Sunday, April 18

B is for Brakes

There truly is harmony and psychic unity – sort of – in the narrow world of blogs that talk about bikes and cycling. On Tuesday, Lizzylou talked about stopping without using brake pads. The same day, Rantwick decided to ride his fixed gear to work without any brakes at all. Ironically, on Monday, I had my own braking experience and it wasn’t pretty.

V Brakes on a Cross Bike are Powerful - and Touchy. For its Second Set of Pads, Buddy Uses Kool-Stop Salmon "Thinline."
We Shall See How THEY Last. The OEM Pads Went 3400 Miles, I Don't Jump Off My Bike at Stops to Stretch Their Life.
In bike school, they talk about “ABC Quick Check.” The “B” Means you are supposed to check your brakes – as in you don’t want to go zooming off, only to discover at the bottom of the first hill that they aren’t working right. Well, that’s a good principle, and one I subscribe to. As a matter of fact, I’d just adjusted Buddy’s touchy V brakes. In bike school, they tell you that with full brake application, there should be two fingers’ worth of clearance between the lever and the bar. With Buddy, full application with freshly adjusted brakes is at most one finger, and I wind up adjusting brake pads once every month or two. I suspect that Specialized reached the same conclusion about V brakes on cyclocross bikes, since they have now returned to traditional canti brakes.

Anyway, as soon as I got on the bike Monday, I knew something was amiss. A brake was dragging – not a whole bunch, but it was definitely dragging. The front brake - the wheel dragged a little when I spun it. My first thought was to roll back in the house and either adjust it or drive in. Sometimes we should go with first thoughts. My second thought was that the drag wasn’t all that bad and would get better with time. Plus, I had a tailwind. That seemed reasonable for the first couple of miles. However, as I went on, I noticed that speed fell off a good 5 mph from typical. What’s more, when I finally got in to work, twenty minutes slower than usual, I felt tired, a bit “down,” and a couple of people wondered why I looked flushed.

Going home, it all came together. A dragging brake AND a headwind. It was a SLOW trip home. I even got off the bike and walked up a couple of the hills. That isn’t something I ever do. I kept thinking – "I feel a little ill and that’s partly why I’m going so slow." In the final analysis, it took 40 minutes longer than usual to get home.

The moral of this little lesson is that it isn’t enough just to CHECK, you actually want to ACT based on the results of the check. The OTHER moral is that, while cycling may be fun and safe, it’s MORE fun if you don’t ride around with a brake applied all the time. It is also an argument in favor of barrel adjustors, which the Tricross lacks. As a matter of fact, there WILL be some modifications made to those brakes next time I have to change out brake cables. If I get really irritated at the things, I may even go as far as changing them out for canti brakes.

Good Brakes Don't Keep You From Adjusting Them Too Tight!

7 comments:

Tracy W said...

I hear you about the lack of barrel adjusters. The one for my front brake is still sitting on the workbench in the garage waiting until I manage to go to the bike store and pick up one of the little crimp ends for the end of the cable. I don't want to take things apart until I get a new one because I don't want the end of the cable to start fraying on me.

Never mind that it's been sitting there for a couple of months!

Steve A said...

"Old School" sneer at little crimp ends for cable. THEY get out a soldering iron and a dab of solder. I keep meaning to try that myself some day, but I'm not quite ready to be "Old School" yet. One advantage is you avoid the fraying while still being able to thread the cable through the housing.

One must save a FEW new items for future posts...

Big Oak said...

I think you may have discovered a new training technique. Just think how fast you will be able to ride after you stop your brakes from rubbing! By the way, I thought this kind of stuff happened only to me. Thanks for posting this. I feel better.

m e l i g r o s a said...

and C is for coffee!! :D
well the lesson to your morale has to be applied here in SF, hills are super fun when descending - not so fun when going up of them, profanities included... he heee

cheers - m

cafiend said...

Linear pull brakes don't go with road levers. They will always feel spongy. Specialized was supposedly developing shorter linear pull brakes that would match road levers. I don't know if that worked out, seeing as you say the Tricross went back to cantis.

There are linear-compatible road brake levers (don't remember the specifics right now, Dia Compe 287 or something), but I'm pretty sure there's no linear-compatible brifter. Yet another reason NEVER TO HAVE BRIFTERS on a bike not used for racing.

Back when the lever incompatibility issue was common knowledge, cross bikes with linear pull brakes came already equipped with leverage adjusters like the old Avid Travel Agent. Some form is still available. I just don't like having to use too many adaptive gimcracks to get a system to work. It's supposed to be simple.

The people who spec these bikes for major manufacturers don't clutter their minds with compatibility issues, just price, color and fashion appeal.

Apertome said...

The Kool-Stop Salmon thinlines are the best brake pads I've tried ... not that I've tried a lot. Still, I doubt you'll find anything more effective, especially in wet conditions.

But, I bet they won't last as old as your other pads. The salmon compound is soft, which makes it grippy, but also means it wears quickly. Personally, it's a tradeoff I can live with.

cafiend said...

Wow. I have salmon Matthausers that have been on multiple bikes. I find it not only brakes better than anything, it also wears that way, too.

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