Who cares about the little retaining clip dohicky thing anyway? That is what I have often thought about the clip that goes onto the end of the post used on XTR brakes to keep the pads and the spring in the calipers. I have also thought of these as being along the same lines as “lawyer tabs” on forks. I mean the post is screwed in anyway. Okay so I noticed the clip had went missing a week ago. No big deal. Well out on a ride a couple of days ago it became a big deal. All of the sudden my back brake went completely dead. Lever to grips and no pumping would help. I was also in the middle of precarious dip in the trail so it was “exciting” to get through the section and then get stopped. I check out the brakes and holy smokes! There was nothing back there. Both pads, spring and retaining pin gone. At that moment it hit me that I was a good ways from getting back to a street where I could limp back “home”. I was also nearly at the highest elevation I would be for the entire ride. Every route I knew of to get off of the mountain (I was exploring a new area for me) involved a white-knuckler descent.
Well I was not going to get anything fixed if I did not find my brake bits. The good news was there was only about a 50 yard section of trail from where I knew by brakes were working perfectly to the spot of total failure. Not too far of a distance, but the trail is only about 12″ wide and dense foilage is all along the edges. So off in search of I went.
When I was growing up in North Carolina my Dad and I did a lot of hiking and one of our hiking activities was looking for Indian arrowheads and artifacts in argriculture fields and along the river and lake banks. After tiling and fresh rains was considered prime time for looking for these. It was good Father-Son times. Beside it being a fond memory, the point I bring this up is that you develop a skill for scanning the ground and looking for stuff when you do this activity much. I went into scanning mode and started looking for the brake bits. I first made a quick pass along the trail just to set my end points and see if I could get lucky. Nothing on the quick stroll. The second time down the trail I went much slower and was focusing on just the 12 inches of the trail. I managed to find one of the pads. How can I fix this with one pad? Better keep looking. One more really slow pass netted me the other pad that was laying about three inches off to the side of the trail and was paritally hidden by leaves. What a lucky bastard I was. It had taken about 40 minutes so far and I was not interested in prolonging this anymore. Time to figure out what to use for the post and spring. My zip ties were too big and while I had some wooden matches for a retaining pin, a couple of rides ago I gave up all of my tape to boot a friends sidewall so I was out of something easy to hold the matchstick in place.
There is one thing in bountiful supply in Japan, bamboo. It is nearly perfectly round, smooth and comes in an assortment of diameters. I stripped a piece of bamboo of its leaves and slipped it into place folded it over and the small end was flexible enough to allow me to use it as binding string. Sweet!
Now what to do for a spring? Bamboo to the rescue again. I got a bigger diameter section of bamboo this time and cut out a section slightly bigger than the normal gap in the pads. I then split the bamboo, cut to length and wedged it between the two pad backings. The folded over piece of post bamboo also served to hold my spring piece in place. After a few quick tests I was stoked to see the green bamboo was providing enough spring action. I felt confident enough with the setup to not bail on the ride. I ended up riding about another 20 miles that day. The following day on my way our for a ride, I swung by a local shop and picked up a set of pads, a spring and retaining pin. I put it in my pack so I would have a “spare” in case my bamboo should break. 🙂