Check the Brakes

Checking your brakes takes only a few seconds, and it can be one of the most important things you do before setting off on a ride.

Start by visually inspecting the brake pads for wear; confirm that there are still grooves cut into the pads. When these grooves wear away, it’s time to change the pads. Also, check to make sure that the brake pads are not rub­bing against the wheels. There should be between 1 to 2 millimeters of space between the pads and the rim.


Check the Brakes

After visually inspecting the brake pads, give the brake levers a strong squeeze. The pads should firmly grip the wheel. (See Chapter 8 for instruc­tions on making adjustments to the brakes.)


The rattling of components or extra movement in parts of your bike could be a sign that something is starting to come apart. If you ignore these signs, you

Check the Brakes

Look for Looseness

You should also be able to apply the breaks without having to pull the lever more than halfway back to the handlebars — any more than that, and you could be putting yourself in a dangerous position when it comes time to brake.

could end up causing damage to your bike or find yourself on the end of a bike that decides to disassemble itself while you’re riding it.

To test your bike for looseness:

✓ Lift the front wheel up 2 to 3 inches, and drop it back down. Do the same to the rear wheel using the seat to lift it. Listen for anything rattling.

✓ Check for looseness in the stem and handlebars by putting the front wheel between your legs and moving the handlebars from side to side (see Figure 18-3).

Check the Brakes

Figure 18-3:

Checking for loose­ness in the handlebars and stem.

✓ Examine the rest of the frame by straddling the frame with both legs and trying to move the bike forward and backward while squeezing the brakes. If the bike moves during either of these two tests, it could indicate looseness. If anything shakes or rattles, it could mean that an attachment like a water-bottle cage or a rack for carrying panniers (bags) is loose.

✓ Check the crank arms by grabbing one in each hand and trying to wiggle them from side to side. If there is some play in the crank arms, it could be time for a bottom bracket adjustment.