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Old 01-11-14, 08:08 AM   #1
Tandem Tom
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Brake Pad Maintenance while on tour?

Just reading a thread in Bicycle Maintenance an it got me to thinking. How do you handle pad maintenance while on tour? Do you carry sandpaper or extra pads?
Thanks!
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Old 01-11-14, 08:29 AM   #2
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I just use my fingernail clipper pick to clean out any bits every few days. Depends on where I'm riding, but usually a shop isn't so far away that I couldn't do without new pads right away. You can do a really big chunk of miles on a single set of pads. It also probably depends on disc vs rim. You should already have sandpaper though : ) at least a little bit in your tube repair kit!
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Old 01-11-14, 09:02 AM   #3
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I've only replaced brake pads once on tour, after a ride through the North Cascades and Rockies, and there are plenty of places to buy pads in the US. In less developed areas, I'd carry a spare set. I've never sanded mine, but I do check them nearly every day, depending on the terrain, and I keep them adjusted to the rim. I pay attention on long descents and don't overheat/glaze them. Some people may have riding styles where sanding might help. If you're not so much into prevention, carrying spares might be a good idea.
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Old 01-11-14, 10:21 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Tandem Tom View Post
Just reading a thread in Bicycle Maintenance an it got me to thinking. How do you handle pad maintenance while on tour? Do you carry sandpaper or extra pads?
Thanks!
With the touring bike and in particular all of my distance roadies the least maintenance item has been the brakes. For the number of miles rode there's little use of the brakes. Even the rim's braking surface can look almost new after 15K miles or so. I do listen for any unusual noise that can tip me off to have picked up something in the pads.

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Old 01-11-14, 11:50 AM   #5
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I got some sandpaper like cardboard things, perhaps they are called Emory Boards? Bought them at the dollar store, they were sold for sanding fingernails.

When my brake pads start to get a heavy layer of dark gray Aluminum Oxide, I usually like to sand that off. But usually only do that maybe once or twice per thousand miles or so. I don't do it frequently, I can only remember sanding my pads once on a tour.
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Old 01-11-14, 11:51 AM   #6
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I Note as the pad wears thinner, the way it contacts the Rim changes , towards the Pivot..

U brakes that is towards the Tire bead.. V/Cantilever, off the inside edge.. *

So be mindful of that change.. relocating the shoe to remain in full contact with the rim.

Brought spares, never needed them ,Are you going on a year plus tour?

blasting down alpine passes a lot on your Tandem?


*Shimano Parallel Push V moves more in a straight line, as does Magura's HS rim brakes.

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Old 01-11-14, 04:37 PM   #7
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Take an extra set (Kool Stop Salmon plug here). They're cheap and light.

At least on road, the worst you have to do on a routine basis is adjusting the clearance and digging bits of grit out of pads. Not much gets bedded in the salmon, so that's half the work gone.
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Old 01-11-14, 06:33 PM   #8
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You can buy brake pads from bicycle shops along the way ... and that's what we've done.
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Old 01-11-14, 07:12 PM   #9
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How do you handle pad maintenance while on tour?
Before going on tour do a full maintenance check, annually if you don't plan to leave the county anyway.
Overhaul bearing surfaces as required.
If you need new pads, cables, chain, cogs, tires or handlebar tape replace them and proceed.
Bike shops have these items if you are on a transcontinental trip, stop at one if necessary.

edit: Brake pads are a wearable item, they are designed that way. When worn out one replaces them.
Sandpaper? In the plethora of bicycle maintenance mis-information that ranks right up there with carrying spare pedals on tour......

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Last edited by Bandera; 01-11-14 at 07:21 PM. Reason: Sandpaper???
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Old 01-11-14, 09:03 PM   #10
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Sandpaper? In the plethora of bicycle maintenance mis-information that ranks right up there with carrying spare pedals on tour......

-Bandera
Disagree.

The dark gray dust on everything around the rim is Aluminum Oxide. And Aluminum Oxide becomes a heavy layer on your brake pads. Aluminum Oxide is much harder material than the Aluminum alloy in the rims, in fact Aluminum Oxide is used in grinding wheels and cutting tools to cut steel.

