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Saturday 10 October 2020

Fixing squeaky bike brakes... or not

 I spent the afternoon trying to stop my rear brakes making a screeching sound when fully applied.

The usual reason suggested for the noise is contamination on the pads however, some people say it can also be caused by vibration due to the caliper being out of alignment.

I tried all the various methods that I have read about that people claim fix noisy brakes:

  • Carefully aligned the brake caliper
  • Sanded the pads on a flat surface
  • Cleaned the pads with brake cleaner
  • Soaked the pads in brake cleaner
  • Cleaned the pads with engine cleaner
  • Smeared a thin layer of copper grease on the back of the pads

In addition to the above, at each attempt, I thoroughly cleaned the disc rotor with brake cleaner and a clean paper towel.

None of those stopped the squeak.

The final solution was to replace the pads with new ones. That worked. No more noise.

My conclusion is, that the rotor is easy to clean but the pads are not.


UPDATE: April 2021


After 6 months, the replacement pads started making a screech. When I looked at them, one side had a deep groove, so I decided they had lasted long enough and were not worth even attempting a clean.

I did have another go at the pads I had tried to clean back in October. This time with success.

I don't know whether it was necessary but, on advice, I gave the disc rotors a light sanding.

The significant bit is that I decided to soak the old pads in bike cleaner. Muc-Off, to be specific. My thinking was that if it was grease or oil on the pads, the detergent should help get rid of it.

I let them soak in the Muc-Off for 10 minutes, then wiped it off. Lastly I sprayed on brake cleaner and gave them a rub with a clean paper towel.

Everything back on the bike and a test ride. No noise. They've been quiet for a couple of weeks now :-)

Update, again: They did eventually start squeaking again! I've put in new pads again.


Monday 7 September 2020

Bike cleaning

When did cleaning become so complicated. When I was young the only thing we had was dishwashing liquid and that was perfectly fine in a warm bucket of water with a sponge. That was despite the limitations of the paint at the time and steel frames.

Now paints are more resistant to, well..., nearly everything, plus frames are more likely to be aluminium or even carbon and yet people obsess, mainly on Facebook, about not using this or that because it's got salts in it or other stuff that might do this or that to whatever. I decided it was time to put down my opinion to counter the modern paranoia.

Don't wash the grease out of your bearings

This is one area that, I think, does need to be taken in to account. It's not easy to wash the grease out of bearings. You could do it by pouring neat degreaser in the bearings but, in my opinion, normal levels of washing are not going to be detrimental to the bearings. Using a jetwasher is a bit more of a risk, in my opinion. Directed at a bearing they could potentially force some of the grease out. I don't use one, I find our hose pressure is more than adequate to get wet mud off.

If I was to use a jet washer, I would make sure I only directed it at the bits of bike that do not have grease. Avoid the wheel hubs, bottom bracket and headset. I would also not use a jetwash on fork or rear shock seals.

For that reason, I would not use a jetwash to clean the cassette, even though I think that might be a time saver.

Cleaning the frame

Most of the time I just hose down the bike while mud is still wet and sometimes go over with a microfibre cloth. That does a fairly good job.

If mud is already caked on I'll use a detergent. I'm not fussy, I'm happy to use dishwasher liquid in warm water but I find that the pinky colour Muc-off is much less hassle because it just needs a quick spray on and wipe off.

Cleaning the cassette and drive train

This is a little more work. I'm not usually aiming for pristine but that would be the same principle with more effort.

I use a biodegradable degreaser. As far as I can tell it's just a stronger detergent. I soak the gears in this to loosen off the grub that builds up on and between them.

I scrub with a stiff brush and then a scraper to get the bulk off. From then onward I use a blunt pad saw blade to get between the sprockets and work my way round pushing out the oil soaked mud from all the holes. It's time consuming but I have not found a more effective way.

Cleaning the gears is time consuming, so I don't do this very often. I have found that most of the time, the chain pushes the mud out of the way, so as long as the gears still change properly, I tend to do no more than push off the excess grub with my fingers.

Lubricating the chain

After I clean the bike, I always oil the chain before putting it away.

I quickly dry the chain with a cloth before adding whatever oil I'm in favour of at the time.

In the winter, I tend to use Muc-Off wet lube. It's thick enough to stay on but not so thick that it picks up too much grub.

In the summer, I still prefer a wet lube. I am in England so it will still rain but I use something thinner, like TF2.

Cleaning brakes

I have disc brakes and have not had rim brakes for a very long time. I suspect that the principles of cleaning disc brakes also apply to rim brakes.

The brakes get hosed down with any normal clean which is normally enough. However, if I need to clean the brakes on their own, I will use Isopropyl Alcohol or Brake Cleaner, which is typically at least 70% Isopropyl Alcohol.

