This trick isn't in Mr. Zinn's book
On a recent wet ride I squeezed my brakes and was stunned at the lack of stopping power. I rightfully pride myself on my brake set up and this was not acceptable.
I was on my commuting bike in the middle of a combination training ride and errand expedition. It was bombing rain and while I would expect a minor decrease in stopping power this was dramatic. At the next stop light I looked at my rear brake. It was a dated TRP product that had been relegated to my commuter when I upgraded the brakes on my CX racer some years previous.
My front brake was a better model, and while the performance was superior to the rear it was still below par. I came to a long downhill and as I gained speed I kept a finger on the brake levers and felt uneasy.
Over the remainder of the ride I contemplated upgrading my brakes.
After getting home I hosed off the brake track on my wheels and then wiped them down with a clean rag. The amount of dark grey slime that came off was sobering. After showering I returned to the garage and checked the brake pads.
The pads were worn and coated with the same grey slime. I decided to replace the worn pads and after adjusting the brake cables I took the bike out for a two minute test ride.
The brakes performed perfectly. As noted earlier I pride myself on the performance of my brakes. Being able to stop quickly allows you to go faster. It isn’t that I’m after speed, I’m really after safety and control and speed us just a byproduct of control.
In hindsight a couple things came to mind. First, I should be kicked for neglecting my brakes. Second and more noteworthy is that while we all get excited about the marginal gains that come with the latest and greatest; maintenance makes an even bigger difference.
Brand new but dirty Dura-Ace brakes won’t stop you as fast as clean ten year old 105 brakes. In our lazy heads it is easier to spend a few dollars than to put in the work of cleaning and maintaining the stuff we have.