You need to be able to stop and stop quickly and smoothly. So brakes are quite important.
Test your brakes
Firstly, check the brake pads. Three signs that you brake pads are worn are that:
- there is gritty scraping sound when you apply the brake,
- the grooves in the pad have all but disappeared (the one in the picture has a bit of life left but not much),
- the brakes are sticky or jerky.
If any of the above are true you may need to change your pads.
If the pads look ok then test the front brake by pulling the lever and pushing the bike forwards. The brake should not slip. Test the rear brake by applying the lever and pulling the bike backwards.
If either lever pulls against the handlebar the cable needs to be tightened. You can do this by turning the barrel roller positioned where the cable enters the brake mechanism (if there is one). If there is no further adjustment in the roller you will need to loosen the brake cable anchor bolt, pull the cable tighter, and tightening the anchor bolt again.
When testing the brakes make sure that both sides of the brake mechanism move when the brake is applied. If this is not happening, turn the small adjustor screw on the stationary side until both sides are moving again.
The brake blocks should also be parallel to the rim. If this is not the case you will need to realign them. This is best done by loosening the offending block slightly then applying the brake. Applying enough pressure to keep the pad against the rim, ease the block into the correct alignment. Then, applying more force to stop the pad moving, tighten the bolt. If both pads need realigning then it is easier to do one at a time.
Similarly, if front and back need adjusting do one at a time so that you have a reference point to go back to should things go awry
If your pads are worn you will need to replace them. If you are currently using bolt on pads (the pads bolting directly to the brake mechanism) this might be a good opportunity to swap over to a cartridge type. With a cartridge system the holder remains in place and you simply slip in a new pad, thus removing the need to realign the new pads. The following procedure assumes you are using cartridge style pads.
Whilst it can be possible to replace a pad without removing the wheel it is easier if you do. To replace a pad simply unscrew the retaining screw and slide the old pad out. It might need a little persuasion with a flat headed screwdriver or pliers, if there is enough pad left to grip.
Before inserting the new pad it is a good idea to roughen the glazed surface with sandpaper. This should ensure a better grip for the first few uses.
Now slide the new pad in. The pads will be labelled R (right) and L (left) with an arrow, which, when inserted, should point to the front of the bike. Change one side at a time and you will not go wrong. Some pads are a tight fit and you may need to use pliers to tug them in fully. Then tighten the screw to hold them in place.
If you have been slowly tightening your brake cable as your pads have worn you will need to slacken it to fit the wheel back on.
Now you need to check that the brake blocks are correctly aligned and are as close to the wheel rim as possible, without rubbing, using the techniques outlined in Test your Brakes above.
Kickstart your Lands End to John O’Groats planning
Everything you need to know to get you started on your Lands End to John O Groats adventure is contained within these three books: a How To, a detailed account of riding the Google Map route for LEJOG and a ‘safe’ Route Book using GPX files.
Where to next?
The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, including training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, how to look after your bike, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O’Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.