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Bike maintenance guide: brakes

PedalsChainWheelsGears and brakesSaddleCleaning up

There are many different designs but most braking systems work by pressing a pad against the braking surface of the wall of the wheel rim.

Test your brakes frequently as pad wear causes a gradual decline in braking performance.

If you notice you have to pull the brake levers fairly close in to the handlebars when braking normally, then your brake cables and pads need to be replaced.

There are various kinds of brake pad that vary in hardness.

If the rubber material is too hard, it doesn't brake well, especially in wet weather; too soft and it wears down too quickly.

Remember the left brake lever should work the back brake and the right lever the front brake.


Nearly all bikes are fitted with either derailleur or hub gears.

Derailleur gears have a front mech (short for front gear mechanism) to shift the chain between two or three chainrings and a rear mech (short for rear gear mechanism) with up to 10 sprockets.

Hub gears are fitted between the top and down tubes, have fewer speeds and are used mainly on city and leisure bikes.

If you really want to get the most from your bike a smooth, reliable gear change is a must.

All rear mechs need frequent lubrication and occasional servicing to keep them working sweetly.

So it's worth giving your rear mech a few shots of lube every time you lubricate your chain.

Pay particular attention to the jockey wheels (these are small wheels in the chain cage of the rear mech that guide the chain round the sprockets) because they pick up hard-packed dirt from the chain.

Remember, the bottom and the rest of the low gears are for climbing hills.

The top and the other high gears are for descents.

On the back wheel: the small sprocket is top gear, the large sprocket is bottom.

But at the chain wheel the small ring is low gear and the big ring is high.

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