Brake condition and maintenance
It’s time to check your brakes! Sadly brake condition is often a little overlooked by cyclists, as it’s less obvious there is a problem until you really need them! Below we run through the main check points to look out for. There is never any harm in changing your brake pads early, they are cheap and easily replaceable, so there is no need to let them wear down to the metal!
1. Poorly fitted brake pads: brake pads that do not operate squarely (figure 2) on to the rim, or only a section of the brake pad comes into contact with the rim (figure 3) will not operate as efficiently as correctly fitted pads. Incorrectly fitted brake pads will also wear unevenly, requiring more regular replacement (see the next section).
2. Worn or contaminated brakes pads
Worn brake pads
Check your brake pads on a regular basis to assess their level of wear. Worn brake pads will reduce braking performance. Once the brake pad material is worn to the metal, you will be at risk of causing unrepairable damage to your brake systems.
Contaminated brake pads
When you are cleaning, polishing and/or lubricating your bike, avoid getting anything other than specialist bicycle brake cleaner on brake components. Oil and even certain cleaning products can contaminate brake pads reducing their efficiency, requiring replacement. And please, if your brakes are making a squealing noise, don’t put oil on them (we’ve seen it done!). Get a qualified mechanic to check your brake system over. Fitting a different brand of brake pads and/or setting up the brake system correctly should resolve the issue.
3. Detached, corroded or damaged brake cables.
Cable operated rim brakes can be disconnected/loosened by hand to help taking your wheels out. However, always remember to check they have been reattached before you ride!
Check out this handy video to show how to disconnect and reattach your v-brake cables.
Corroded or damaged brake cables will be prone to failure. Check the outer cable to make sure the plastic sheath is not damaged or cracked as this will allow water to sit inside the brake cable housing and corrode the inner brake wire. Check the inner brake wire (the silver wire that runs inside the outer cable). If you find any frayed or corroded sections the brake wire should be replaced.
If you carry out adjustments yourself, be careful not to over-tighten the cable pinch bolts as over-tightening will damage the integrity of the cable, making it more prone to snapping or slipping and your brakes failing (see recommended torque settings below).
4. Check your brake bolts
All brake bolts should be tightened to the correct torque. Incorrectly torqued bolts can damage components or cause your braking system to fail. ParkTool, one of our favoured suppliers provides some excellent guidance on their website:
However, if you do not have a torque wrench or not confident to carry out this check yourself, a professional bicycle mechanic will be able to carry out this check for you for around £10.00 – £15.00.