Here’s what’s difficult about improving an old bike: You may have to slog through a few disappointing pieces of advice until you find one that works. Even after spending a tidy $um at Aaron’s Bike Repair to do the initial fixes, (new brake levers, handlebars, freewheel cluster, pedals) I still knew the brakes were too hard for me to squeeze, making riding downhill a scary prospect. The repair people (males) in two bike shops looked at my setup (single pivot caliper brakes) and told me that there wasn’t anything more that they could do to increase my braking power. I am used to riding a mountain bike with cantilever brakes, so perhaps my expectations were too high. Of course, they tried the levers with their own manly hands and came to the conclusion that my current brakes worked fine. I didn’t like that answer.
I seriously started to think that I had weak hands. I even bought one of those grip squeezers with the spring so that I could start increasing my grip strength. But then in one of my bike repair classes at Bikeworks, a fellow student and I were chatting, and he mentioned that I ought to try Dual Pivot brakes. Well, then! Finally, a useful piece of knowledge had risen to the surface.
But the best part was yet to come. Yesterday I swung by Recycled Cycles, and the on-duty mechanic looked at my setup and listened to my confession of weak hands, and was like “You should totally try Dual Pivot brakes.” He took me over to the bin of used parts, and within 10 seconds, found a matching (what universe is this?) pair of shiny Tektro Dual Pivot brakes that even matched my new levers. It was like a component family was reunited at last. Would you believe that they were only $5 a piece, and the total bill for parts & labor came to $21?
I made a point of going out riding this morning in 38°, wet weather, just to test out the brakes, and I’m happy to say, my braking power (from the hood position) has increased considerably. This bike might actually be a decent option for winter riding if I add some fenders. Score!