How to fix squeaky brakes

A new wheel

I rode to work yesterday on a new rear wheel.  The old wheel had a problem whereby the tire attached to the wheel kept exploding at inopportune moments, like when I needed it to not explode.  The first time this happened was because the wheel’s rim had worn out.  The second time was on the new rim, which wasn’t wide enough for the tire.

Anyway.  New wheel.  I got it last Friday and yesterday was my first commute on it.  I discovered almost immediately that while the wheel did not have any exploding tendencies, the brakes were squeaking loudly.

And I use the brakes a lot

The brakes are kind of important to me, especially when I’m descending the 1,000 foot hill on my route home.  So I called the bike shop and asked them about it.  They suggested I come in and have the brakes adjusted.

An unorthodox solution

Biking with noisy brakes is an irritating thing.  If I applied the brakes gently they didn’t squeak, so I tried to get away with that for a while, but the consequence is I ended up going a bit faster than I might have ordinarily been going with non-squeaky brakes.

I think this was the reason I ended up going over my handlebars, but the truth is I can’t recall exactly what I was doing or why when it happened.  What I do know– because I have bruises to remind me– is that I caught a car’s mirror with my left hand.

I was crossing the bridge leading to JFK Street in Harvard Square at the time, going through two lanes of traffic that were stopped for the light.  I was trying to get to the front of the line because in another ten seconds the walk signal was going to go, which would give me the chance to cut through a dangerous intersection and to a bike path off the left side of the corner.

Unfortunately, at the time my left hand caught the mirror it was holding onto the handlbars, so the front of the bike turned 90 degrees and over I went.

I’m fine

I’ve done this a few times, and it’s not so bad.  I rolled onto my right shoulder and ended up with a couple of scrapes and bruises.  My left middle finger might be sprained, but that’s the worst of it.

The bike had issues though.  I had to straighten one of the horns on the handlebars, and the front wheel came partly out and was stuck on the brake, so I had to lock it back into place.

And then I waited for the next walk signal and continued on my way to the bike shop.

But here’s the weird part: the brakes stopped squeaking.

Apparently, smashing your bike down on the street is the way to fix squeaky brakes.  I’m thinking this is not something that shows up in most repair manuals.

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No Comments

  1. Becky Doucette on June 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Did anyone in their cars stop and say something? Or were they all like “meh… he’s fine.”

    • genedoucette on June 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      None of the cars were moving, but the drivers were really great, actually. I remember I went down once in traffic and a woman lowered her window next to me; I was saying “don’t worry, I’m okay” when she said, “I think you scratched my car.” It was unbelievable. So, nothing like that. I heard the drivers talking to one another after making sure I was okay. I explained that I’d hit the mirror, checked the mirror I hit to make sure I didn’t damage it, and assured everyone I was okay. I think it must have looked worse than it was.

  2. Donna on June 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Your mother is not happy.

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