V-Brake Madness (and Adjustment)


V-Brake or linear pull brake (Photo courtesy: wikipedia)

At first, some background about why V-brakes were the first thing I obsessed over in the first few weeks of owning a new bike.

When I got my bike about two weeks back from BOTS, I faced the first of the logistical hurdles of a newbie cyclist. BOTS is about 20 km from my home, which in Bangalore is quite a respectable distance, and this entire distance is through some of the busiest roads of Bangalore. For a newbie cyclist like me (well not exactly newbie, but that is a separate story), this distance or at least the route is intimidating. So the only way to get my cycle home was in my car, which turns out to be one of the smallest cars on the Indian roads – the Maruti Alto. A friend of mine, Balaji, had mentioned earlier to me that I would probably need to take out the front wheel to fit the bike inside my car, but soon I found out that I had to take out both.

So my first lesson in bike maintenance was learning how to use the quick release to take out both wheels and to put them back again.

So after me and wife packed my new bike in pieces into the car, we rushed to my high school reunion for which we were already running very late. By the time we finished with it and reached back home and lugged the bike up to our 4th floor apartment, it was well after midnight.

We put back the wheels just like we were taught. The rear wheel with the derailleur was tricky, and I had to go on the net to see closeups of derailleurs to figure out how to drop the wheel over the chain links into the socket. So far so good. We got the bike up on its legs.

That was when we found out that something wasn’t right. The front wheel wont move when I tried to rotate it. Upon close inspection, I found out that one of the brakes was touching the rim and would not come off even after releasing the brakes.

We weren’t prepared for this test! The only way out of this mess at 2am in the morning is the Internet, of course. So off I went surfing about. I remembered this one site with nice videos for bike maintenance, and thank god it had one beautiful video about V-brake maintenance. Beautiful video angles, to-the-point coverage, just perfect. I soon discovered that the very last of the adjustments shown in the video was what I needed – a really small innocuous screw pointing out near the brake shoes. It managed the brake arm tension, and was responsible for pulling the arm away from the rim. I remembered someone had fiddled with my brakes on my way back home when I was showing it to them. In any case, I tightened this screw and like magic, my problem was solved.

Here is that life saver of a video: http://bicycletutor.com/adjust-v-brakes/.

V-Brake Spring Adjustment

Spring adjustment screw for v-brakes (Photo courtesy: Sheldon Brown)

I later found out a very detailed article on V-brakes by the God of cycles – Sheldon Brown. From his very well illustrated article I learnt that my problem was known in the cycle world as a brake centering problem. He had a nice illustration, which I have displayed above, of the screw I needed to adjust to fix the problem.

I am still looking for that elusive cycling resource which can tell me how to understand each of the adjustments of my cycle – I want to be able to point to a screw of my cycle and it should tell me what is is for. 🙂

In any case, that night ended happily. The crazy couple as we are, we took the bike down 5 floors to our basement. I cycled around happily in our car parking at 3 am till wife was about to pass out from both the exhaustion of the day, as well as from watching me go round and round in circles. We finally lugged the cycle back up five floors, and called it a day.

(media attribution: v-brake: wikipedia.)

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