Fixed it at last

I am mechanically inept. In fact, when it comes to anything handy involving my hands, I am not only useless but a danger to myself. A few months ago while chopping a small piece of a tree trunk, I ended up in the ER with blood running down my face. The tree trunk objected to the axe and attacked me. Rude!

I woke up today with sore legs, the result of riding every day for a week. A few weeks ago I noted that riding daily was making me stronger. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling very fatigued from my rides. Yesterday I found out why.

One of the pads on my rear rim brakes was not releasing from the rim. This is the exact problem I had more than once on my bike tour last summer. In order to go my usual pace I was putting out much more effort than normal. In a way, it’s the opposite of a tailwind. Just as a tailwind convinces you that you are Greg LeMond, a rubbing brake pad makes you feel like Uncle Fester.

Thankfully, the interwebs have beaucoup bike repair videos. I watched four and decided I should be able to fix the brakes with plenty of patience. I also needed a day off the saddle so I figured my foray into brake mechanics would chew up an hour or so.

I put the bike up on my repair stand. Then I checked to make sure the brake cable had proper tension. I did this by squeezing the brake lever. It didn’t bottom out against the handlebar. All was good

Then I spun the rear wheel and saw that, like yesterday, the left pad wasn’t releasing from the rim. I decided to try releasing the tension on the spring on that side of the brakes. The spring makes the pad retract. The adjustment mechanism is a teeny screw. From one of the videos I learned how this works. You tighten the screw, the screw presses harder against the end of the tensioning spring, and this pulls the pad away from the rim. I tried this yesterday and nothing much happened. It was very frustrating to do this on the side of the road.

When I looked really closely at the spring, Both the tensioning spring and the adjusting screw are black and they sit in the shadow of my rear bag. It’s easy to miss where the two come in contact. In this case, when I looked very closely I could see that the end of the spring had moved away from the adjusting screw. When I turned the screw it was missing the spring entirely. AHA!

I backed the screw out and used a flat head screw driver to re-position the end of the spring. Then I re-tighted the adjusting screw. It pushed on the spring and the pad retracted from the rim.

The end of the spring is the little black wire pointing down.

Normally fixing bikes follows the same rule as writing computer programs. Whatever time you think it will take is an order of magnitude shorter than it actually does. If you think it will take a day to write a program, it ends up taking a week. A week means a month, and so on.

Rather than take the hour that I expected,this bike repair took all of one minute. It took far longer to set up and take down the work stand than it did to fix the bike.

This brake issue drove me nuts all last summer. I had my brakes adjusted four times between Pueblo Colorado and Carson City Nevada. Now I know what the problem was.

Tomorrow, I hit the road like an April fool. Maybe I even get a tailwind.

8 thoughts on “Fixed it at last

  1. I had a brake “brake-through” (see what I did there?) last summer. Very similar. I thought it was going to be a big deal, and I was going to wimp out and take it to a shop as, I don’t do much wrenching anymore. I decided I had nothing to lose and plunged in, and presto! It took all of 5 minutes. I was pretty chuffed about that for weeks! The old girl’s still got it! Yay for both of us! 😁

  2. Awesome that you could make the repair. YouTube is a blessing in this regard. Next thing you know you’ll be ordering the massive (and massively expensive) Park Tool or Pedros tool kit and setting up your shed as a service bay.

    1. I met a guy riding a recumbent to DC from rural Georgia. He did all his own work using Park Tools videos as a guide. When he got stuck, he called PT and they walked him through the repair. Great company

      1. I have started watching their weekly videos (and going back and watching more of them). I considered enrolling in Park Tool School. I don’t want to work at a bike store, (maybe I do) but I would like to be able to do more with a bike.

      2. Other than brakes, tubes, and tires, I pretty much leave the mechanical stuff to the bike shop. I should learn how to replace a chain next tho.

      3. I think that would be good. I want to learn that, straightening a wheel, wrapping handlebars, …..and someday adjusting gears.

      4. Making minor adjustments to a wheel is pretty easy. If it involves a truing stand, all bets are off for me. Wrapping handlebars and adjusting gears take practice and patience. Not my strong suits.

  3. Don’t ya just love it when a bike repair goes smoothly? Replacing a chain is pretty easy; you’ll get the hang of it. Recently, I invested in a masterlink remover – best investment.

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