How The Hell Was I Stopping?
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?