Rims cost more than brake pads. I would rather periodically remove the Aluminum Oxide from my brake pads than replace my rims.
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Old 01-11-14, 09:47 PM   #11
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I usually start a major tour with new brake pads. We've had to change pads 3 times on tours at about the 3,000 mile mark. If there is a lot of wet weather it may have been even a little bit quicker. If I plan on going over the 3,000 mile mark on a tour, I might consider carrying a pair of pads. The reason is that we were never able to get the pads we wanted when we needed them, and settled for some less than satisfactory pads. My wife is running v-brakes on her bike now, and they tend to wear the pads more rapidly than cantilever brakes.

My wife does the Journal, and I do the maintenance while on tours. It is a ritual for us when we stop for the day. Heck, if I wasn't fooling with the bikes, I'd end up having to cook dinner

Most of the time I carry a Leatherman type multi-tool. Mine has a file that I use to scuff up the pads if they become glazed.

When on tour, I go over the bikes daily for loose bolts, excessive play in the brake levers, etc. At least once a week I lube the chains, and wash the bikes if possible. If we have been riding in a lot of wet weather I may pull the wheels and check and clean off the brake pads . I also do this when we quit for the day if I experience a noticeable decrease in stopping ability.

These pads were pretty glazed. I'm in the process of removing the glaze. Notice the 2 metal particles embedded in the pad. This material is hard on rims.


I just soap it up, and use my water bottles to rinse it off if a hose is not available. I've often fished large softdrink cups out of waste cans, or cut a liter Power Aid bottle in half to use as "buckets". I carry a small sponge in my tool kit for this .

Last edited by Doug64; 01-13-14 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 01-11-14, 10:13 PM   #12
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Before going on tour do a full maintenance check, annually if you don't plan to leave the county anyway. Overhaul bearing surfaces as required.
If you need new pads, cables, chain, cogs, tires or handlebar tape replace them and proceed.
Bike shops have these items if you are on a transcontinental trip, stop at one if necessary.
+1. Start with fresh consumables. To buy a new item and carry it makes no sense to me.
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Old 01-12-14, 10:40 AM   #13
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I personally never really worry about cleaning my rims or sanding the brake pads down and I have never had issues with rim wear. I think part of what helps is refusing to buy brake pads that have given me problems with picking chunks of aluminum off the rim and getting stuck in the pads. The cheaper Avid pads and all of the Kool Stop pads have been great for me.

I do often check to make sure the pads are properly aligned on the rim as they wear since most brakes do not bring them straight into the rims like some of the older Shimano v brakes.

If your tour is not a huge tour or through lots of mountains or nasty roads, chances are you will not have to do anything other than make sure all is well before leaving. If you are going on an extremely long tour you can pick up replacement pads as you go. Unless traveling in very remote areas for a long time I would not worry about carrying extra pads.
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Old 01-12-14, 12:19 PM   #14
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Rims cost more than brake pads. I would rather periodically remove the Aluminum Oxide from my brake pads than replace my rims.
I'm all for preventative maintenance and having a reasonably clean machine myself but the wear in normal use on my braking system's components has never been a issue since that's how they are designed to operate and have a finite service life. I expect them to wear out, inspect and replace as necessary.

Riding fixed gear will cut down on that dreaded rim wear, I just checking mine & F&R are indeed pristine.

Oddly enough so is the Super Champion #58 I built in the early 80's for touring duty that's been on the front of my town bike for the last couple of decades. I'll not be losing any sleep about not sanding my brake pads for the last 40 years.

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Old 01-14-14, 03:54 PM   #15
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I do lots of mountainous dirt road touring, so carrying spare pads is a must. You get noticeable wear from a single 1000m dirt road descent. Spare pads are incredibly light, small, and avoid a potentially really unpleasant situation (walking down big hills!), so I don't see why not to bring them.

Great tips about removing built up glaze etc - news to me. (Maybe that's why I wear them so fast )
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Old 01-15-14, 08:33 AM   #16
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While touring, Ive been pretty lucky not to have lots of rain days, plus I am always on paved roads, so a lot less "junk" on pads and rims than riding on dirt, and especially in wet, muddy conditions (where I could see having disk brakes a big advantage).

