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V-Brake Maintenance

  • Bicycle Maintenance
V-Brake Maintenance

V-Brakes have been around for as long as bicycles have been in existence, and they used to be the only braking option available on bicycles. Disc brakes came in much, much later. The beauty of V-Brakes is that though they may be prone to wear and tear faster, they are easy to maintain and cost effective to do so, as well. Furthermore, you do not have to have a lot of experience with bicycle maintenance to be able to keep your brakes strong and powerful! Here are a few tips to keep your V-brakes working well. Simple and easy to perform, they will help you keep your braking system working efficiently right from day one.

KEEP THE ‘SQUEAK’ AT BAY!

First things first, keep your brake pads clean. Gunk on the brake pad could cause an unwanted, and unpleasant, squeak!

To clean the brake pads, use a scrub pad or file and scrape off the glazed-on gunk. If your brakes still feel ‘not quite right’ and the squeal hasn’t stopped, then you will likely need to toe-in the pads. Angle the brake pads so that the front of the brake pad makes contact with the rim first. To do so, loosen the bolt holding the pad to the brake arm, position the pad as desired and then tighten the bolt lightly making sure that the brake pad doesn’t slip out of position (as it does often). Once it sits without slipping - tighten it completely. Next, check the position against the rim. Make sure that you don't overdo the toe-in! Ideally, the rear should have about a millimeter of clearance as the front tip hits.

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CHECK FOR WEAR AND TEAR, AND KNOW WHEN TO REPLACE THEM

Wear and tear is normal with V-Brakes, and this could come as early as a few months into riding, if you ride a lot! If you feel that your braking power has diminished, check to see if the pad is worn out to the extent that it needs to be changed. Remember this - If you can't scratch into it with a fingernail, you will need to replace your brake pads.

You can also check pad thickness to determine wear and tear. Most pads have indicator lines and if they don’t, use the grooves as your indicator - if they are gone, then the brake pads need to be replaced.

CHECK THE PAD POSITIONING

Always check the pad position with a spinning wheel rather than a still one. Minor movements in the wheel could cause a seemingly well-adjusted pad to hit the rim or make a noise.

Vertically, the entire brake pad should reach the rim at once—not the upper or lower edge first. The upper edge of the pad shouldn't touch any part of the tire. If this happens, most often you will be able to hear it and not see it. If you hear a short, soft rubbing noise - it is likely that the upper edge is hitting the rims.

The lower edge of the pad shouldn't hang off the bottom of the rim. If it does, the pad can slip entirely under the rim, thereby causing your braking to not work and this could lead to accidents!

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CHECK THE CABLE TENSION - FOR STRESS-FREE BRAKING

If the brake levers bottom out at the end of the bar, it is likely that you need more cable tension. Some brakes have a Phillips or hex-head screw that adjusts spring tension on both arms and some, on just one arm. If your rim brakes have two, move the pads with equal adjustments on both sides in half a turn on each side. Turn the screw clockwise to increase spring tension and move the pad away from the rim; counterclockwise to bring it closer.

Sidepull, i.e.road brakes without a tension screw can usually can be adjusted by loosening the mounting bolt, twisting the caliper to center it and retightening the mounting bolt.

MAKE SURE YOUR BRAKES ARE CENTERED AND THE WHEEL RIM IS CLEAN

Stand in line with the wheels and view the brakes - make sure that they are both equidistant to the rim. One pad shouldn't be closer to the rim than the other.

Sometimes, some slack enters the cable and leaves clearance between the brake pads and rim. Ideally, you want 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch clearance. If there's too much or too little, readjust the cable tension.

Lastly, ensure that the braking surface i.e. the Rims of your wheels are clean and free from grease and oils. Sometimes, especially when you clean your bicycle at home, oils or lube could find its way to the rims of the wheel - and go unnoticed until your brakes seem to fail you, when on an outdoor ride. And trust us, this is not something you want to experience!

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Conclusion

A well-maintained set of brakes is of utmost importance and can go a long way when it comes to being safe and confident while on the saddle. Remember, V-Brakes are prone to wear and tear, but they are also cost effective to replace when required - without having to tear a hole in your pocket! Use these tips and tricks to keep your V-Brakes in tip top shape and ensuring that you get the best out of them. Regular upkeep of your bicycle’s braking mechanism will guarantee that your brakes are the only force stopping you when outdoors!

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