May 082012
Brake Pads

Today we have another one of our regular series of guest blogs from our friends at London Bike Kitchen on DIY bicycle maintenance. Following on from the last blog on how fix a flat puncture, London Bike Kitchen’s Jennifer Gwiazdowski this time tells us how to approach the job of replacing brake pads.

Changing your brake pads/blocks is uber easy and is a quick way to make your ride enjoyable again. You should change your brake blocks when the little grooves have worn away. If you are scraping metal on metal, you have been very naughty!

This is what BAD brake pads look like

What you’ll need for this job: allen key (probably size 5), spanner (probably size 10), new brake pads, philips screwdriver (V-brakes only). For simplicity, today we’re only dealing with the most popular rim brakes (sorry hub/disc brake folks!)

Step one

Determine what kind of brakes you have (V-brakes, Calipers, Cantilever) and buy a new pair of pads that are the same style as your old ones. DO NOT replace only one pad without replacing the other – this will cause, yet again, an uneven wear. Break the cycle!

Step two

Release your brakes from the rim, either by flipping the switch (calipers), or unhooking your brake cable (cantis) or brake noodle (V-brake). This gets rid of any tension and allows you to remove the brake pads easily.

Step three

Remove your brake blocks by unscrewing the allen bolt that’s holding them. Throw away in bin.

Step four

Put new brake blocks on, the same way you found them. Make sure you position the pad in the right direction. There are usually arrows telling you which way they should be pointing forward. Position the brake block so that it is neither touching the tyre nor is off the rim. If it touches the tyre, the brake pad will wear away at the tyre and cause it to explode. If it’s off the rim, the pad will wear away in a funky uneven way, and nobody wants that!

If you have V-brakes or Cantilevers, you will have a series of washers to wade through. This is so that you can get a nice angle on your block so that it’s flush with the rim. Caliper brakes, you don’t need to worry about this, you’re so close to the rim anyway that all you get is an allen bolt.

Tighten the brake block with one hand while holding the pad in your other hand, steady along the rim. You want it to be pretty tight!

Step 5

Repeat on other side, then hitch your brake pads back in line, either by flipping back your switch (caliper) or hooking your brake cable/noodle back in. You may find that as your new pads are wider, they will be closer, if not touching the rim. If this is the case, first squeeze your brakes several times to get them settled in. If they are still touching on both sides, you might want to screw in your barrel adjuster (turn clockwise) to relax the cable, or else just release a bit of cable. (More on this in the next blog).

Step 6

If you have caliper and cantilever brakes, you should be fine and finished here. If you have V-brakes, you can adjust their springability by using a philips screwdriver on the small screw near the brake pad and brake arm. If you screw it tighter (righty tightly), this will apply more pressure on the spring, and it will move away from the rim. If you screw it looser (lefty loosely), this will lessen the pressure, and it will move closer to the rim. You will have to go back and forth between each to find balance between the two, but when you do – boy! What lovely brakes you’ll have.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about how to adjust brake cables and use barrel adjusters in order to make your brakes more responsive.

*Jennifer is also involved in the organisation of Pedalpooza, a DIY bicycle festival in London that will be taking place from June 3rd to June 10th. The festival will feature a variety of bike-related events that aims to bring together people of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels through cycling. The Pedalpooza site allows you to post your own event, with the Jennifer and her colleagues promoting the event for you.

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See also

Documentary follows para-cycling athletes journey to Olympics

Used bike buyers buy more

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