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My touring bike needs new brake pads, and I'm about to do the swap. I've done it before, and plan to consult the usual YouTube videos to refresh myself in the procedure. (Brakes are something where one doesn't want to mess around.)

Touring bikes have special concerns when it comes to brakes. In particular, they're carrying a lot of weight and need to be able to stop in all conditions. But it seems that my brakes on this bike are always too tight or too loose.

How does one properly adjust the brakes on a touring bike?

(The bike in question is a Novara Randonee with cantilever brakes. I'll be putting on two sets of Kool-stop dual compound brake pads. However, answers that apply to touring bikes in general would probably be more useful for all.)

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Basically, you make sure that the pads are hitting the rim square and centered, and that the pads are an appropriate distance from the rim when not activated. Also check for "balance" -- that the left and right pads are spaced the same and contact the rim at about the same time when activated. The precise spacing depends on your levers (how much movement they provide), your preferences, and how true the rim is. (Nothing really special about touring bikes here.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 16 '12 at 0:51
    
Daniel - why a comment and not an answer? –  Sam Meldrum Jul 16 '12 at 8:12
    
@SamMeldrum - As Daniel said; he left a lot of good information, but nothing specific to touring bikes. –  Neil Fein Jul 16 '12 at 19:51
    
Got the brake type wrong in the question text, fixed. –  Neil Fein Jul 17 '12 at 0:07
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1 Answer

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Touring bikes, as you said, carry way more weight. Beacuse of this additional weight they are prone to brake squeal and you need to pay closer attention to your wheels for loose spokes and out of alignment rims.
Make sure you have good spoke tension that is even all around the wheel and that the wheel is true. The only major difference in brake setup from any other brake setup is just to nose in your pads more so than you would usually for an unloaded bike if it's needed. It all depends on how flexible the brake mounts/arms are on your bike.
My Surly Long Haul Trucker doesn't need any nose in when unloaded but when I have an addition of a trailer and fully loaded touring bags the brakes howl when going down hill so I nose them in and the howl goes away.

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Nosing is what it sounds like? Bringing the front of the pad in a touch closer to the rim? –  Neil Fein Jul 16 '12 at 20:50
    
Yep, "nosing in" very slightly (so the front edges of the pads are closer to the rims) helps eliminate brake squeal. Of course, over time the front edges wear more and even more "nosing in" is required, so overall wear is increased ever so slightly. Good stiff cantis or V brakes require very little nosing, but some of the old style side pulls tended to need a fair amount. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 16 '12 at 21:04
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(Personally, I just live with a little squeal. There are worse things that can happen.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 16 '12 at 21:05
    
I have cantis, so I'm not gonna worry about it too much unless a squeal develops. But thanks, good to know. –  Neil Fein Jul 17 '12 at 0:07
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