Brakes are the most important part of your electric bicycle so it’s important to know a few things about them to ensure you enjoy a fun and safe riding experience. It’s also important to note if there’s a change in the sound of your brakes: a squeaking or rubbing for instance. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to take the bicycle to your local shop to have a bike mechanic look over it. If caught early, the fix will be a lot easier than if it persists and you find yourself having to replace a rotor rather than just a pad for example. Here is everything you need to know about electric bike brakes, along with a few simple maintenance tips.
Pedego electric bikes are equipped with either mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes, which are different from calliper brakes that bicycles used to have. (Some bikes still do have them – they look like two arms resting on either side of your tire and when the lever is depressed, the pads on the end of the arms wedge themselves against the rim of your tire, slowing you down.) Disc brakes are similar to the brakes in your car in that there are rotors attached to your wheel hubs. When a brake lever is used, it activates (by cable or hydraulic pressure) a mechanism that engages the pads and they cinch against the rotor, providing the stopping power.
As with car brakes, the pads wear out over time. (If you live in a hilly environment or an urban area where you’re stopping a lot, they’ll wear out quicker.) Therefore it’s a wise idea to inspect them regularly and the good news is it’s really easy to do. At the centre of both your front and rear tires are metal, disc-shaped rotors and each is seated in the grooves of the braking mechanisms. (See image below.) You may need a flashlight to get a proper look. There should be at least 1.5mm of braking material on either side of the rotor – that’s about the thickness of two business cards. Any less and it’s time to visit your local bike mechanic to have them replaced.
For the mechanical disc brakes, you’ll notice red dials on the braking mechanisms on the front and rear tires and these are handy to make micro-adjustments on your brake pads. By twisting the red dials clockwise, the brake pads are moved closer to the rotor. This ensures you don’t have to depress the brake levers all the way back to the handlebars in order for the pads to engage. There should be about a 1.5mm distance between each side of the rotor and the brake pads. Again, you’ll want to ensure enough brake pad material is there to engage.
What you don’t want is to have the metal backing that holds the brake pad rubbing against the metal rotor as that can damage it. In the case of hydraulic brake units, they automatically adjust the space between the rotor and brake pads. If your brake levers are almost hitting the handlebars when you put the brakes on, and you can’t adjust this as described above, it’s time to take the bike to a mechanic for a tune up.
If your electric bike brakes are making noises, whether squeaking or squealing, we recommend you read the excellent article by Pedego Qualicum Beach bike mechanic Jessica Skelton called, “Cleaning Squeaky Brakes“. If the noises persist, get an expert on the job and take your bicycle in for a tune-up.
Here and there, bikes will make some sort of noise. While annoying, these squeaks, scrapes, rattles and clicks are your Pedego’s way of letting you know something isn’t quite right. Like learning any “language”, it can take some time to understanding what all the new sounds mean; so here’s a handy guide to some basic Bike Speak.
A swish or scrape with every wheel rotation
One of your brake discs is brand new or possibly out of alignment. Another easy-to-adjust reason could be your brake pads are set too close to one of your disc rotors. To learn how to make minor adjustments yourself, visit our brake blog; however if the problem persists, call us at Pedego QB and we walk you through a solution or fix it for you.
A squeal or squeak when brakes are applied
Your brakes could be dirty. Click here for more detailed information on trouble shooting noisy brakes.
A small thunk, clunk or click with every wheel rotation
A spoke may have come loose. To check, gently shake each spoke; a slight flex is normal, but a loose or rattling spoke is not. Alternatively, your reflector could be loose or broken. A properly installed reflector should offer resistance when pushed, not spin freely. A blue spoke wrench is required to tighten a loose spoke – drop by and ask us how at Pedego QB!
The Bodyfloat seatpost helps to isolate riders even more from bumps on the road.
rattle, especially on rough roads or over bumps
Your fenders, chain guard or kickstand could be loose. Make sure all your visible screws stay tight!
A repetitive popping or clunking with every pedal stroking
Something could be wrong with the ball bearings in your pedals or bottom bracket (the hidden metal tube that connects your two cranks together). If this is the case, you’ll also feel a distinct popping in your feet through the pedals.
A rhythmic bumping or ticking while pedalling
Your chain guard could be loose, causing your chain to hit it.
A scrape with every pedal rotation
Your chain guard could be out of alignment, causing your crank (the long arm connecting your pedal to the bike) to hit it. A nice adjustment is a counter bend: lift the bike and have someone move the pedals (without pedal assist or throttle) and voila! A counter bend is easy and quick.
A crunchy rattle when you try to change gears
This could also be described as the gear having a hard time shifting. First, ensure you’re going fast enough when trying to change gears as a too-slow bike will make a crunchy transition. If your speed is fine, your brake cable could be stretched or your derailleur could be out of alignment. Change gears at speed and one at a time and see us if this persists.
A constant hum or buzzing when riding
Your fender or fender bracket could be rubbing against the tire. Or, something could be stuck inside the fender. Take a look underneath, sometimes there’s something obvious stuck in there! If not, swing by to see us at Pedego QB.
Don’t forget: a regular semi-annual tune-up will clean up small issues like this so you can focus on riding. Call us to book a tune-up for your bike.
By Jessica Skelton – Pedego Qualicum Beach Mechanic