The discs are easy to wipe round with a CLEAN cloth, usually a paper towel. The pads need removing to clean those. I find cleaning the pads, less satisfactory. I'll post a separate article, at some point, on that subject.

Cleaning tyres

I don't try to make tyres look new, so I can't comment. I just wash off the mud with a hose and if I'm cleaning the frame, wash the tyres over at the end with the leftovers of the water or whatever I am using.

I ride a mountain bike, I expect it to be muddy looking most of the time.


I clean my bike so it is suitable for riding. I'm not after showroom shine.


Tuesday 4 August 2020

Lessons learnt fitting bike tyres

I don't have to fit bike tyres very often so I am not an expert. Each time I do, I have to remember what I did last time. Years apart for some tasks!

This time I was fitting some 29" Schwalbe Hans Dampf Supergravity tyres to a couple of different rims. Fitting them did not go to plan, so I have learnt a few things:

1. Tyre leavers are for getting tyres off not usually for putting on

I've fitted other makes of tyre and was able to force the tyre on the rim with just a bit of effort. The Schwalbe's, I've just fitted, were more difficult.
One side goes on reasonably easily, with a bit of effort, but despite positioning in the hollow, as best I could, I just could not get the other tyre bead over the lip. I resorted to tyre levers but they just scratched the rim and I felt like it was only going to work if I had three hands.

The solution I eventually worked out was that if I manoeuvred the rim to the corner of my bench and forced down on the tyre I was able to get it most of the way on. I then just needed to use a single plastic tyre lever, in the centre of the remaining short length, while pulling the tyre down with the other hand to hold it on the wheel. The single tyre lever in the middle was then enough to  flip it over the edge. Still tough but worked.

I have since managed to fit them without the tyre lever. Which is how I would expect to fit tyres. [Update: I have decided that it depends on the weather. In the warmer months tyres are easier to fit!] To fit the troublesome tyres, I had to get it setup just right, to be able to put pressure using both hands to pull the whole tyre down so the bead popped over.

[Update: I now use bead sealant. Brush that on before fitting and it is much easier to slip the bead over the rim] 

I bought the Supergravity variant of the Schwalbe, Hans Dampf, tyre because it has the toughest sidewalls. I guess that has a disadvantage when trying to fit them!

2. Put the tubeless tyre sealant in AFTER the tyre has been fitted
It was a lot harder struggling to get the Supergravity tyres on the rims whilst also trying to prevent all the sealant pouring out.
I gave up on that idea, emptied out the sealant before fitting the tyre.

Once fitted and inflated to pop the bead on, I used a large syringe to inject the sealant through the valve tube.
This also has the advantage that it is possible to check that the tyres hold pressure without the sealant masking poorly fitted tyres. If I have time I like to leave the tyre inflated for an hour or so, without sealant, to see how well it holds pressure.
The tyre sealant, in my opinion, is primarily for punctures although, in most cases, it is necessary to help the tyre stay inflated for longer.

3. It's better to replace rather than repair tubeless rim tape
Changing the tyre was the result of a 3" nail. It also punctured the rim tape through to a spoke nipple and nearly punched a hole in the inner trough. I thought it would be simple enough to patch a section of rim tape over the existing. After one ride the tyre had deflated!
Very disappointing. After the struggle to get the tyre on the wheel, I had to do it all again. This time I stripped off the old rim tape. It came off very easily, so I should have done that the first time.
This time, with a completely fresh install of rim tape, the tyre has stayed fully inflated.

4. The tubeless rim tape needs to stick, a little
I used Stans No Tires Tubeless Rim Tape on the first wheel I did. That stuck well. I did exactly the same from, the same roll, on another rim and it would not stick at all, even after carefully cleaning with isopropyl alcohol. I'm guessing it's something about the material used to coat the inside surface of the rim.

On my first few attempts with this wheel, I managed to keep it down just enough to get the run round the rim. I then fitted the tyres and inflated them. As the tape was a seal from bead to bead, it inflated. It lasted a few rides but after a while it would deflate overnight, despite the sealant.

I've now had another rim which was similarly difficult to stick to and would leak air through a spoke nipple. I eventually had to sand down the inside of that particular rim. It was the only way to get the rim tape to stick at all. I have found that for a long term seal, the tape has to stick round each spoke hole in the rim.

I think the rim tape, being the correct width for the tyre, minimises leakage and in many cases, I have found, that is all that is needed, stick or not. The typical recommendation of about 1mm or better 2mm greater than the internal width of the rim, works best for most wheels that I have worked on.

As a result of the troublesome wheels, I have tried lots of different rim tape. They all work to some degree but my favourite, because it conforms fairly easily to the inside shape, is from Muc-Off. [Edit: I have been told, using a good hair dryer or carefully with a lower power heat gun, that other tape can be made to conform.]

By writing these notes down, hopefully I will remember them for next time.


