Regular readers will know that I have something of a love-hate relationship with bike maintenance, in that I hate doing it and I love moaning about it on Twitter – mainly because half the time when I attempt to fix my bike I end up making things worse. One task I can perform reasonably competently, however, is changing my brake blocks, which is a good thing when you live up a bit of a hill and the roads for most of the year are filthy enough to wear down even the toughest brakes.
Of course, there’s no point being able to do something if you don’t actually get off your arse and do it. I’ve been noting the gradual decline in stopping power of my brakes and thinking I ought to sort them out, but as I knew the bike was due for a service anyway, I didn’t get around to it. And, having finally booked it in for a service, I decided to leave the brakes to the bike shop as well as everything else and hoped that they’d last me the week until it was due to go in (see also the slow puncture that I’ve been nursing since early November).
And then Sunday we had a lovely ride to visit a stone circle that just happens to be reached from a steep track, and I found myself having to walk down the steepest bit because I just didn’t trust my bike to stop if I asked it to. That gave me some concern, but I still thought I’d make it through to Wednesday if I didn’t try anything too ambitious and kept my speed low. All was well until half way to Bigtown on Monday afternoon, when my back brake took matters into its own hands and disconnected itself entirely from the lever. After hastily rearranging my afternoon plans so I could drop it off at the bike shop, I attempted to keep going with my (still sort of working) front brake for the last couple of miles into town…
Reader, it turns out that worn brakes go from ‘sort of working’ to ‘really not working at all’ quite quickly once they’re the only brake being used. Fortunately for all concerned, I was riding very slowly and there was no real traffic around when I discovered this for myself. I also learned that, in extremis, you can stop a brakeless bike by pointing it up a dropped kerb and then using your foot to scrub off the remaining momentum. On the whole, though, I do not recommend this.
Anyway, lesson learned, and thoroughly chastened, I walked the final two miles to the bike shop, which has restored it to working order (and removed TWO bastard big thorns from the back tyre). I am lucky to have escaped with nothing but somewhat dented pride and a renewed resolve to keep on top of the bike’s stopping power. Hopefully, the latter will last me until the brakes start to need attention again… slow punctures, on the other hand, will continue to get ignored as long as possible.