My CAAD9 is fairly slow to stop. I read that giving the brake pads more travel can help — ie: making it so that you have farther to squeeze.

How can I do it with this brake setup?

105 brake

  • 2
    There is no mechanical advantage to a further pull. You need more fiction. Get new (soft) brake pads and clean the rim. If you want to travel further just lift that little lever that is used to remove the wheel. What have you tried?
    – paparazzo
    Jun 13 '14 at 1:01
  • Some new pads may help, but I've found basic Tektro brakes to be almost uniformly lousy, even when adjusted as well as possible and with a variety of pads. So, you may want to just chuck the system and put on some Shimano 105 calipers or something.
    – Batman
    Jun 13 '14 at 3:21
  • 5
    @Blam Actually, there is a bit of an advantage to a longer pull (or at least a disadvantage to a very short pull). And that's simply hand strength. Your grip strength is rather minimal at the very beginning of a squeeze and reaches much more strength as you get to about the halfway point of your squeeze. So if your brakes are set with a very short pull, your hands are always operating at their weakest point. Jun 13 '14 at 3:47
  • @CareyGregory Don't agree. Same muscles involved just different pivot points. I used to rock climb. I had as much power to pull up with just the tips as the whole finger. Even all the way out I and get my tips around the brakes.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 13 '14 at 13:12
  • 2
    @Blam But your rock climbing very likely developed hand strength over the entire range that the average person doesn't have. When I'm in the drops my fingers just barely reach the brakes, and I've definitely noticed that braking hard in that position is more difficult than when I'm on the hoods. Jun 13 '14 at 15:02

With caliper brakes like yours that's not the case. With some cantilever brakes adjusting them so that they contact the rim later can increase the mechanical advantage (leverage), making the brakes more powerful if then adjusted properly. But that's a usually-minor effect on a type of brake you don't have.

For your bike the suggestions Blam made in comments are correct. Start by cleaning your rims and pads.That means sanding or filing the dirty surface of the pad off, and wiping the rim with a wet cloth. Don't do that the other way round! Damaging your rim is expensive to fix, but brake pads are cheap. Most people don't bother trying to clean pads at all, they're cheap enough that it's easier to buy a new set.

In your case you appear to have two-piece pads, where there's a metal holder that accepts a rubber insert. That makes it even easier. First, buy new inserts. There should be a little split pin that holds each insert in place, which you need to pull out using pliers. Then slide out the existing inserts and put the new ones in, with new pins. Then adjust your brakes.

There are several web pages describing that process in more detail, like this one

  • It should be noted that sand can get embedded in the brake pad, so you need to make sure that doesnt happen when filing them down. In any case, provided you don't over do it, its not like the grit is going to be more than a few rides in the rain anyway.
    – Batman
    Jun 13 '14 at 3:22
  • I suggest using a wire brush on the pads. Doesn't leave sand in the pads as @Batman suggests and should be strong enough for the rubber.
    – arne
    Jun 13 '14 at 6:03
  • 1
    Thanks @Moz for the great answer! I'll clean up the rims today and look at some new pads. Will these Kool Stop pads work for me? I think they will: mec.ca/product/5024-726/…
    – saltcod
    Jun 13 '14 at 9:22
  • When sanding the pads, try going a 90°to the direction the rim goes throught them, this seems better at knocking the high spots off. I normally use fine wet-or-dry (Silicon carbide) paper - this tends to be better bonded than cheap sandpaper and doesn't seem to leave anything in the pad. But I brush and wipe it afterwards anyway. A file seemed to do a god job yesterday though.
    – Chris H
    Jun 13 '14 at 9:49

My late answer will be very similar to the other (s), but I want to contribute with various experiences.

First, proper brake lever travel gives you optimum brake performance for your system and hand size. Effectively the brake lever should make the pads touch the rim a little before your hand reaches top "grip force". This is because several parts on the system flex or compress a little before really beguin acting, causing the lever to travel a bit further down before any braking force is developed.

When you start squeezing the lever, the hand forms a hook with the last joint. Continue squeezing until the hook is formed with the middle joint. Most people would have the strongest grip when this "hook" is roughly 90 degree (observe hands carrying a lot of grocery bags for example). This is the point where your levers should act. With caliper brakes you calibrate this by releasing or taking up cable, that is loosening the bolt that holds the cable, sliding it and tightening again. Then you fine tune using the barrel adjusting bolt(the one the cable goes through).

Other systems have this bolt in the lever, for example cantilever, v-brake or linear pull and almost any lever designed for straight handlebars.

On the maintenance side, I recommend replacing the pads before they loose to much flexibility, (the get dry and stiff with time). But before that happens, periodic cleaning enhances breaking performance. I use kitchen products to clean my brakes. Dish washing soap is designed to break grease but does not damage rubber nor plastics. I also use a dish washing pad, the famous brand is Scotch Brite, but the generics work as well. These pads are designed to be barely abrasive, so they remove hardened food without damaging antiadherent coating from cooking pots. This is why I recommend them for brake pad cleaning; they remove grease and stuck debris without wasting pad material. The general grease removing capabilities of these products work wonders with rim brakes and are cheap and easy to find.

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