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  1. #1
    Patient Malthusian axel's Avatar
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    Maintaining Rim Brakes

    So I'm picking up a new 2011 Novara Transfer bike this weekend which has rim brakes. My current 16" folder also has V type rim brakes. I saw the biketudor video on changing brake pads and it helped a lot.

    I'm big into the low-maintenance aspect of dutch style bikes so roller brakes would have been nice. But I got most of the features I want in my new bike.

    How frequently do people change break pads? Is damage to rims more likely as break pads wear down to the shoe? I guess reversing the placement of the thin washers for the wide washers is typically done after the breaks are about half worn out. The wider washer set then makes up for the loss of contact that results from the break pad having worn down some and thus being not as close to rim. The wider washer set brings the pads back to the distance they were from the rim back when the rim was new. Is this a correct interpretation?

    So as you can see, I'm just getting my feet wet with maintaining rim brakes beyond the basic level of adjusting the barrels near the brake handles - which only can do so much. Rim brakes can be plenty powerful and offer the advantage of being light weight. But they do quickly lose a lot of their effectiveness without regular maintenance. It gets annoying having to pull my brake levers all the way to get decent braking power - knowing that when new, they could stop me on a dime with just a small grab.

    Those of you who maintain your rim brakes yourself - please chime in with some of your experience. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    With v-brakes, you should have an adjusting barrel in the brake lever, which can be screwed out to compensate for pad wear rather than swapping washers. You may need to adjust the pads periodically as they will hit the rim lower down as they wear. If the adjuster doesn't pull enough cable, simply screw it back in and adjust the cable at the clamp bolt on the brake arm.

  3. #3
    Patient Malthusian axel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monster Pete View Post
    With v-brakes, you should have an adjusting barrel in the brake lever, which can be screwed out to compensate for pad wear rather than swapping washers. You may need to adjust the pads periodically as they will hit the rim lower down as they wear. If the adjuster doesn't pull enough cable, simply screw it back in and adjust the cable at the clamp bolt on the brake arm.
    Hey MP, I've already long since used the play available by adjusting the barrel in the brake levers. Unscrewing it to the max to increase the leverage still makes it so I have to pull the levers nearly all the way to the handlebars before attaining adequate stopping power.

    I already have been resorting to pulling the cable end (at the wheel) through the bolt to add increased tension. But this ends up causing drag from the pads being too close.
    ------------------------------
    I had messed around with the pads a few weeks ago and improved the braking somewhat. But it was clear that my pads are nearly totally worn. Getting close pad distance was possible but I suspect I will risk rim wear by having a nearly bare brake shoe do the braking.

    I bought a new pair of brake pads a few weeks ago (didn't realize I'd need two pair to change front and back wheel brake pads). I asked for small length ones like I have on my 16" folder but all they had were ones that are about 3" long instead of 2" like my old ones.

    Spent two frustrating hours tonight changing out the old pads on the front wheel with the new pads. There are so many little things you have to have positioned "just right".

    _Barrel adjusters in the brake levers
    _One of three position for hold the spring arms
    _Clamping the right amount of cable thru the bold (after the noodle)
    _Setting the alignment of the brake pads in 3 dimensions
    _Deciding whether to use the wide or narrow set of washers on the side of the pad touching the wheel
    _Adjusting the little screw with a tiny alllen key that seems to find tune the spring arm tension

    I have to balance all these factors. What I find is that clamping down plenty of cable to get a nice short brake activation results in tire lock from contact with the brake pads. Setting the clamp loose enough that the pads do not drag at all, results in having to pull the levers nearly all the way to the bars to get a good stop. I even tried using a piece of cardboard as a shim to setup a decent pad clearance to no avail. I've spent quite a bit of time fiddling with all of this and things are actually working worse than they did with the old pads as I had reset them a couple weeks ago.

    Chilling out with a beer now. Ugghhhh!

    I'm kinda wishing the new bike I'm about to pick up this week had maintenance-free roller brakes instead of rim. Yeah, I'm sure if I took it to a LBS they could have it set pretty sweet again for not much $. With the right tutelage I'm sure I could do it. But I ran out of patience tonight. I'd stubbornly prefer to be able to maintain the brakes myself. It just seems like there's no margin where I can get decent pad clearance while still having quick and tight brake leverage. I'm too tired now to bother taking photos and uploading but maybe I'll resort to that another day.

    One possible clue to fixing this is that the strands of the exposed cable portion at the wheel end are pretty flat and kinda untwisted such that the wire is rather gnarly looking as it passes from the noodle into the clamp. I suspect this is resulting in the brake spring arms not being moved as much as they should by the cable and a corresponding loss of brake leverage.

    I guess I should just give it up and take it to a bike shop and have them run new cables if need be. Roller brakes seem so much more sensible though.
    Last edited by axel; 04-13-11 at 08:22 PM.

  4. #4
    Intrepid Bicycle Commuter AlmostGreenGuy's Avatar
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  5. #5
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Many brake pads have wear indicators built into them. Keeping wheels and pads clean goes a long ways towards keeping rims from wearing out faster, eventually you will have to replace them both. Keeping wheels as true as possible, allows you to keep the brakes adjusted closer to the rim, improving braking. I have a variety of bikes and brakes, my favorite are my roller brakes, set and forget, typically they get adjusted once a year if I think they need it. Second favorite would be the cantiliever brakes then V-brakes.

    Aaron
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