I’ve been enjoying cruising around on my newly restored 1965 Sears/Puch 3 speed, but was reminded during a recent excursion on a wet and windy day how poorly steel rims perform in the rain. I needed to stop suddenly but was unable to do so, and it took several revolutions of the brake pads against the rims to clear the water and finally take hold. By then, it was necessary to swerve!
I’ve known about leather faced brake pads for steel rims, but haven’t tried them until now. I ordered enough pads for two bikes from an eBay seller. Even though these pads shipped from the Leicester region of the U.K. and were expected to arrive in 30 days, I actually received them within two weeks (supply chain problems be damned).
These Fibrax pads do not have a directional notation as did the Weinmann’s which they are replacing, but they do have an orientation requirement. The pads are angled to match the contour of the rim.
The pads need to be positioned as shown above so that they can contact the rims evenly when the brake levers are engaged.
It’s easy to assume that these older single pivot sidepull brake calipers don’t have any kind of quick release, which is true for the calipers themselves. However, by squeezing the pads against the rim, you can slacken the cable tension and use the quick release available on the brake levers – just pull the ferrule out of its slot and let it go. It’s best to do this after you’ve screwed the barrel adjuster all the way down, to provide further cable slack. A slackened cable makes it much easier to get the pads in place.
So, how do these Fibrax leather-faced brake pads perform? I took the bike out for a spin to try them out. Today was a warm and glorious day, and the leaf strewn streets were drying out. So, I found a few giant rain puddles in some shaded areas and splashed through to get some water up on the rims. Then, I sped up and braked suddenly. And, voila, they worked beautifully and I was able to stop as expected, without multiple revolutions of the wheel to clear the moisture off the rim. On my ride today I thought about how 3 speed cycling is something everyone should try. I ended up going on a much longer jaunt than originally planned because this kind of bike with its upright position and simple shifting encourages a relaxed pace allowing for exploration, peace, and wonder – the things I love most about cycling.