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Hydraulic brakes can fail

May 22, 2008

A few years ago as I approached a busy intersection, the brakes on my Chevvy Astro went right to the floor.  I sailed through the red light and coasted to a stop on the other side.  A brake line had ruptured.  My survival was luck, not skill.

Then there’s today.  Two of my office mates and I were riding somewhat competitively back to the office after a coffee break, and I took a shortcut toward some stairs.  Though I was moving pretty fast, my bike has hydraulic disc brakes just like a car, so I knew I could drop a lot of speed before reaching them.


The brake handle collapsed and fluid gushed out.  NO front brakes.  On a bicycle, if you don’t know, the front brakes provide just about all of the stopping power.  Now I’m moving much too fast and about to go down some stairs… and then crash into a building.

It was a rough ride but I didn’t crash.  I don’t know how many thousands of hours I’ve spent on a bike in my life but they must have made a difference. And that (new) bike is going back to the shop.

  1. May 22, 2008 at 20:21 | #1

    Wow!  I’m glad you’re alright, George.  Sounds like you did some very skillful riding there.

  2. May 22, 2008 at 21:56 | #2

    Yes, it was facinating, slightly odd, and definately scarey to see you pop a wheely before hitting the stairs.

    It’s a good thing it wasn’t in traffic.

  3. May 23, 2008 at 03:41 | #3

    Okay.  O-kay.  That mental image I had of you as a bloody smear on a brick wall just now was really not pleasant

    Puts me in mind of the end of a Rocko’s Modern Life episode:

    “Uh, this is your bus driver speaking, uhhh… Brake maintenance is an important part of a safe driving experience, uhhh…”

    I would like to have a talk with the manufacturer of that bike about the importance of ensuring that my favorite people in the universe don’t end up as grease spots with spokes.

  4. May 23, 2008 at 11:23 | #4

    Yea that was crazy watching that. I just thought you were trying to show us young whippersnappers how old people can still move and do tricks. :lol:

    And yea, I like cable actuated better than hydraulic. And now you have cemented that thought into my head.

  5. July 25, 2008 at 18:35 | #5

    Update to this story:  Less than a month after the first failure, the front brake failed again.  But it turned out OK.

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