A hated maintenance task - Road Cycling UK

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A hated maintenance task

Worn brake block, partially undone retaining screw

Slivers of rubber

Meat City

Happy New Year from all at RCUK! Over the 12 days of Christmas, we’ll be reposting an existing article from this year – one from each month.

There’s a chance coming up to do a long road ride: 120 miles plus the return ride the following day from London to Poole for a trade show. Trouble is, the weather forecast is not good, with heavy showers and even continuous rain likely for most of the morning.

Supposing I bite the bullet and get stuck in, the mount of choice will be my Indy Fab Club Racer, which is all-day comfortable, mudguarded and, er, good-looking. Recently, however, the brake blocks have started looking a bit thin. They’ll soon need replacement. How soon?

Were the forecast for dry weather, I’d leave them. Even used hard, they wear slowly in good conditions and would surely last the ride. Were I riding 26 miles per day in wet weather, I’d leave them subject to a daily inspection; there’s probably still enough meat in each block for several day’s commuting despite the wear that would take place on each of them.

A long ride in the rain, however, is a different matter. Blocks can wear out in an alarmingly short time if used heavily in wet conditions, grit in the water splashed up off the road abrading them away so quickly that, if part worn, they can go down to the metal of the shoes over the course of a day. Many a participant in a wet Etape du Tour or similar sportive has rued not fitting new ones for the event.

The last thing I want is to find my brakes unusable on some steep Dorset descent, so I dug around in my spares box for some replacements. The blocks concerned are replaceable ones housed in shoes rather than the one-piece moulded type and are removed by undoing a small retaining screw and sliding the worn block rearwards. Usually this is easy enough although a recalcitrant block may need persuasion.

Getting the new one in, however, is often a real annoyance. They are moulded to precise dimensions and yet while some slide into the shoes easily, others – such as those fitted this morning – need a real push and a splash of water for lubrication. For some reason I find this the least agreeable of maintenance jobs, not least because even the cleanest of bikes has filthy brake blocks.

Once done, however, the firm, reassuring feel of those newly-refurbished brakes more than makes up for it. Why delay? 


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