How to get filthy fingers.

For the past few weeks I haven’t really needed a bell as my brakes have been screaming hatefully at the slightest squeeze. I have never paid much attention to disc brake maintenance, as Sir Galahad has conventional blocks with whichI am well aquainted.
So from the muddle of logic at a distant point towards the back of my brain, I just dimly thought “it’s been a bit dry so maybe that’s why they are squeaking so nastily”. The wheel also juddered as I braked down hill, so I checked if it was secure. At the last service, someone had tightened it up so much that I didn’t think I would ever be able to remove it again, so that little potential hazard also seemed put to rest.
Brakes work, wheel won’t roll away from under me. Carry on as normal. ( note to self, get a strong wrist and unbreakable fingers on the end of a well built person to loosen the wheel for me one day, some day )
Today there was a peculiar metallic wheeze that also had a hint of a clink when I took the brake off. What with clittering and screeching and juddering it finally dawned on me that upon my brakes rests my life, so with my fear button tweaked I prodded myself into action and headed for the local bike workshop. I am embarrassed to say that both pads were declared terminally worn, one nearly to the point of disintegration. It would be at least a week before there would be a space in the work load before they coulf change them for me. At this I was dismayed. My bowels told me in no uncertain terms to either swap to another member of the fleet or stop being so lazy and attempt to do it myself. I bought the new pads and prepared to learn a thing or two.
Resorting to the Internet, I found a nice video of how it’s done . . by a really clean guy who just daintily whipped the old ones out of his gleaming white bike (it can’t ever have been out of the shed) and slid the new ones efficiently in. His finger nails were immaculate.
Mine were black just from nearly bursting a blood vessel to get the wheel off. Then I remembered a very important detail. You have to block the brake handle to prevent it accidentally closing, otherwise the hydraulic pistons, meeting no resistance, will seep in to fill the space left by the absent brake pads and make it impossible to refit the wheeI.
An old glasses case wrapped in a thick duster jammed it open. By now the bike is upside down on a little table so that I don’t have to bend too far, but in danger of tipping over. I trot off to find a flat lever to prise open the wheel release but fail to find pliers to close up the split pin, which is keeping the brake pads secure.
Although I have taken my air horn off the handle bars it somehow lets rip, which blasts both Rosa (the sturdy and jolly bull terrier for whom I am currently dog/house sitting) and me several inches into the air. The bike nearly upsets all the little basil seedlings that are sitting dangerously close to the work bench.
The split pin finally pings out and I triumphantly still have it between my blackened fingers.
Out come the old pads. Shocking state. Nearly reduced to powder, which is why my hands, shorts, left shin and chin are so filthy.
I don’t have a nice orange spacer thingy like the one my tidy tutor inserted so professionally between the pistons. I resort to a thin rectangle of rubber around half a wooden clothes peg and gently lever them back flat, so that the fat new pads will be able to slip sweetly into place.
Easier said than done. Each raised part of the pad has to sit in a loose and pingey peripheral frame of a spring and if you can fumble to keep them all together long enough to get them anywhere near the bike, you then have to do a cunning line up of holes through which to insert the badly misshapen split pin. That is if you can keep the outside knuckle of the first finger clear of the front fork, as this troublesome obstruction makes the whole thing impossible. Mine certainly didn’t go through first time.
At this point Rosa decides to barge into the back of my knees because she wants me to play. My hair is in my eyes and my glasses won’t slide off the bridge of my nose ( to be better able to see of course) so I must have a lot more black to scrub off later. I have to put down the carefully lined up pads and spring and mangle the split pin a bit more. It now looks like a poorly baby eel. I nearly lose my balance on the stone that Rosa has rolled under my foot.
The miracle happens and for no good reason I can think of it all suddenly falls into place and I crack open the split pin with a blade on my multi-tool.
I puncture my shin on the special spiked-so-you-don’t-slip-in-the-rain pedals while hauling the bike upright again BUT the brakes work. They engage as soon as I tighten the levers. No screaming or juddering. I am rather satisfied.
I wouldn’t let anyone with hands like this anywhere near a piano.


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One Response to How to get filthy fingers.

  1. Susan Duncan says:

    OMG, the tension, the excitement and frustration, I really wanted to be there to do it myself, control the situation. so glad it all came together, with a sigh of relief I’m off for a siesta in this August Sicilian heat. Hope Sir Galahad is happy ! miss you Jenny and sending you lots of love, oh by the way I got your nice postcard of the ceramic tiles, I do love miniature things.. Hugs Susan

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