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  1. #1
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    Help! On tour... brake probems

    Hi, I'm on tour in India. Western bike shops are nearly non-existent or unrealiable (if anyone knows of one in Mumbai please let me know. I am using avid single digit brakes and the problem I am having is that when I ride the brake arms wobble side to side and cause the pad to rub on the front rim. It only happens on the front. Also, I know that it is the arms that wobble because it is not only audible, but it is very much visible, so I don't think it's a problem with the wheel. I have tried giving more slack to the cable, but it seems that they still wobble far enough to hit the rim. Here are my possible ideas as to the problem:

    1. My panniers in the front are misbalanced by weight ( I have tried a few times to pack them as evenly as possible)
    2. My rack (old man mountain front lowrider AC which connects to the brake bosses) is malfunctioning, but I doubt it because I have retightened all the screws
    3. the rocking of the front shock is causing the arms to wobble
    4. I simply haven't gotten used to riding steady with front panniers (I've done a bit of touring before so I hope this isnt the problem)
    5. My most likely guess is that the springs pushing the brake arms out have lost their tension and are too weak to control the brake arm from coming against the rim while riding. If this is the case how do I fix this? Do i really need all new brake arms??


    If anyone knows what to do please help.

    That was the more pressing issues and part 2 of my worries deals with spokes. From what I understand, if my spokes are nice and tight it will be unlikely that I will brake one. On my rear wheel the spokes on the drive side are very tight, but the non-drive side has a bit of play. Can I get away with just tightening the non-drive side or is that going screw up the balance of the wheel? On my front wheel the spokes were a little loose and I believe that due to the weight I was carrying it was causing the wheel (or the rim I should say) to flex when I was standing up and peddling causing the bike to rock side to side. Ive tightened the spokes up, but now I'm wondering if I went overboard and tightened them too much. When are spokes too tight? How can you tell when you have the correct amount of tension?

  2. #2
    B.C. to D.C.
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    on the brakes--I assume v-brakes?--I would guess it's a tension issue with the springs, most likely they are maladjusted. you can address this by unscrewing the allen bolt fixing the brake arm to the canti boss. there should be a set of three holes within which the end of the brake spring can fit, and you can then move each springs to a different hole to increase the tension. Alternately, your brake pads could just be really worn down causing the arms to come out of the range of tension for the brake. Or, your wheel could just be mis-seated or out of true, especially if you've monkeyed around with spoke tension and/or didn't destress the wheel before remounting. when the bike's stationary, pick up the fork and spin the wheel. you should be able to tell which it is very quickly.

    because your brake arms should have tension setting them out from the wheel, no amount of misloading, tilting or rocking, aside from really hard jolts (even then...) should cause them to sway.

    on the spokes--it is normal for the non-drive side spokes to be looser than the drive side spokes. this is what creates dish. If your wheel is centered in the frame, I wouldn't worry too much, especially if you are currently not breaking any spokes. when you were mashing on the pedals, are you sure it was the rim flexing and not just the pannier weight pulling the bike from side to side? When my wheels flex, they usually stay that way.

    since you obviously have internet access, the repair section of parktool.com or sheldonbrown.com is your friend. There are also several shops in mumbai I found via google. call around and see if anyone has experience with the style of brake you have. Bikes really aren't that different, and a good mechanic should be able to suss things out pretty quickly, or work with you to fix your ailments.

  3. #3
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    Have you looked at the trueness of the wheel to make sure the rim is straight and not hitting the brakes. The other thing you said about the rack mount on the front. if you took your brakes off or if they became loose enough the pin on the backside of the brake that goes into a small hole on the brake mount may not be in its hole causing the no spring tension problem. Dont just go around tightening all the spokes the same amount as you will kill the wheel that way. Some may need abit more than others to keep the rim running true. the non drive tension on the rear wheel will be less than the drive tension that is normal on most rear wheels

  4. #4
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    Get so local help.... I know there isn't many western style bike shops, but India is full of bike mechanics. The guys with the old tire pumps and patched tubes hanging from the tree limbs often know a lot about bikes.

  5. #5
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    thanks for the help

    Thanks everyone for responding. I should have been a bit more specific about a couple of things...

    The brakes are v brakes.

    The brake pads I bought new for this trip so I would guess they only have about 5% wear.

    I tried taking the brake apart and putting the arms in one notch (out of the three) and dialing the tension to full bore, but the brakes were too close and causing rubs for a different reason. Knowing this, I am going to try keeping the brakes loose until they have enough wear and then take the brake apart and put it in one notch. Good idea or bad?

    With the flex on the front wheel it was audible. If I would linger on one side of the bike I could hear the rim rub against the brake. The spokes felt loose, so I tightened them and the problem for the most part has gone away. With the lack of a truing stand I simply used the brakes to calibrate the rim. It's not the most visually appealling job, but it will do until Mumbai.

    On another note, I busted my chain today. I already had my parents send me a new chain and cassette (for an exorbitant price), but I am not sure if I should change them now. I still have at least another 6000kms to go. Should I just change the chain and cassette now or should I try and mend my chain ( I have some spare links) and hope it holds out? How have other peoples chains held up after a repair?

    Bike shops and bikes in India are a whole different breed... I'm talking some really primitive stuff. I have not seen a single native bike that is more than a single speed. The brakes on these bikes are weird contraptions. Most bikes only have a front brake which is pulled by a metal rod instead of a wire. I have not found a single bike mechanic that can deal with a foreign bike. Most of the time when I go up to them just to pump air in my tires, they stare at my bike like it's the monolith from Space Odyssey 2001.

    I've done some net surfing research and found firefox bikes in Mumbai who are supposedly also a trek dealer. I'm really hoping they will at least have a truing stand and some spare parts especially spare pads for disc brakes for my girlfriends bike. Does anyone have any experience with firefox bikes or does anyone know of western shops in Mumbai?

    Thanks for the help everyone,
    Gene

    www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/biketour2008

  6. #6
    Year-round cyclist
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    For the chain, I like SRAM Powerlink. When a chain breaks, remove the broken link and repair by hand with a Powerlink (works on a Shimano chain too).

    As for the v-brakes, once you true the wheel and check for equal spring tension in the brake arms (as said above), if the brakes don't recenter reliably each time you brake (i.e. sometimes they go left, sometimes they go right), I suggest you clean the brake pivots. In a nutshell, do as follows:

    – Unhook the cable and unhook the springs.
    – Remove the pivot bolt and pull each arm out.
    - Clean the pivots and inside each arm (where the pivot sits). WD-40 is a great help here.
    – Grease the pivots heavily and re-install the brakes.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by gorelikg View Post
    I tried taking the brake apart and putting the arms in one notch (out of the three) and dialing the tension to full bore, but the brakes were too close and causing rubs for a different reason. Knowing this, I am going to try keeping the brakes loose until they have enough wear and then take the brake apart and put it in one notch. Good idea or bad?
    Thanks for the help everyone,
    Gene
    www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/biketour2008
    This is just conjecture on my part as I've no experience with your particular brakes. but.......... Since your brake pads were too close with more spring tension it seems to me that you do indeed need more tension. Pad position relative to the rim should be adjusted with the barrel adjuster that's probably on your brake levers.

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