Wondering...On a properly adjusted bike, how much space should there be between the brake pad and the rim? Could you please answer in terms of things like "a dollar bill folded in thirds", "height of a dime, nickel, two penneys..." or some other easy to use measuring aide. It seems easier than using a ruler to eyeball.
Also...once the pad spacing is right, how far should the lever pull be before the pad engages the rim?
For road caliper brakes I've always squeezed a penny between each pad and the rim and then tighten everything down.
That's seems kinda close. You sure that wasn't to set the toe-in on the pads?
I usually set the pads so that when I'm applying FULL brakes and just about to lock up the front tyre, the lever is at about 2/3rds of it's travel (1/3rd away from the bottoming). This seems to give me the best feel and modulation on the lever. So whatever gap that ends up creating at the rims, that what I have. This gap will vary between different brake-lever & caliper combinations. But I'll always set it so the feel at the lever is about the same.
I do it by feel also. I set the rear brake (which I rarely use) very loose. In hard braking the amount of braking it does is almost negligible, since almost all the weight of the bike and rider has transfered forward and I don't want to lock up the rear in a panic stop.