Suburban Assault

How The Hell Was I Stopping?

with 8 comments

OEM Pads

I’m usually the guy that stays up on things, when it comes to routine maintenance. I change the air filter on my home’s AC religiously. My car never goes too long without an oil change. I even keep up with my software updates on all my computers and electronic devices. How the heck did I overlook something as important as the brakes on my bike?

Part of it was procrastination – it’s hard to find time to ride, let alone time to tool on my bikes. “Just one more season” was my annual excuse. Part of it was lack of knowledge – although bike brakes are one of the few things that I can actually work on, I wasn’t familiar enough with them to know when to change them out. Part of it was not messing with the set up – it took me lots of adjusting to eliminated all the brake squealing. And part of it was me being too cheap – although new pads are inexpensive, I’ve convinced myself to use the current ones until they stopped working.

I didn’t take into account that my braking ability was slowly diminishing over the years – so slowly that I almost didn’t notice. The levers would just get pulled a little tighter and the stopping distance just got a little longer. “Just one more season.”

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) a woman in a car pulled out in front of me and I had to lock the brakes to stop in time. Something snapped. Ironically, it wasn’t the pad that failed, but rather my front brake cable. I guess it’s not so ironic considering how much additional force I’ve been applying to it, over the years, to make up for the lack of pad resistance.

I decided to change out the pads and cables before my next emergency stop. As I was changing everything out, I came to the realization that this was a process that was never done on this particular bike. That’s quite a revelation, considering that it’s my oldest bike – a 1993 Diamondback Apex. Sure, there were some months when it just hung in the garage, but I’ve put a bunch of  miles on this bike over the years. These were the 18 year old OEM brake pads that I was changing out. “Just one more season.”

How the hell was I stopping on these things?

Old OEM Pad

18 Year Old OEM Pad

New Pad

New Pad For Comparison

New and Old

New Vs Old Comparison

New and Old

New Pad Next To An 18 Year Old OEM Pad

Written by dickdavid

July 14, 2011 at 5:57 am

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Next time, get Kool Stop and get amazed all over again. Those black things are just not as good. I change my pads every 4000 miles, but they tend to look more worn than yours by that time. Age is definitely a factor.

    Steve A

    July 14, 2011 at 6:53 am

  2. Wow!!!


    July 14, 2011 at 7:11 am

  3. You may want to inspect your rims, too.
    All that grit in your pads was certainly not doing your rims any favor, either.


    July 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

  4. I bet you could get maybe one more season out of the old ones, don’t you think… 😉


    July 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  5. The old ones look used. The new ones look unused, because, well, you haven’t used ’em yet. After you’ve used ’em a few times, they’ll look used. There’s nothing in these photos to indicate why they might not brake as well as the new ones. Brakes pads can be worn right down to the metal, no problemo. Hence there is no need to change them on any sort of mileage basis either.

    Yet Steve hits the problem anyway; it’s age. The rubber hardens over time which lowers its friction.

    Plus your comments indicate that because it was such a trouble to adjust them in the first place you didn’t readjust them to account for pad wear. Unfortunately with cantilevers you can’t be quite that blasé. Because of the arc of travel of the arms, pad contact will change with pad wear. You have to readjust periodically to account for that.

    Michael is also correct, even without the obvious pitting to the pads suggesting the rims might be scored more than you should be happy with, part of the braking wear happens to the pads, and part to the rims. These can lead the RIM blowing out if it’s worn too thin.


    July 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    • Thanks for the great info. I’ll keep an eye on the new set and keep them adjusted as needed.


      July 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm

  6. They actually look like they’ve got another 18 years of wear left, but they picked up a LOT of grit that’s probably scored your rims pretty badly. I always just threw out the stock pads on Shimano brakes (which were terrible rim wreckers), and used Kool-Stop, preferably the salmon pads.

    adam in toronto

    August 3, 2011 at 10:00 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: