I think for most folks who ride other bikes, it's just to hard to remember brakes are reversed for the 'cross bike, and the # of times it's helpful are so much fewer than the # of times it can cause a problem. knock on wood, i've never had a problem not remembering they're reversed, but I don't set my brakes up to stop on a dime either. and I bet next time I redo the bar tape on that bike, I'll switch it back to normal.
fran castano, the guy behind the defunct shop dreambikes in MA, used to like running them normal, saying that with a quick pop of the front brake your bike would pop up into your hands and be ready to be shouldered and carried. it was an interesting practice but I didn't really ever try it much.
I agree with setting them up for slowing more than stopping. It drives my mechanic crazy, my levers bottom out before completely stopping the bike. One reason for maybe switching back would be the front lever flick up onto the shoulder. Check out this video of Bart Wellens at about the 2:10 mark he flicks the bike onto his shoulder...oh so beautiful to watch.
When I got my very first bike--a Murray BMX'er from a toy store in Massachusetts back in the early 80's, the "assembler" put the rear brake lever on the left, and ever since then, EVERY bike I've owned has had their brakes set up that way. I'm taking about probably almost 100 bikes in the past 25yrs... It's also been contagious as my wife has all of her bikes set up that way as well. It seems that Child World knew that one day I'd want to race 'cross...