I adopted a thoroughly abandoned Univega Super Strada from somewhere in the '80s or '90s. It has Shimano caliper brakes in good condition with pads that are worn but still have plenty of the indicator groove visible, so I haven't replaced them yet. I replaced the cables and housings because they were in rough shape.
When the bike is upside down and I spin the wheels, squeezing the brake levers stops the wheels instantly regardless of the wheel's speed. When I'm walking with the bike I can make the wheels skid by squeezing the levers.
When I'm riding the bike, the brakes are barely engaging. Squeezing the levers all the way to 100% slows me down very gradually, but there is not nearly enough stopping power to ride safely in traffic. This happens even when I'm riding at very slow speeds - slower even than the walking speed at which I was able to make the tires skid with the brakes.
Why do the brakes perform so much worse when the bike is loaded?
My wild stabs in the dark:
- Loading the bike changes the wheels' shape slightly, changing the pads' pressure points on the rim
- Increased momentum (adding more mass m in p = mv?) requires additional pressure from pads
- Old/soft pads need replacement
Or some combination of all of the above?