To ensure that your brakes are in good working order before you set off on your next ride, follow these steps to inspect them:
1. Examine the brake pads for excessive wear.
If they’re worn down such that the grooves in the pads are not visible, they should be replaced.
You may notice uneven wearing of the brake pads, which is usually caused by improperly fitted brake pads that aren’t parallel and contact the rim unevenly. When this happens, a curved ridge forms in the brake pad, which sometimes can cause the brake to grab the rim and get stuck.
The solution for uneven wear on brake pads is to use a utility knife to cut off the ridge and flatten the pad (see Figure 8-5). Another option is to use sandpaper or a file to smooth it out. This is also a good time to adjust the brakes so that they don’t continue to wear unevenly (see “Adjusting Brakes,” later in this chapter).
2. While you’re examining the brake pads, make sure they’re about 1mm to 2mm from the rim.
They might rub the rim if they’re too close or not give you enough braking power if they’re too far away.
3. Squeeze the brake lever and confirm that the brakes grab the rim firmly and parallel to the rim.
4. Examine the cable to make sure it’s firmly attached to the brakes and is not kinked, frayed, or worn in any spot.
5. Check the rims to make sure they aren’t dirty.
If they are dirty, use a rag and a solvent like rubbing alcohol to clean them.
6. If you just finished working on the brakes, give them a test drive while biking at a slow speed.