Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Illiterate Bike Mechanic (me!)

And, more cycling fun for the day: I just bought new brake pads for my bike. It wasn't stopping as well as it should, especially with the rear brakes, and it was starting to make me nervous. I bought new pads for both wheels for $20; this seemed like a great deal, compared to buying pads for a car, until I realized that I'm going through a set of pads every 5k miles, and you're expected to get 60k miles from a set of automotive brake pads. Then again, it also averages to ten bucks a year to re-brake my bike; even adding in this year's new chain and rear chainrings, my total maintenance cost is roughly what it costs to fill up the Jeep once, at $4 a gallon. I'm still dirt-cheap, relative to a vehicle with an actual motor and complex moving parts.

Installing brake pads on a bike is a simple task: release the brake tension, pop the brake arms down, unscrew the old pads, and bolt the new ones on. Quick and easy. And, they're designed so even an idiot could align correctly. They've got a little ramp-like edge which faces the rim direction, so it's functionally obvious which direction they orient. In addition, the pads are clearly marked with a direction arrow. And, just to make sure that nobody could possibly install them wrong, they're also helpfully labelled LEFT and RIGHT in large, friendly, clearly-visible letters. So it should come as utterly no surprise to anyone that I put them on backwards. They still work, and I'm not sure how much difference it makes which direction they're facing. But I feel the need to switch them around, if for no other reason than the labels. I feel a bit illiterate having my right brake pad clearly marked with the word LEFT. It's embarrassing, even if I doubt anyone but me ever looks that closely at my bike....

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