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What’s that noise… my brakes?
What’s that sound?
Don’t you hate it when you go to start your daily commute to work and you notice that your bike has developed an odd noise that wasn’t there the day before? Often these strange noises can be easily fixed by a quick check of your brakes. More often than not, the strange noises are caused by your brakes rubbing against the side of your wheel.
1. Check to see if your wheel is straight in the frame
The most common cause of brake rub is simply not having your wheel straight in the frame. To check that the wheel is in the bike properly, position the bike vertically and open and close the quick-release levers. Bikes are designed to centre the wheel in the frame only when the bike is positioned completely vertically.
A common mistake is to tighten the quick release lever while the bike is leaning against a wall.
2. Check to see if your wheel is slightly buckled
Wheels can sometimes get slightly bent or “buckled”, especially if you have hit a bump in the road or if you have had an accident. To check if your wheel is straight (or not), pick up the bike and spin the wheel. Look at the space between the brake pad and the rim of the wheel. While the wheel is spinning, the rim should appear to remain at a constant distance from the brake pad.
If the rim is moving back and forth from the brake pad, your wheel is buckled. Depending on how buckled your wheel is, it is often possible to fix it. Ask your local bike shop to “true” your wheel. It will usually cost you somewhere between $25 and $35 per wheel. If you notice that your wheel is buckled, it’s generally a good idea to have your wheel trued sooner rather than later since it becomes a lot weaker once it is buckled.
3. Centre your brakes with the tension screws
Brake calipers often need small adjustments to the tension screws to keep them centred. Pull and release the brake lever a couple of time to make sure the brake pads are sitting in their natural position. Check the distance between the left brake pad and the wheel and then do the same on the right. The distance should be the same on each side.
When you pull the brake lever, both the left and the right arms of the brake caliper should be moving together. If only one arm is moving, the tension screws need to be adjusted.
Say the left arm is moving more than the right arm; this means that the spring tension in the left arm is stronger than that in the right. To even the tension between the two arms, you will need to either increase the tension in the right arm or decrease the tension in the left arm – it doesn’t matter which one you choose. To increase the spring tension, screw the tension screw in. To decrease the spring tension, undo the tension screw.
In very simple terms, if the brake pad is rubbing the wheel on the left side, do up the tension screw on the right. If the brake pad is rubbing on the right side, do up the tension screw on the left.
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