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Brake Lever Troubleshooting
#1
I don't know if this would rise to the level of a tutorial request or not, but I thought I'd ask about how to troubleshoot & deal with brake lever problems. I see a couple of others related to shifters on the requests page, so perhaps that general area of the bike is something of interest.
The main problem I've seen is that the brake lever won't return back after it is depressed. I figure a tight or stuck brake cable might cause it...anything else? I assume that parts of a brake lever would need cleaned out and oiled/greased every once in a while?
Also, I've seen one case where the thread screw (or whatever the term is) on the end of the brake lever wouldn't turn. Any thoughts on an approach to it?
And if this would be a good topic to throw into the request system (i.e. the answer to all genuine brake lever problems isn't "replace the lever"), I can go ahead and do it.

Why is it that they make adult bikes that'll generally work for 5'9" or above, yet when you pedal these same bikes they only work for someone who is 5'4" or so?
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#2
A couple things can cause a brake lever not to pop back after it is released.
- Most common is a sticky cable. The thorough way to fix this is to detach and remove the cable, regrease it and reinstall. You can often clear up the problem, though, by dripping some chain lube or thin oil onto the cable right where it enters the housing. Capilary action will make the oil tend to flow inside down the cable, but it works better if you can prop the bike so gravity will draw the oil inside. Work the brake lever back and forth as you drip the oil to also help it work in.
- Kinks or sharp bends in the cable housing will also put a lot of drag on the cable. These can come from damage or from a too short piece of housing used during installation.
- A gummed up brake caliper will also do this. Disassembling, cleaning, and rebuilding is again the thorough way to fix this. But try dripping some lube on all the moving parts of the brake caliper. Be VERY careful not to get lube on the pads or rim and to wipe of any excess lube for hopefully obvious reasons.
- On single pivot road bike capilers, if the nuts on the end of the pivot of the caliper are too tight, this can also create resistance. (Not the nut/bolt that attaches it to the frame.) The bolt has to be loose enough the brake parts can pivot, but no so loose there is a lot of play in the caliper.
- Check for damage or need for lubrication in the lever.
- Each caliper or cantilever has a spring that pops the breaks back open. Check to make sure these haven't slipped off the little post that they push against. If they're hanging loose and not under tension, something's wrong.
Whatever you do, test your brakes with a really strong squeeze before you go back out. You want to test what would happen in a panic stop situation. Better to find out you didn't tighten something enough now and not when your life depends on it.

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#3
Thanks for the detailed answer. I will add a question to the brake lever work list that I just ran into. I spent about 15 minutes trying to work the knob from a brake cable out of the lever (it was stuck in there and wobbling as I was trying to pull it out).
Any suggestions on how to deal with this when you encounter it trying to replace the brake cables?

Why is it that they make adult bikes that'll generally work for 5'9" or above, yet when you pedal these same bikes they only work for someone who is 5'4" or so?
  Reply
#4
I have a Schwinn World Tourist probably 15-20 years old. I need to remove the brake assemblies from the handlebars in order to replace the handlebars, but there are no visible means that I can see to unscrew or to unbolt them. Can you help me out here?

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#5
If I remember correctly you need to release the brake cable from the caliper and then remove it from the lever. With that done you press the lever to the handlebar and there should be a screw inside the housing that you turn to loosen the clamp.

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#6
Your advice to remove the brake assembly at the handlebar was exact and very helpful and I thank you very much.
Now, I am not going into the bicycle repair business. All I want to do is to be able to do is upgrade (handlebars, tires, seat, lights, cargo baskets and fix my bike should it fail in some manner. I will be using this bike to commute-max mileage one way is 15 miles. With this in mind, I don't know if you have a tutorial on the best brands for tools and parts, but I would like very much if you can recommend some manufacturers or online sale sites that carry these items at reasonable prices as you know the current state of the economy:
4-5-6 mm hex wrench(es), 3rd and 4th hand tools, tire pump, high riser handle bars (9- 12 rise), handlebar grips, front basket and rear side baskets, head and tail lights for safety riding (sometimes for night rides), bicycle lock, helmet, chain cleaning kit, tires & tubes for 37-590 27x1 1/4, tire & tube repair kit, a comfortable seat for an elderly big butt and anything else you can think of a person in my situation might need.

  Reply
#7
Oh, yes and one more item. The one best bicycle tool repair book that is user friendly for my style of bike. Such as bike repair for the ignorant.
Thanking you in advance for you patience and trouble.

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