July 26 , 2004: Bicycle maintenance, Cannonball style

This one goes out to Krusty.

The special brake pads for the ceramic rims (See July 13, 2004: The Gagne effect) came today, and I figured I would just throw them on Blue in about 10 minutes and be all set for a ride tomorrow. The reason for my confidence was the trick I learned about putting a few dabs of oil in the brake shoe grooves to grease the skids and make it easier to slide the replacement pad in the shoe. As anyone who has ever tried to replace a V-brake pad knows, it slides in fine except for about the last half inch. And you have to get that last half inch in there because you have to line up the holes on either side of the brake shoe with a groove in the pad so that a cotter pin can be slipped through all three to keep the pad in place.

So I'm lathering grease and oil all over these things, which makes Plan B extremely difficult when Plan A doesn't get the job done. Plan B was to go back to the drawing board and try to ram those pads in there by sheer force. First by hand. It was easier to keep a bite on the pad, but I was basically grinding tiny pieces of ceramic brake pad into my thumb, and after about five minutes of this my knuckles were ready to break and it felt like I had been grinding my thumb and forefingers in glass. Next with tools. Using a pair of pliers, I pushed the flat edge of the pliers head against the pads. This was easier on the hands, but the pliers kept slipping off the greasy pads, sending my knuckles into the seatstay (again with the knuckles).

Of the four pads, I secured one with Plan A and one with Plan B. However, that left two pads as yet unsecured. And me fresh out of ideas. Looking down through the top hole of one brake shoe/pad, I could see daylight down the pad groove and out the bottom hole. But it was at an extreme angle, one I couldn't negotiate the pin through. I figured maybe if I could put something long and skinny in there, I'd have enough leverage to kind of "worry" the pad into a position where I could get the long, skinny thing straight down through the bottom hole. A drill bit! Brilliance. I run and get my drill bits and sure enough, the 1/16 bit fits in the hole perfectly. I push it down as far as it will go and then start the worrying. Snap. First pressure I put on it and it snaps like the spine of a Democratic legislator.

So much for that idea. I try Plan B again for a while. Not much improvement. OK, so now it's been about an hour, the bike is still unrideable, and I'm in a position where I can't get the pads any further on, but they're so jammed on there, I can't pull them off either. I only need about a millimeter or two more progress to be able to line up the holes and grooves of the two outlaw pads. Looking at the broken drill bit, I have an idea. I sprint out to the shed and get my power drill. Bit down the broken but luckily still functional 1/16 bit and start drilling. I figure, it's close enough that I can drill straight down through the top hole, through the obstructing part of the pad, and out the bottom hole. Pretty much worked that way too. I had to be careful not to carve out bigger holes and compromise the integrity of the shoe, but after a couple of tries I got the hang of it, drilled my holes, sunk the pins, and it was all over. Celebratory fist pumps and ghost hi-fives all around.

Remember kids, in Cannonball's workshop, power tools and brute force are the answer to any problem with your high-tech, finely tuned, butt-ass expensive bicycle. Cannonball, . . . out!


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