On our Saturday jaunt down to Milford, on horrendous roads, I hit a piece of broken asphalt on the side of the road… The guy I was drafting just missed it. I wasn’t as lucky. Afterwards, I had a gnarly scratching sound every once around the wheel. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t as bad unless under extreme braking loads, but it was there.
On arriving home and cleaning the bike (and my aging eyes not being what they once were), I cleaned both sides of the brake surface, spun the wheel and felt for imperfections. I felt nothing.
On Sunday, the sound was back, but less obnoxious and again only under excessive braking loads. Today, thinking it would take forever and a day to get the brakes realigned properly, I threw caution to the wind and took the pads out to clean and inspect them, thinking I may have picked up a piece of dirt and that could have been rubbing the aluminum seam, causing the noise.
Now, if you didn’t know, brake pads should be cleaned every now and again regardless of noises. Small chunks of aluminum embed themselves in the pads and will wear the rim of not removed. You’ll have to look close, but you’ll see a shiny piece of aluminum in the black pad, no bigger than the point of a safety pin (I had to dig out the reading glasses). All that needs be done is dig it out with a safety pin or razor blade tip:
The second, left side is where I saw the significant problem – the cause of my consternation:
As bad as that looks, I couldn’t feel any grooves – I caught it soon enough. I dug out two tiny pieces of aluminum but those shadows were a clue to something much more sinister… The grooves said that I did have a problem with my rim. I put the pad back on and aligned it (finger tighten the screw, depress the brake lever lightly and position the pad, then squeeze the lever as if you’re braking and tighten the bolt taking care that the pad doesn’t move as you torque it down – you may have to hold the pad steady while you tighten the bolt that last quarter-turn).
Then I looked even more closely at the rim and found this:
The one in that first photo isn’t much but the two in the second photo are a pretty big deal. Notice I marked the rim with electrical tape so I didn’t have to worry about losing sight of the dings. Fixing them is quite simple. One of Mrs. Bgddy’s nail files did the trick.
A nail file works best because you’ve got a coarse and a fine grit – the coarse to remove the raised parts and the fine grit to finish the surface – and the rounded end means you won’t have to dig into the good part of the rim.
Now, you might think we’re done, but not quite. In my case, I noticed that the center mount brake wasn’t centering properly… It was too easy to move. On checking the mounting bolt (the bolt is at the back/top of the fork, just under where the stem goes into the steerer tube).
Now I’m good to go.
Every once in a while, take your pads off and give them a little attention. It’s not like your life depends on your brakes, eh?
I say in the title that I love being fast. I ride with a whole pile of guys who are a lot faster. I’m just pretty good for a guy who decided to buy a bike on a whim a few years ago… That said, if the s#!t fits, wear it.
Yesterday evening was perfect. Light, whispy cirrus clouds, so high they were ice. The sun poking through, just enough to keep the temp a wonderful 65 degrees (18.3 C). The wind was a barely there 3 to 5 mph out of the west… The warmup was even fast, around 20 mph.
My friends, it was one of the nicest settings I can remember for a club ride.
Mentally, I wasn’t prepared. Or possibly better stated, I had the melon committee working double-time trying to convince me I wasn’t ready for this one. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I was nervous about getting dropped in the first ten miles…
We started out at a spirited 20 mph into the breeze (should I call 3-5 mph “wind”? Probably not…), my buddy Mike and I at the front. We moved back after the first mile to the back of a huge train (funny how nice weather will bring out a crowd, isn’t it?) to enjoy a fantastic draft. The tempo picked up in a hurry to 23-25 mph and stayed there. The doubt was a nag. I just repeated to the committee, “Shut up, it’ll get better in a minute. I’m stickin’ with it till I settle in.” And I did. Stick with it and settle in.
I took every single turn I could up front. They weren’t long pulls, maybe a half-mile each, but with a train a tenth of a mile long, why not spread the joy and keep from burning myself up early?
We’re at fifteen miles, the halfway point and where this little tale gets fun. We’re just before the first real hills on the route and I’m in the Zone. My breathing sorted itself out with some help and a neat technique and my heart rate was lower than normal for the speed. I feel decent, even rested. Well, as rested as one can be after 40 minutes of 23-25 mph. I was maybe five or six bikes back. The first three hills were easy, just stayed glued to the wheel in front of me and looked three more ahead…
The leaders dropped off to head back, then another quick one and I was second bike and the two guys up front could climb. Over the crest of the hill I looked back and we had a gap, maybe 50-75 yards. I yelled, “We got a gap and four guys”. Chuck yelled back, “There’s nothin’ I can do with it.” So I came around front and passed 30 mph. 31 on the flat, into the wind and I had all three with me… I think. Then we came to an intersection and a motorist decided to stay stopped at the stop sign about 30 damn seconds longer than the three seconds required by law… We had no choice but to sit up. I pulled even with the passenger and he was smiling. Prick did it deliberate. Our little breakaway was foiled.
We regrouped and hammered out the next, well I don’t even know how many miles it was – we were going too fast. With a 3 mph tailwind. I did manage a glance at my computer going up a little incline: 28.6. I still had some gas in the tank but it wasn’t a lot. And that’s when Mike sat up… YES!
The rest of the ride was a blur but a lot more comfortable. I took long, hard turns at the front. Gave it everything I had and we kept it pegged between 22 and 24 mph. I had a close call with a very awesome cyclist who was a state champ at one time. He drifted right into me after a stop sign, but I saw him coming and leaned into him slightly, checked him with my elbow, to stop his drift. We both exchanged pleasantries and apologies and just kept rolling.
The last three miles.
We had a six man train rolling at a decent clip and big Chuck took a monster turn up front taking us to 24-25 mph. Mike kept it going and then I took a big turn, ratcheting it up before falling back with a mile to go. The pace escalated and I knew we were going to have a sprint finish. Half- mile to go and my breathing was as caught up as it was going to get. A quarter mile… Ten more seconds… And all hell broke loose. Gears changing, guys breaking out to the left, and a tidy little gap opened to the right. I’m in the drops, two quick upshifts and I’m out of the saddle, shooting for the gap, cranking on the pedals for all I’m worth. I shot through and took the sprint by a half a length.
It was pure awesome.
Last night is why I ride like I do. I haven’t had that much fun with my clothes on in quite some time.