The Library of All Knowledge

Wrenchmonkey Series - Stopping Power (Brakes)

When someone says that better braking will make you go faster, and you think they're crazy.  Then consider how fast you can go after you nail a tree at 60km/h.  Is the point across? The secret of braking involves the slowing down of the bike to a speed where it can successfully manage the obstacle.  You can do this with properly set up brakes because it slows the bike down to that speed precisely with little loss of control. If you have crappy brakes then the bike will hit the corner too fast and leave you with the burden of trying to ride a rocket through the corner. You then get to pay the price in either sore muscles from trying to control the beast or from crashing.

So, are you now interested in maintaining your brakes?

There are a pair of simple tricks to this process.

1. Keep the pads in good condition: If they get close to the wear limit, replace them. Muddy events have been known to be brutal on brakes. I have known riders to use up a quarter of their brakes at one race. Keep the rotors and pads clean. Keep solvents and greases away from the pads and rotors.

2. Bleed the brake fluid often. Brake fluid is hydrophilic, which means it loves water. I would change the fluid every three months or so. Also clean brake fluid has the color of apple juice so if it gets murky then contaminants are getting in the lines and the fluid should be replaced.  Also this a good way to remove air from the lines which cause the brakes to feel spongy.

When you do bleed brakes make sure that there is no air in the lines. One easy way is to squeeze the caliper. This will force fluid up the line and make air bubbles appear in the reservoir. The make sure you pump the brakes afterward, before you go riding. Also you can add a bit of food coloring to the old fluid, this way when the fluid coming out is clear then you know the lines have been completely bled.

After pressure washing your bike, either blow compressed air at the pads or ride the bike while dragging the pads. This will prevent the pads from sticking to the rotor.

Use only brake cleaner or alcohol to clean the rotor. anything else will leave a film on the rotor and contaminate the pads.

Contents Copyright (C) Michael Fodor 2012.