Soggy and Squeaky

Since Linda began a new life as an outdoor bike, it has been raining heavily and continuously. I considered bringing the poor bike back inside, but resisted. In her 15 years of life she has probably seen worse. So I left her outdoors as it poured day after day.

So what's the damage to a Dutch transport bike after two weeks of being left out in the rain? Well, the main thing is that the front brake has developed a shrill squeal. I didn't know that could happen to hub brakes, but apparently it can. The stopping power is the same as before, only now it sounds like a hysterical piglet. The rear coaster brake makes no noise. Should I somehow lubricate the front hub? We are scaring people at intersections! [Update: The front brake squeal stopped on its own as soon as the rains stopped. Works as well as before and just as silently.]

The other thing is that the leather grips are now completely soggy, since, unlike the saddle, I made no provisions to cover them. I installed these grips in October and they've been rained and snowed on many times with no adverse consequences, so I didn't think it would be a big deal to just leave them uncovered. But of course when it rains non-stop for so many days, it's a different story. Not sure what to do now other than just wait for the sun and let them dry out naturally. But in the future I should try Bobbin and Sprocket's smart solution.

Otherwise, nothing on the bike seems any worse for wear. I am especially pleased that my silver lug-lining (done with a Sharpie!) has held up and that the bottle dynamo is unaffected. Now if only it would stop raining!


  1. Sweet baby Jesus; please don't lube your brakes!

    If a few miles of use doesn't solve the issue, consider cleaning the drum and shoes with alcohol and lightly sanding the shoes if they look at all glazed. SA drums are very easily serviced and generally respond well to these fixes. Oil them and the pads may never work right again.

  2. Without hearing the noise it is hard to
    tell, but I'm guessing it is rust.

    Drum brakes can develop a thin
    patina of rust inside the drum
    if not ridden for a few days and
    left in the rain. A few good
    strong applications of the brake should fix it. A long hill make this easy :)

    Cars have the same problem.
    Look at the disk brakes of a car
    that has been left in the rain
    for a few days - all rusty.

    Your drum is unusual in that the
    backing plate (the bit which attaches
    to the fork leg) is on the right,
    which means that when the bike is leaning
    slightly on the sidestand, water
    can seep into the brake. Most modern
    drums (Sturmey et al) have the backing
    plate on the left.

    So give the strong braking
    a try and see if this helps.

    John I

  3. Has to be one of the most elegant looking bikes out there. 15 years old? Geez she's mint.

    Toying on striping the lugs on mine cept thinking of doing gloss red over flat or sating black for my frame. Love the way yours looks with the silver though

    The light you ave for the front is it a dyno hub or battery powered? Sure I saw someplace round the blog just don't recall LOL.

    The squeak just might be a bit of rust possible anyways friend has a motor scooter had it sitting in his garage for a good year didn't use it and it got wet in there(don't ask) but now it makes a squeal on the rear drum as you said doesn't affect the performance any just rather annoying.


  4. M. Pewthers - Okay, no brake lubing : )

    johni - I've been riding the bike and applying the brake, but it continues to squeal. I am not exaggerating in that it's been raining continuously though, so I guess it hasn't had a chance to recover. Will experiment applying the brake harder - on a back street somewhere, so that it doesn't scare people!

    Jim - Yup, these bikes age well. It is definitely well used. The lights are bottle dynamo powered. Bottle is on the left fork blade. We converted the headlight to LED, but the tail light is halogen.

  5. Drum brakes sometimes need lubrication. The Shimano rollerbrakes certainly recommend it. So the squeal may indeed be a sign of lack of grease (and therefore of a bit of rust from the rain). But I don't have any experience with your particular model of brake.

  6. Great post, just a grammatical nit-pick: "Dynamo" should be in italics.

  7. Joseph E - It is a Sachs hub brake; they are no longer produced. Will try to look up what to do with it.

  8. Get these for the grips and a matching saddle cover, and you'll be set:

  9. Pardon my bluntness, but why on earth would you leave your bike out in the rain?

    And please tell me you were joking about lubing the brakes.

  10. Just a quick thought... You do cover the saddle when it's raining right?

  11. Love your lug lining idea. I have a gold lugged bike and and black sharpies in various widths. Perhaps I'll give it a try.

