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I was given a bike by a friend (for free) and have taken advantage of biking over short distances to work and school.

When riding I noticed that the braking is not immediate when I applied the brakes and the bike comes to a squeaking stop.

The bike has rim brakes. The brake pads seems to be quite stiff and don't appear to be worn out very much. I am still trying to diagnose what is affecting the braking. Do I need better quality brake pads? Or do I need to adjust the pads and the levers on the wheels get the bike to stop better?

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    How old is the bike roughly? Brake pads do harden with age, and hard pads gives poor braking. – Criggie Oct 8 '17 at 6:57
  • If its really old with steel rims, then that can also cause bad braking, to the point of almost no brakes in the wet. I assume they're rim brakes, if you have disk brakes please clarify that. – Criggie Oct 8 '17 at 6:58
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    Cables can also be a big part of problems with brakes. – mattnz Oct 8 '17 at 7:01
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    The described symptoms point at old and badly aligned pads. If the bike is old and the pads have never been replaced it's about time to do. An inexpensive investment in safety anyway. And plenty of videos can be found on the Net that show how to. – Carel Oct 8 '17 at 7:34
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    @Carel - Alas, adjusting brake pad alignment (as after replacement) is one of the fussiest "minor adjustments" there is on many bikes. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 8 '17 at 12:44
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You may need to replace the brake pads, and the brake calipers and levers are very probably out of proper adjustment.

As this is a safety issue, you should definitely have the brakes examined and adjusted by a bicycle repair mechanic.

If you feel confident about making adjustments yourself, and have the necessary tools, there are a number of good resources that will show you how to accomplish the task properly. My favorite is the Park Tool Company YouTube Channel. They have a specific set of videos that deal with rim brake adjustment, including identifying the brake caliper types with links to the appropriate adjustment video.

If the pads are heavily worn, or have hardened due to age you should replace them - pads are reasonably cheap. If braking is still not strong enough after making adjustments then you could consider getting a set of more expensive higher performance pads.

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Try to rotate your wheel by hand while pressing brakes. Left hand holds brakes and right hand presses tire down with power of your weight. It wheel rotates quite easily, you need to fix brakes. Firsr chexk the same focus on another wheel. If it has same problem, try new brakes. If not, there can be a problem with your pads and rotor (they can be oiled a bit). I suggest replacing both pads and rotor at one time in case of oiling. Anither problem can be overheated pads. Some pads get baked and they become very hard and too slick. Try using new (clean a rotor before it with some kind of de-oiler)

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  • I'm not sure what you mean by "first check the same focus on another wheel." And most of what's written after that seems to be assuming disk brakes, whereas a comment to the question says the bike has rim brakes. – David Richerby Nov 14 '17 at 19:41
  • Symptoms described by OP indicate brakes very definitely need attention. Also OP clarified she/he has rim brakes. – Argenti Apparatus Nov 14 '17 at 19:46

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