Roadside Repairs / by Erin Wade

About three miles into my Sunday ride last week I had a bit of a surprise when the brake caliper dropped off of the right side of my trike and started dragging along the asphalt.

them’s the brakes

This occurred following a bump in the road, and it was followed by a rather sickening metallic dragging sound - the sort of noise that you just know is potentially expensive.

I had started out with the intention of going for a longer ride - in this case, about 28.7 miles, so longer for me, anyway. I wanted a good time on the distance, so I lubed up the trike and pumped up the tires to make sure we were running at peak efficiency. Clearly it did not occur to me to check the connections on the brakes...

After getting over the initial surprise I scooped up the caliper (dragging by its cable) and, with it in one hand and the other hand on a handlebar, turned around to go back and look for the missing bolt. Of course, the bolt is black, the asphalt that I was looking for it on on was black...

The miracle is: I found it.

There it was, just laying there, a couple of feet from the side of the road, waiting for me. (The caliper is actually held in with two bolts, but I’m guessing the first one took it’s leave earlier on. Either way I was lucky enough to find one...). I picked it up and found a spot to effect a roadside repair. One of the nice things about riding in farm country is that one is never far from a pull-in for a field (or similar), so its relatively easy to get sufficiently off the road to allow one to safely focus on dealing with an issue.

Thank goodness Allen let me borrow his wrenches

The repair was simple enough. The bolt was undamaged and it went right in. I was also extra fortunate in that, although it mounts with two bolts, one seemed to be enough to hold it in place well enough for it to function. What’s more, it functioned well, with no noise or trouble, and I was able to finish my ride. I realized later in the week that this was a fluke. Going for another, shorter ride, it started to come loose, and I was unable to tighten it up in a way that left it lined up properly such that it didn’t grind or otherwise make noise. That I was able to get in the remaining 24-or-so miles in without a problem is pretty amazing.

While I experienced all of this good fortune, it did make me realize a few things:

  • Although I use it rarely, it turned out to be very fortunate that I have a repair tool in the saddlebags on the trike. My ride would likely have been over without it, and I’d either have been riding back the three miles holding a caliper in one hand, or calling for help.
  • It pays to listen to what your machine is telling you. In this case, that brake has been making a “clunk” on engagement for the past three or four rides. In retrospect, it’s clear that the caliper was loose and/or I’d already lost bolt number one.
  • Probably, doing periodic checks of such connections would be a good thing as well. I’m usually eager to get out and ride, and so looking over these sorts of things hasn’t been on my mental list. And, to be honest, my Pocket hasn’t really had any issues like this before, and I’ve put over 1400 miles on it since I got it over a year ago. So yeah - it’s the trike’s fault for being so reliable; its gone and made me complacent.

Since then, I’ve gotten my little Catrike Pocket in to Meads Bike Shop to get the caliper properly re-connected, and while it was there I had them do a tune up (I usually have that done at the beginning of the season, but time didn’t make that an easy option this year. Plus, Tempo Velo’s Farmondo is coming up next month, and given that bits seem to be falling off of my trike, it made sense to have the professionals give it a once-over ahead of the event.