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?