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I have perfectly ordinary standard-pull brake levers on my bike. When the temperature gets below 20F or so, the left-hand one seizes up, not wanting to pull, and not braking well if I force it. Once the temperature warms up a bit, it's fine.

Diagnosis? Cure? I'm pretty sure the actual brakes are fine, and the cable looks okay too.

(If there's a duplicate, feel free to kill this one; I looked but didn't find an exact symptom match.)

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Is it possible that water's gotten into your brake cable housings? – freiheit Jan 14 '13 at 23:16
My guess is that there's some gummy old lube in the cable housing. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '13 at 0:15
If it were water the cable would stop operating once the temp got much below 32, and it would be sort of an on/off thing. Gummy lube could have its threshold at any temp, and would have a more gradual worsening as it got colder. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '13 at 4:49
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If the brakes are reluctant to move in both directions then it's mostly likely water in the lines. You may be able to get away with bringing the bike inside letting it dry out for a day or two and re-sealing the lines with grease.

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Yup, it's both directions. I'll give this a try, thanks! – D.Salo Jan 15 '13 at 0:32
Went after it with a hair dryer on low. Seems to have worked! Glad the problem wasn't anything serious. – D.Salo Jan 17 '13 at 23:49

Could be water freezing inside the housing, but don't forget that the viscosity of any lubricant is going to increase as the temperature decreases so that could be your problem as well. If you do re-lubricate your cable, be sure to use as light of a lube as possible. If that doesn't work, try replacing the cable and housing. If you're running v-brakes, be sure that the little rubber boot is staying seated against the end of the brake noodle.

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Good advice, thanks. I did check the boot/noodle and it looks fine. – D.Salo Jan 16 '13 at 3:35

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