Sunday 5 July 2020

Maintaining pedals

I had a clonk from one of my pedals every revolution so I took them apart to give them a clean.

The pedals are DMR V8 v2.1 and are easy enough to take apart. The difficulty comes when putting them back together.

They use an 11mm nut which is locked against a 9mm nut. It is necessary to tighten the 11mm on to the nylon bush, then add the 9mm and back off the 11mm against the 9mm to lock the two together. That needs a special tool to fit in the recess at the end of the pedal.

I fitted the pedals back together with the nuts locked as best I could. After a ride the right pedal had worked a little loose and the left pedal had tightened to the point where the pedal barely rotated. I needed a better method to lock the nuts.

DMR V8 v2.1 specialist tool

I tried to buy the specialist tool that DMR supply but everywhere was out of stock. I decided to make my own.

Mine does the same job but is a completely different design to the DMR supplied tool.

I used an 11mm extra long socket that was small enough to fit the pedal and a 9mm extra long socket.

I ground both to shape so that the 9mm could fit on the nut at the same time the 11mm was on it's nut.

It's worked well. Easy enough to back off the 11mm on to the 9mm and keep the tension, about right, on the bushings.
So far the pedals have been working well.


Saturday 4 July 2020

Quick Bike Support

Sometimes I want to carry out simple bike maintenance with the bike still on the ground.

Things like pumping up tyres and oiling the chain just need the bike held still. This can be done by leaning up against a wall but invariably the bike falls over.

This simple hook makes it a little more stable so it is easier to work on the bike.


Friday 3 July 2020

Thetford Forest

High Lodge, Thetford Forest with Shelley.

We did the red route, twice. 18 miles in all. Great fun, such an excellent place to ride off-road.


Sunday 21 June 2020

Upgraded the stereo in the Defender

It's been a long time in the planning. When I started looking at fitting a better car stereo in a Defender, the first thing that came up, and was repeated numerous times, was that the best improvement is to fit sound proofing. We had that fitted a few months ago, along with thick fitted rubber mats.

At long last, I have got together all the other bits, and fitted them, to upgrade the stereo.

Bigger speakers, a sub-woofer and a Raptor console dash.

Getting the old radio mount and cable trim out is more difficult than fitting the new console.

I managed to knock the top mount sideways just far enough to reveal the screws holding the lower trim in place.

With the lower trim out of the way, it was possible to bend and pull the old radio mount until it came out. Not very elegant but the alternative was to take most of the dash apart!

Fitting the Raptor dash, was as easy as they say. It fits so well that the two bolts at the top are sufficient to hold it securely in place.

Defenders do not have much space to route cables. Deciding the route took longer than threading the cables. The lower lip of the Raptor dash gave me the opportunity to hide the cable between the foam of the dash trim and the metal under it. I just forced a screwdriver down to make the space. The fuse box cover hides the drop down to where it goes under the rubber matting past the gear sticks.

My home made switch panel for the heated seats hides where the cable goes under the centre console between the seats.

I had very few switches to fit in the console but I didn't want to waste the space. I, therefore,  deliberately ordered a Raptor console dash with two DIN radio mounting holes. There is not enough space behind to fit two stereos but I had plans to use the lower one for a cubbyhole.

My own two part cable gland in the same style as the switch I was fitting.

The new speakers are larger. They need a deeper spacer and offset mounting holes. The prototype was evenly spaced but I soon changed that to an angled version.

The Land Rover mounting holes are 117mm diameter spacing.

The new speakers are Pioneer TS-R1350S 13cm full range 3-way speakers. They have two sets of fixing holes, at 120mm and 137mm diameter. The spacer, that I designed, has holes at 117mm to fix the adaptor to the dash and holes at 137mm to secure the speaker and the grill to the spacer.

The 5" speakers fitted where the Land Rover 4" ones were.

I needed a bit of trim round the head unit to hide the bracket.

The head unit is a Sony XAV-AX100. It has a double DIN screen but only a single DIN component housing sticking out the back. This makes it ideal for a Defender where there is limited space in the dash area. The Sony is one of the few I could find, a couple of years ago, where the DIN part was at the top and the screen overlapped the bottom and also supported ApplePlay for Shelley's iPhone.

The sub-woofer had to be fairly small as there is next to no space in a pickup Defender cab. Sub-woofers, by their very nature, tend to be large! The Pioneer TS-WX130EA does the job in a relative small housing.

I usually favour more positive mounting. Ideally, a nut and bolt, however, the bulkhead behind the drivers seat is just in front of the fuel filler pipe. It looked a little trickier than it was worth to fit brackets. The sub-woofer sits on the floor and the seat back is very close, so the Velcro does not need to take any weight.

I do like my cables well protected and tidy.

Much nicer looking dash, in my opinion.
Music sounds so much better.