    As I'm sure others have already said, don't lube braking surfaces. I would expect that the braking surface has minor corrosion and will quiet down with dry weather and use. I know this is an experiment, but have you considered a cover? It would be a minor hassle, but worth it in my opinion. I wouldn't exactly consider that Gazelle a "beater bike".

  12. Is this the beginning of Linda's long slide into Bike Hell? Are we going to have to avert our eyes whenever we pass by your house to spare ourselves the sight of poor Linda shivering in the snow like "The Little Match Girl"? All forlorn with her leather grips all shriveled and hard, Her saddle peeking out from a torn shopping bag... While her mean-girl bike stepsisters sit in front of a crackling fire toasting cheese with Peppy(the reprehensible window leering cat).


    (I know this is pretty dumb and really un-fair but it makes me giggle)

  13. MelissaTheRagamuffinMay 21, 2011 at 7:45 AM

    The disc brakes on my mountain bike get loud when it rains, but it usually sorts itself out within a few miles.

  14. Re: grips. Traditional black plastic grips, like on old Raleighs.

  15. Poor Linda! All her problems should resolve themselves once she has a chance to dry out and get ridden for awhile. Your leather may dry a little bit bigger, making the grips a little loose on the handlebars. If so you should be able to re-stitch them on tight again. I've had the leather grips on the Kettler get pretty soggy too, and when they dried out they were a bit stretched out, however the leather washers on the Brooks grips seem to shrink when they get wet. The leather may also be a bit dried out, so apply some Proofide or other leather conditioner to them once they cease to be soggy.

  16. I had a Raleigh International that I had to leave outside when I was in the Navy. I had a canvas shop sew a fitted cover out of a piece of waterproof nylon that covered the entire bike. They sewed a "window" for the lock chain to go thru. Kept it nice and dry.
    Your drum brake shoes are wet. Use spray "brake cleaner" from the auto parts store to blow into the drum brake at the perimeter where the shoes run. Or, a "green" strategy, just let them dry, and try to keep them that way.

  17. mander remarked: "Great post, just a grammatical nit-pick: "Dynamo" should be in italics."

    Why would anyone italicize "dynamo"? it's 2011; that word has long since been fully co-opted into the English language...


  18. There is no particular reason that I can see for putting dynamo in italics. It seems some folks just can't leave copy well enough alone.

  19. Freddy & Roff - Yes, I cover the saddle. A bike like this is meant to be left outside 24/7; it was designed for it. More here.

    I am not going to argue about italics : )

  20. Velouria,
    I have some xylene brake cleaner (from back when I owned a car and did a brake job on it. if you want to try it. I think it's more for degreasing, but Dave above suggests it might help dry it out. email me and let me know if you want to try it. It's kind of noxious stuff, so you don't want to buy it and have it lying around if you don't need a lot of it.

    I don't know why, but M Pewther's comment made me laugh and laugh. I don't think you would lube your brake pads, but I can imagine some parts within the hub that might need lubrication (like with my roller hub)

  21. Velouria said...

    We converted the headlight to LED, but the tail light is halogen.

    Please PLEASE post a how to about this! I really want to do this on my vintage bike, but wouldn't know how to start!

  22. Erin--it wasn't straight forward and I am not exactly ecstatic with the results. Better wait for gen 2 before we say anything about that.

  23. The brake cleaner idea Dave suggested is a good one. Try Cycler's offer, and yes, do it outdoors...

    Keeping Linda's braking surfaces dry(indeed any internals) will be a challenge as the moisture in the air accumulates on colder-than-air surfaces like metal and tends to stay even when the environment dries out a bit. It's not the water on her outsides you need to worry about.
    You might really want to consider getting a cover for Linda.

    We've had a little less rain than you this last few weeks, but the trees throughout my neighborhood pump up to 500 gallons of water through each of their trunks every day, so there's a bit of moisture in the air. ;)
    Metal stuff rusts here.
    That and the fact that there are transients about makes me keep the bikes indoors during the wet seasons.

    Why italics, anyway?
    Was the Dynamo invented in Florence?

