Smooth operator takes on disk brake maintenance

Sometimes it seems to cyclefucius that mountain bikes are looking more and more like motorbikes. Huge forks, fat tyres and the dreaded disk brakes.

Now, cyclefucius has no experience of motorbikes. But imagines that they must be somewhat similar to cars and need servicing maybe a couple of times a year.

Not so the disk brakes on cyclefucius’s off-road setup. I won’t share here the name of the maker of the dreaded stoppers, but they need more attention than a neglected puppy.

Back in the day when said machine was acquired there wasn’t the wealth of knowledge to choose from posted on YouTube by nice Canadian men. The first days of ownership required various returns to the local bike shop for: bubbles in the system (pro tip: never turn machine upside down), floppy levers (pro tip 2: always use those little spacer things when taking off wheels – the hydraulic elves love to press the levers and make you force open the brake pads), and/or grabby brakes (cyclefucius heard recently that the young Chris Froome used to ride up mountains in Kenya with brakes applied in order to emulate Tour de France mountain passes – why he didn’t select a higher gear is beyond me – but at that rate cyclefucius must have a few “hors cat├ęgories” in his legs courtesy of Mr Sram – OK, you got me).

Given all this, cyclefucius got to the point of never going anywhere near the little white wannabe motorbike spares, once approaching anything near a proper set up. So the brake pads have been worn down to ear-watering, tooth-juddering, air-cleaving, metal-melting microns in order to avoid interference.

This was not going to last for long. And the showdown came the other day when cyclefucius’s off-road activities came to a sudden halt. Ironically on the road, doing the right thing trying to make eye contact with a driver arriving at a junction apparently in rehearsals for a role in “Tommy” and crashing into the raised kerb of a bus stop. (No, not the actual bus stop.)

Puncture, but wheel survived relatively unscathed. However, once returned to its place, Chris Froome brake syndrome took over and the return home became Tourmalet.

As ever, cyclefucius likes to try the self-sufficient approach. New brake pads and then let’s see if professional help needed.

Let’s do this. I am sure that the pads are designed to be replaceable without removing the wheel but perhaps the face-melting excess of wear makes this impossible. So wheels off. Bike steadfastly right way up (see above). Old bits out. Quick clean. New pads go in. Little spacey things do their job (see also above). Wheels go on. And of course fail to rotate. Squeeze brakes a few times like it says in the manual. Still no rotation.

But cyclefucius has pro tip 3 at his disposal: in the absence of rubber bands, tie brake levers tight with shoelaces, loosen the little Allen bolt things to allow realignment to take place (pro tip 4: the ones at the back not the ones at the side where fluid falls out if you unscrew them), pump a few times, re-tighten, pray.

And … rotation restored. Not a miracle. cyclefucius has learned something over various years of bubbly, floppy, grabby, tinkering times. Not to be beaten. Maybe I should do a video. But … for sure … next bike will definitely not have these particular ones. And road bikes really shouldn’t either.

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