At TroisV, we like riding our bikes. We also like fixing them, though we, individually and as a group, are of variable proficiency in matters mechanical. Thus, the TroisV Repair Shop is a blundering guide to fixing stuff, written for blundering idiots by blundering idiots. Or anyway, it's an account of what happens when we get the tools out.
Today's lesson: replacing the brake blocks.
The thing is, when your brake blocks look like this:
they probably aren't stopping your bike as well as they should. They got worn down because you ride in lots of traffic, and because when you're flying down the descent at 40 m.p.h. after climbing the bejeezus out of your legs, and there's a gaggle of elderly and tipsy tourists in the road, it's a good idea to squeeze those levers. So anyway, you gotta replace those bastards.
Tip one: Don't take off your tire. It seems like a good idea at first (easy access to the brakes!) but actually, it's just an unnecessary pain in the ass.
Tip two: Don't take the whole brake off, either. You'll just have to put it back on, and there's several parts in there (at least if, like me, you're running Shimano bike-stoppers; I don't know about other brands, but I'm guessing they all share similarities).
So anyway, you just need to undo that little bolt and slide the pad out. Then you slide the new one in; they're labeled left and right and forward, so even an idiot like me (being able to read is my single marketable skill) can't screw this up. If, like the last time I took my bike to the professionals to have it serviced, your brakes have previously been tightened rather than block-replaced, you may need to loosen the cable to get enough clearance for your bike. Don't be scared by this! It's easy to loosen the bolt and and then retighten it once you've got everything adjusted properly (and thank you to the mechanic at Chamberlaine Cycles in Kentish Town for being utterly uncondescending as he explained this to me this morning; it was a pleasure to have my ignorance magicked away with a simple and polite explanation and smile).
So this picture explains the difference between old and new pads:
And this one shows my new, stop-ready brake blocks:
This is a superfluous (egregious, one might say) picture of my Tour of Wessex medal and the sweetass jersey that I wore around the course:
I also found it helpful to listen to Bad Religion while performing these repairs.