    Corey K

  24. Velouria,

    Get yourself one of those BBQ Grill covers at Home Depot and throw it over your bike at home. You don't need to take it with you on errands, but for long term outdoor storage of your bike at home, it might just do the trick of keeping it somewhat protected from the weather.

    Speaking of the weather...that Nor 'easter I thought you would catch last week is just now forming up off the New England coast (a week late.) ready for cold squalls and maybe some sleet..??? Maybe? Batten down the hatches and cover or bring inside your lovely bicycle! There's more weather coming across the country.


  25. Poor Wet Linda! I mentioned I may soon have to keep at least one of my bikes outdoors (electra cruiser) depending on my anticipated move. It is at least 7 - 8 years old, with some wear and tear from riding, but still like new in my heart! So I'm hoping the sunshine will come up, and remedy all that ails poor, squeaky Linda. I look forward to a happy update!

  26. I have nothing to add, other than I love the recent alliteration in the post titles. :)

  27. Velouria,
    Mankind can claim that their machines can withstand the elements but the naked truth is .........not for long.

    It's a crying shame what you're doing to that Gazelle. A crying shame indeed! :^( At least put a cheap tarp over her when she's parked at home.

    Oh my, this is heart breaking to watch........

  28. Thanks for the brake cleaner suggestions!

  29. Here's a thread on Sachs Brake Greasing:

    I would agree with my blogging teammate Joseph E... drum brakes should be greased. The Shimano roller brake grease would be a good place to start. My shimano roller brakes started squealing after a year of all-weather use and I re-greased them (there's a grease port) and now all is well.

  30. Tom said...
    >Here's a thread on Sachs Brake Greasing:

    That refers to the Torpedo brake which
    is a coaster brake for the rear wheel, and
    they do require grease.

    Velouria, does the brake have any
    model numbers or other markings on it.


  31. oh, please do let us know if you fix your brake squeal; that has been the bane of my existence. love my bike, hate the squeal (i'm pretty sure mine wakes people up as it screeches down the hill).

  32. This thread (under drum brakes) says do NOT lubricate. I guess you'll have to find out specifics for your model.

  33. This drum brake is not a Sachs model. Fichtel & Sachs indeed made a similar chromed steel model with a small flange on the left side (always on the left side ...) in the 1930s, (most likely a Sturmey Archer clone), but did not resume production after WW II (as far as I know).
    In 1980 Sachs started the production of a new generation of all-aluminium drum brakes with symmetric flange diameters which is still in production today, with only slight alterations, but this is a different story.

    If I remember correctly, Gazelle used to produce those hubs themselves, so it may be true that you will face certain problems when looking for replacement parts (but maybe somebody from the Netherlands will help you out in that case ;-) ).

  34. Anon 11:20 - The hub is indeed Gazelle-branded, but I doubt that they literally manufactured them, especially in the mid-1990s when this bike was made. I've heard from several sources that these hubs were made by Sachs and it seems plausible. I am trying to examine the hub for any additional markings, but it's hard to see.

  35. Peppy (the use it to scare small children in the meantime cat)May 23, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Who cares? All drum brake hubs squeal in the wet. Some more than others it will stop as soon as it gets dry and you brake some. It's a non-issue.

  36. Peppy - It's a different category of squeal. Why don't you come cycling with me next time I am on the Gazelle and see whether you still think it's a non-issue.

  37. Peppy (the maybe when it stops raining cat)May 23, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    I are indoor cat.

  38. Well, this is more or less indoor, while still allowing you to be on the bike. I am pretty sure it would fit on the rear rack.

  39. Peppy (the my own unicycle please cat)May 23, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    Do you like being on the rear rack?

  40. Once the grips dry out, hit them with leather conditioner, and possibly a lot of neatsfoot oil.

    (At least, that's what I'd do. Just like with a pair of boots, pretty much.)

  41. Update:

    The front brake squeal stopped on its own as soon as the rains stopped. Don't know what was causing it, but I am glad that I did not try to lubricate it. Works as well as before and just as silently.

    The leather grips got "conditioned" by the oils in my hands on the first sunny, humid day I rode the bike.

    Outdoor bike perseveres!

  42. I was just curious to know what type of Sharpie you used on the lugs? I want to do that to my Pashley Princess when I get her in a month. Looks so cool.


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