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shiny new brakes [that wail]

August 27, 2010
Rainy day commute

We finally got new brake pads on our vintage Raleighs. This was imperative since I was using mine as my daily ride and the brakes left something to be desired. For safety measures, I mostly rode at an embarrassingly slow speed just to be able to stop when needed.

New brakepads

We got Continental brake pads made for ‘urban riders’ and for both steel or aluminum rims. (The Raleighs have steel rims). They were easy enough to install and, while at it, T. also oiled the brake cables for smoother braking.

Oiling the brake cables

Oiling the brake cables

He figured out how to separate the brake cable cover from the top and how to pour oil inside using a plastic needle-like tip. You can best see this in the first picture just above.

I was thrilled to have shiny new brakes so it came as quite a surprise when I first clamped down on them the next morning and my bike emitted a loud shrill wail. I was just approaching a group of school children waiting to cross the road and both the children and the crossing guard turned to look at me in horrified wonder. The loud squealing (somewhere between a pig in distress and nails on chalkboard) continued anytime I had to stop. I think the entire campus was made aware of my arrival once I pulled up next to my office.

I rode like that for two days because the back of the brakes package explained that it would take a bit of use for the brakes to get ‘broken in’. I assumed this to be part of the breaking in process. But after two days and a bit of research, I found out that the brakes were not ‘toed-in’ correctly.

The brake pads have to be installed at a slight angle to where the front part of the pad makes contact with the wheel rim a slight bit before the rear part of the pad comes to it. Several bike sites and the illustrious Sheldon Brown all confirmed this.

Armed with this information, T. adjusted the brake pads to ‘toe-in’ correctly and the wailing was fixed. I’m looking forward to a much more serene and quiet commute again. Finally, the chalkboard has been put away and the pigs have been silenced.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2010 13:33

    The first think I do when I get new brake pads is toe them in. HATE, HATE, HATE the squeal.

  2. August 27, 2010 13:56

    That is hilarious!!! Glad you are now riding more peacefully and more importantly – SAFELY!! Enjoy your weekend ride!

  3. Janice in GA permalink
    August 27, 2010 14:09

    Sometimes when mine squeal it means the rims need a little cleaning.

    I have a vintage Schwinn with steel rims and not-very-good stopping power, especially in wet conditions. These pads sound like they might be a good solution to that!

    • August 27, 2010 15:09

      Janice – the rims were dirty on our bikes too, so we cleaned them too. But actually putting in new brake pads made a huge difference in the stopping power. They also weren’t that expensive. I think around $20/bike.

  4. August 27, 2010 16:56

    Hilarious! I have had the same prob with my Peugeot, usually because the rims are dirty like Janice says. He could probably stand to be treated to some new brake pads and a new chain, one of these days.

  5. August 27, 2010 18:52

    Aha (lightbulb goes on)! So that’s what does it! Looks like some slight tweaking of brake pads is on my agenda tonight.

  6. August 28, 2010 21:49

    :D .. You’ve brought back some (‘fond’) memories I have had with my first bike when I was sweet 16 and was quite ‘intimidated ‘ by bike mechanics and ‘black grease’ ( grime).

  7. August 28, 2010 22:10

    There’s nothing worse than nails on a chalkboard! I’m glad you got the wailing fixed before any more school children or university students were horrified!

    P.S. I’ve always loved that skirt you’re wearing!

  8. September 1, 2010 21:32

    I wipe my rims down every now and again with some alcohol. It makes a noticeable difference on the steel rims. Vintage Raleigh bikes have a tendency to leave a fine spray of oil as you use them. Cleaning the rims once a month or so it not a bad idea. FWIW I use the back brake for slowing or gentle speed moderation, front brake is for stopping in a hurry. The back rim will tend to gather a bit more oil than the front.



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