Steel Rims and Brake Pads

28 Nov

It’s quite frustrating for us when we can see an obvious problem with a bike which compromises the cyclist’s safety. Even more so when, after we have pointed it out, the customer thinks that we are trying to sell them something they don’t need.

We are forever advising cyclists with steel-rimmed wheel to change their aluminium-specific brake pads to leather-faced brake pads. Below is a photo of a bike which crashed into the back of a car because the cyclist couldn’t stop in time. At the time it was raining. The rider ended up crashing into and breaking the rear window. Thankfully the cyclist was fine after a few days but £70 poorer (cost of the screen).

Bent tubing

Bent tubing

As you’ll see the, the frame downtube is buckled, the headtube is bent backwards and the front wheel cannot be used for steering. Essentially, the frame is a write-off. If you look closely at the above image, you’ll notice that the front brake have aluminium-specific brake pads acting upon a steel-rimmed wheel – not a good combination (especially in the wet)!

Badly-adjusted brakes

Badly-adjusted brakes

Similarly, the above picture shows the front brake lever being able to move all the way back to the handlebars – we all know that the braking will be ineffective and a risk to the rider.

Advice: If you have steel rims – used leather-faced brake pads (see picture below). Similarly, carbon, ceramic and aluminium rims will need their own type of pads. Ask your usual bike shop if you are unsure – if they are unsure, find another bike shop!

Advice: Check your brake  pads once a week for wear – if any of the tread is missing, replace them immediately with the correct type.

Advice: Adjust for wear AT THE ADJUSTER ONLY (usually found on the brake lever or the brake caliper – DO NOT re-clamp the cable at the cable-clamp. This will result in you needing a new inner cable every time you change the pads – a cable which has previously been clamped at a position between the new position and the brake lever will be compromised – if the cable is going to fail it will fail at the old position and exactly when you need it the most!

Advice: If you are, in any way, unsure bring your bike into our shop for a free appraisal.

Remember: Never, never, never imperil your safety!!!

Leather-faced brake pads

Leather-faced brake pads

Best wishes and safe-riding.

P/S. We estimated a repair cost of £210 (parts & labour) for providing a used Reynolds 531 frame, transferring the components and correcting all defects.


3 responses to “Steel Rims and Brake Pads

  1. aelheating

    2014-05-17 at 10:06

    Nice post ….these advice will help many to maintain our bike.

  2. steve

    2012-11-03 at 10:51

    HI guys, my partner rides a steel-rimmed bike and has leather-faced blocks. She has NO! brakes in the wet, excellent, well-adjusted brakes when it’s dry. Do the leather facings go off in some way? Would a new set fix the problem do you think? I’d love to come in to the shop but we’re in Southampton.

    • Re-Cycle Engineering

      2012-11-11 at 10:54

      Thanks for your questions.

      Questions on the issues of steel rims & leather-faced brake pads are always difficult to address remotely.

      There are many factors involved: a) rigidity of brake lever, b) quality of brake cabling & ferrules, c) rigidity of brake calliper, d) quality of brake pads and d) smoothness, greasiness and trueness of the wheel rim.

      One would hope that if all variables were optimised, then one would have good braking in ant condition.

      However, we (at RCE) have noticed that modern brake pads do not (in some cases) provide adequate braking. We have actually stopped guaranteeing the effectiveness of leather-faced brake pads on steel rims. Nearly all of our customers have decided to convert their wheel to aluminium rims.

      Sorry if this has not been useful to you individually – every case is unique.


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