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crappy brakes: adjust or upgrade for 10%+ grade?

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crappy brakes: adjust or upgrade for 10%+ grade?

Old 07-28-13, 06:05 PM
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crappy brakes: adjust or upgrade for 10%+ grade?

This weekend i rode some hills with 10-11% grade for the first time. I knew my brakes were crappy but damn! I had to Squeeze like nonstop for the ~2-3 miles of descent (twice), and i tried to go slow because i didn't feel comfortable with the brakes stopping me if i got up some serious speed.

the bike is a cheap BD bike, my first road bike, but ~1300 miles on it now. i want to be comfortable descending 10% grade. What is a cost effective upgrade?
Can i just get new brake pads or do i need new brakes?
Does dual-pivot caliper make a difference?
is it possible that the brake cable is stretchy? why did i have to squeeze SO hard to stop?
do the brake levers matter?
thanks for your input and help

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Old 07-28-13, 06:49 PM
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A combination of flexy single pivot calipers and poor quality pads probably explains it. I'd upgrade to decent quality dual pivots (be sure to match the required reach) and Kool Stop Salmon pads.
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Old 07-28-13, 07:30 PM
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Kool Stop pad would be my first step.

Black for dry, salmon for wet. I couldn't decide and went with dual compound. They made a BIG difference in my stopping confidence.
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Old 07-28-13, 07:51 PM
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All the things you mentioned COULD be part of the issue. If you have lower-end components then the brake arms could flex, and the pads could just kinda suck. Cables really don't stretch much in the quality scheme as its really the travel with the housing and letting you set an accurate resting point that determines how 'good' those are. But even then, that's some really up-there stuff.

So, start easy. Like the other buys said, replace the pads first. That will give you the most bang for your buck. And make sure the brakes are tuned really close to (this includes making sure your wheels are true). Once you've got that tuned close, that should solve about 90% of any problem you have. High end brakes would do the last 10 if you were that dedicated.

And if that works, for the love of god, don't ride your brakes for three miles downhill. I understand your concern about stopping, but you're probably not doing your pads/rims/wheels any favors by cooking them.

Anywho. Best of luck! Let us know how it goes.
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Old 07-28-13, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by gregjones View Post
Kool Stop pad would be my first step.

Black for dry, salmon for wet. I couldn't decide and went with dual compound. They made a BIG difference in my stopping confidence.
This ^^^.

Kool Stop's will make a big difference but as other's have stated crappy pivots and even lousy levers will compound the issue. I know it's probablt not possible or worth it but after upgrading to a bike with hydraulic disc brakes I am astounded by their performance.
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Old 07-28-13, 09:16 PM
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Yes, good dual-pivot calipers make a difference -- especially on the front. And like the guys have said, good brake pads make a huge difference. I'd definitely recommend upgrading to some good pads like Kool Stops, but when you do, you'll want to make sure they're adjusted better than the pads in the pic you posted. No pad will stop you very well if it's not making good contact with your rim.
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Old 07-28-13, 10:20 PM
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What do the rims look like?

Anodizing (implied by some color more contemporary than silver) and non-machined brake tracks (otherwise they'd be both aluminum colored and flat) aren't a good combination because the resulting brake tracks are more slippery than when not anodized.

Unfortunately this isn't uncommon - silver is too retro to sell best and machining the brake tracks to remove the anodizing would cut into profit margins.

If that's what's going on you're not going to have great brakes until you replace the rims or wear through the anodizing.

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Old 07-29-13, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by quadripper View Post
...is it possible that the brake cable is stretchy? ...
The cable is not stretchy, put it's very possible that the housing is too compressible, which has the same effect. Replacing the housings with decent ones (and cables since it's hard/impossible to thread cut cables through the housings) may help.
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Old 07-29-13, 10:27 AM
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+1 on Kool-Stops. They've always given me enough braking power with single-pivot, centerpull, and dual-pivot brakes on aluminum rims.

An on technique, when you're going downhill, you should be braking from the drops (not the hoods) for best leverage and control of the bike. Are you doing that?
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Old 07-29-13, 10:37 AM
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I'll add to the Kool-Stop recommendations, they were a significant improvement, even over the Shimano pads that came with a set of cantilever brakes I bought a few months back. If Kool-Stops and new decent-quality cables don't fix the issue, then it's time to think about upgrading the actual calipers. That may well not be necessary, most short-reach brakes, even single-pivot ones like yours, can be made to perform pretty well with if they're set up properly with decent pads, at least in my experience.
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Old 07-29-13, 02:33 PM
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Forget the brake pads, its throwing good money after bad. Go on eBay or wherever and buy a set of dual pivot calipers and be done with it. If it doesn't stop well after the dual pivots then I'd consider upgraded pads. A good quality cable like Jagwire will help as well.

Calipers (2): $30
Cables (2): $10
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