That said, I really believe the best thing one can do to extend pad (and rim) life is after a days wet riding, even on pavement, is to use a rag and water and just wipe down the rims and pads and get the days gunge off.
It only takes a few minutes, release the brake cables to see and access the pads easier being further away from rim, give them a little scrub, wipe down rims and right away you've removed the abrasive stuff that does the grinding.
A peek once in a while at the pads like Doug shows in his photo is good to see if any stuff is imbedded in the pad, yes its harder to see with the wheels on (and if your eyes are getting older like mine) but its still good to think of taking a gander every so often.

Personally I hate hearing grinding noises when braking, so the quickee rag wipe job at the end of a wet day is worth the minute it takes to do both wheels. I keep an old rag or grab napkins when possible for this--lean bike against wall, squirt water from bike bottle onto pads to wash out gunge, quick wipe. Then wipe one side of both wheels, turn bike around, do other side of both--it is fast and does the job.
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Old 01-15-14, 09:34 AM   #17
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Disagree.

The dark gray dust on everything around the rim is Aluminum Oxide. And Aluminum Oxide becomes a heavy layer on your brake pads. Aluminum Oxide is much harder material than the Aluminum alloy in the rims, in fact Aluminum Oxide is used in grinding wheels and cutting tools to cut steel.

Rims cost more than brake pads. I would rather periodically remove the Aluminum Oxide from my brake pads than replace my rims.
The gray dust on the rims and tires is a mixture of all kinds of things. Aluminum oxide (aka alumina) may be part of the mix but it's also going to be bits of rubber from the pads as well as dirt from the road containing metal fragments, soil, carbon from car tires, bits of ground up animal guts, stuff that comes from the inside of animals before their guts get ground up and other stuff...disgusting and not.

The aluminum oxide in the mix comes from the rims of the bike but, thanks to the wonders of using a reactive metal, any exposed aluminum is going to form a protective oxide layer immediately upon exposure to air. Aluminum is reactive enough to react with water to form hydrogen but it can't sustain the reaction without being the the presence of something that removes the oxide as it forms. Any aluminum oxide embedded in the pads is going to be in contact with the aluminum oxide on the surface of the rim. Two alumina covered surfaces aren't going to be able to do much damage to each other.

You may want to refresh the surface of the pad occasionally so that the pads are more effective but the need to do that isn't all that frequent. It depends on conditions, of course, but it's not likely needed to be done on a daily basis or even weekly basis. I've done a 1200 mile tour over 4 weeks with 87,000 feet of climbing (and descending) and I never felt the need for refreshing the pads. My commuter bike sees much more mileage and much worse conditions and I don't refresh the pad surface more than once a year, if that.
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Old 01-16-14, 01:40 AM   #18
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That said, I really believe the best thing one can do to extend pad (and rim) life is after a days wet riding, even on pavement, is to use a rag and water and just wipe down the rims and pads and get the days gunge off.
It only takes a few minutes, release the brake cables to see and access the pads easier being further away from rim, give them a little scrub, wipe down rims and right away you've removed the abrasive stuff that does the grinding.
What if the next day is more dirt and rain? I've thought of doing this in the past and concluded it was a bit pointless - they'd be muddy again within minutes? (Happy to be corrected...)
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Old 01-16-14, 06:40 AM   #19
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Steve, oh I agree, its pretty much a losing battle with constant rain and dirt. As I mentioned, if I were considering a trip with a lot of dirt, I'm pretty much convinced I'd want a disk setup having read trip journals by people using them and the reliability being very good. It will be a new set of mechanical skills to learn for someone like me who hasn't worked on bicycle disks, but its learnable. Spare rotor and pads are very light. I figure I'd go with a setup with a good proven track record, like BB7s.
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Old 01-20-14, 10:28 PM   #20
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When necessary to sand them on tour i just remove them and drag the face across a cement surface a few times to act as sandpaper. Very easy to do, effective enough and nothing extra to carry.
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