There are two types of bicycle braking systems: rim brakes and disc brakes. Maintenance is pretty similar for both types. Keep them clean, properly aligned and check for wear.
Rim brakes consist of a pair of rubber pads that work by applying friction to the wheel rims. Friction causes wear, so they need replacing every now and again.
The pads have three grooves, the bottom of which indicates the limit of wear. You’re better to replace the pads before they wear all the way to that limit. The grooves can often be filled with dirt, especially in the wet. Clean them out using something with a flat blade. Then wipe the surface of the pads clean. Clean your rims too. Keeping the two surfaces clean will reduce the rate of wear of both pads and rims.
How are they wearing? Evenly across the whole surface? That’s good. If they’re wearing unevenly, something is not set up right. The pads may not have been fitted properly or your brake callipers may need adjusting.
The pads should only touch your wheel rims. If they’re not seated properly they can start rubbing on your tyre and it won’t be long before that tyre blows out.
Don’t ignore squealing or scraping noises when you apply your brakes. Try cleaning your pads and rims and if that doesn’t cure it, it’s probably time to replace the pads.
Disc brakes are becoming more common on mountain and hybrid bikes. They consist of a “rotor” mounted on the wheel hub and callipers containing brake shoes attached to the frame. The brake shoes are hard metallic or ceramic-based pads.
Check your rotors and brake shoes often for dirt and oil. Keeping both surfaces clean improves your braking efficiency. While you’re at it, make sure the rotors are not warped, cracked or damaged in any other way. Squealing brakes might be caused by dirt or loose callipers. If they’re hydraulic brakes, check all the hoses and fittings regularly for leaks.
Lastly, how far do you have to pull the levers to apply your brakes? If you have to pull them all the way your cables have stretched or your hydraulics have a leak. Ask your bike shop to check them out.
See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla
First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 13 October 2006