Improved Braking Performance|
Sunday, April 29, 2001
From a lack of power to an ear-drum-shattering squeal, brakes can pose all kinds of problems. To make your life a little easier, we've compiled a few tips to get you back out on the trail and under control.
If you have older cantilever-style brakes, toe-in is often the culprit. This means that the front of the brake pads hit the rims about 1mm before the back of the pad does. As your brakes wear, they will loose their toe-in and need to be readjusted. This doesn't apply to most V-style or linear pull brakes.
If your brake pads are already properly toed in, then try cleaning off your pads and rim. A layer of brake dust, grime and mud can build up during just one ride. With soap and water, scrub your rim's braking surface with a sponge until you can't see any more grime. Then use a toothbrush and clean off your brake pads.
If your brake pads are really glazed over (they look shiny) then try lightly rubbing them with a piece of sand paper.
If the problem only appears when the rims are wet or cold then it might simply be an issue of using the wrong brake pad compound for the conditions. Brake pads come in different compounds for different weather conditions. Ask a bike shop which pad they recommend for your particular conditions.
Improve Braking Power:
If you're squeezing the life out of your levers and still not stopping then you could definitely use some extra braking power.
Make sure that the pads are just missing the rim when the lever is not squeezed. Over time your cables will stretch. Without periodic adjustments, your brake pads will gradually pull farther and farther away from the rim. To adjust this, turn the barrel adjuster where the cable enters into the brake lever. This way you will get the most out of each squeeze of the lever. If your rim is out of true, you may need to true it before you can get proper brake adjustment.
A quick fix can often be obtained by switching to a better brake pad. Some brands are better than others. Also, the more abrasive, the better the grip.
Sometimes the culprit is the bike itself. If the seat stays flex when you grab hard on the brakes you may be a candidate for a brake booster. This is a U-shaped piece of metal or other material that arches over your tire from brake post to brake post and reinforces your frame. This will greatly reduce the frame flex.
Just as with brake squeal, clean rims and pads are important. Make sure you scrub your rims with soap and water regularly.