#365daysofbiking The daily grind:
25th November – A mechanical job that should have been easy was far from it. Replacing brake discs resulted in a struggle with seized fasteners, the failure of a brake calliper and the discovery that the parts I thought I had in the spares box brand new for this eventually were in fact the wrong ones.
The front disc was so badly worn it was starting to warp.
For a job I thought would take 15 minutes and leave me bags of time to get out turned into hours and I was lucky to get time for tea…
Perhaps I shouldn’t leave it so long next time.
March 19th – The thaw was thankfully quick, and the day felt positively warm and sunny as aI zipped about the Black Country on errands.
I was only when I got back to work and the bike started to dry out did I realise the toll the snow had taken.
That bottom bracket won’t be long for the world now with all that grit. My bikes will need some real TLC when the better days arrive.
December 13th – The snow, ice and road grit is destroying the brakes on two bikes at the moment. This rear disc is now wearing considerably, and is about 0.3mm thinner than it was new, and the front, 0.7mm. That doesn’t sound much, but once you get to about 1mm worn off, the discs get so thin they buckle and become useless.
One thing about cycling through the winter: It isn’t cheap!
November 21st – In a familiar bike shed at a client’s premises, a neat illustration that the common or garden bicycle, whilst being a marvel of engineering in many ways, is still riddled with design conflicts and the whiff of mechanical compromise.
Here, a well-used and muddy mountain bike, not a cheap one by any stretch. The lack of mud and water shielding means and mud and detritus carried on the back tyre ends up not just as a skunk-stripe on the rider’s back, but also on the front gear mechanism and transmission.
In areas of hard grit like the Peak District, this continual spray works like grinding paste, gradually eating your wearing surfaces.
All for the want of some shielding.
Still, if you were a designer today, and proposed the derailleur system of gears – relying on forcing a flimsy roller chain between gears using side play as a conformal drag factor – you’d be laughed out of industry.
Except there’s nothing much better.
March 14th – My experiment with Specialized Armadillo tyres is now over.
I will not be buying another set.
On my favourite steed, I have tyre clearance issues with the mudguards, so wanting to return to the softer, more forgiving ride of a 28mm tyre over the usual 25s, last September when tyre replacement was needed, I got a pair of Specialised Armadillo tyres I’d heard were very good – apparently nearly as resilient as Martathon Plus which I normally use, at a lower profile.
People ho liked them recommended them with an almost religious zeal.
My initial feeling was that the tyre were not as tough, but they bedded in and proved very puncture resistant, which surprised me. My issue was that for a tyre described as ‘all condition’ their grip was sketchy at best in even moderate rain and useless on even slight ice, as two offs and various skids in the winter had proven.
The compound seemed very hard and they tyres were noisy when rolling.
Leaving work this evening, I flatted on the rear. examination of the tyre revealed the surface had totally delaminated from the inner lining, and was shredding. Within five months.
I’ve popped Schwalbe Marathon Plus 28mm back on. The quiet and feel is heavenly. Stick with what you know, folks…
July 11th – Today I noticed an odd little curiosity I’d not spotted before. On the canal at Clayhanger Bridge, the rope guards that were installed on the original bridge were transferred to it’s replacement in 1994.
These rusting metal posts were originally at the vertices of the brickwork on the towpath side of the underbridge. Back when narrowboats were horse drawn, the guards were fitted so that the horse towropes would not groove the brickwork, but the metal instead. The years of boats passing wore deep grooves in the metal, which are a sort of historical witness to the traffic that once passed under here.
There are very few horse-drawn boats now, and the posts are merely there as an artefact. I note they were fitted slightly incorrectly in that they no longer protect the corners, and their positions have been exchanged (the wear would be on the right hand side of the post in the picture) – but well done to those who rebuilt this bridge two decades ago for preserving a little bit of industrial canal history.
How have I not spotted this before?
March 11th – A nasty graunching from the rear brake on the way home was severe enough to have me check it out as soon as I got home. Much to my shock, I found the stock, soft resin-organic brake pads in my rear calliper were just a bit worn.
The new sintered metal ones are at the rear, the ones I took out in front. That’s bad. Should have spotted it sooner – luckily I don’t seem to have damaged the disc.
Never take your eyes of those essential maintenance tasks, people!
April 9th – Whoops. The bike I’ve been riding over the past few days has been having an issue with the front brake pats just lightly touching the disc. The noise was irritating me, so before I set out today, I got down to realigning the caliber, and then noticed the pads were a bit worn. Having spares on the bench, I whipped the old ones out.
Oh dear. The bad set, for those not in the know, are on the left, the replacements on the right. The pad on the one side is so worn, it’s to the metal, and the spring is mashed, too.
I also had an issue with the piston sticking. Hopefully that’s sorted.
Hydraulic brakes wear pads quicker. I must remember that.
August 19th – I’m fussy about brakes. Very fussy indeed. Urban cycling – particularly in heavy traffic – demands the ability to control speed and stop with certainty and dependability in all conditions.
Since I discovered disc brakes a few years ago now, I’d never have a bike fitted with anything else. After using cable controlled versions – the excellent Avid BB7 – these days, I use hydraulic brakes by Avid (part of what used to be Sachs for old timers reading out there) and by Shimano.
They are both excellent kit. Being hydraulic, however, they absolutely devour pads.
Modern cycle disc brakes started on mountain bikes, where braking is usually short, or at relatively low speed. With similar units on commuting and road bikes, engineering questions of heat dissipation, wear and glaze on the pads are critical.
Discs and callipers get fearsomely hot very quickly. It’s not unusual to see my discs steaming on wet rides. Prolonged use can cause the surface of the brake pad to become shiny and lose grip, ‘glazing over’, and the wear is constant.
There are two general types of brake pad; sintered metal and resin (AKA ‘organic’) – sintered last a long time, are great in the wet but can howl in use and wear discs heavily. Resin pads wear quickly, are silent, and generally offer softer control and better ‘modulation’.
I’ve been very, very pleased with the Shimano brakes, which have been on the bike for about 4-5 months now, but the resin pads they came with haven’t impressed me. The pads for these units come on a heatsinking vaned plate, and are very easy to change, which is a blessing as the rear set were never the same after I cleaned the bike using normal bike cleaner. The front ones glazed out a few days ago.
I went to sintered on the back when they became poor, and was shocked at the huge difference made, and the fact that so far they’ve been silent, so today, I popped some in the front, too. (The new sintered pad is on the left; the knackered resin on the right).
Braking harmony restored.
I must say, recent experience is leading me away from resin or organic pads.