Call me traditional, but I like to be able to stop my bike on demand, as it were, especially when going down the 11% hills which are generally unavoidable here. Last week I was riding down one such hill on the Xtracycle* when I realised that the rear brake lever was responding with all the efficiency of a damp sponge.

Mindful that I’ll be in Freiburg on the permaculture course this weekend and I don’t want the bike to disgrace me in a genuine bike culture, on arrival back home I retrieved a hexagonal key and prepared to do the job I dislike above almost all others.

I long since got rid of the ‘Problem solver‘ on the brakes and now run them straight, and this job has gone from an hour of impossibility and cut fingers before giving up to about twenty minutes of near impossibility and the choice of having the brake blocks clear of the wheels, and a spongy brake lever, or reasonably responsive brakes and blocks just stroking the wheels, very, very slightly.  Apparently this is to do with the slightly longer cable to the back brake allowing more play and stretch. I tend to go for the second option: you can ignore an occasionally clicking brake block but a lack of brakes on a loaded bike generally absorbs all of your attention, if briefly.

To add to the above I have an unbelievable ability to do something silly like align everything perfectly but not tighten the cable clamp on the brake quite enough so when I pull the lever the cable pulls through and the brakes spring open again.

So I’m really, really, hoping that the fact it took ten minutes including realigning the brake blocks is because all this practice working in the bike shop is somehow paying off, instead of being a fluke.

*I rode down a hill on the bakfiets: once. It took nearly an hour to get back up.