A Story of Squeaky Brakes

…or “How I met Michael Dukakis”

Do you ever get jealous of car horns? Do you ever just want to make some loud noise that says “Watch out!” or “Get out of my way” or “You fucker, stop texting and look before you cross the street!” I do.

But I try to make do with a chirpy little bell. I’m not a yeller. I won’t ever say “On your left!” or “$@#% you $##%ing @$$hole!” I’m the quiet doe-eyed type that can only muster a very cross look while ringing my sprightly bell “ding ding ding ding ding!” I dream of someday being able to offer something more emphatic to the noise of the streets.

Well that dream was answered in the form of frikkin’ annoying squeaky front brakes. At first I was embarrassed because I couldn’t get to fixing them right away. But that was until I biked around one of the many local universities that, while fostering knowledge, seems to also cultivate stupid pedestrians in large groups.

They’ll stand on the curb waiting for all the cars to pass and step out directly in front of a bike flying along at pretty much the same speed of the cars.  Well bikes exist as much as cars and are also subject to the laws of physics. This is not to say I don’t stop for pedestrians, I do whenever possible. Meaning, when my “vehicle” can safely come to a stop. But I discovered that in tricky surprise pedestrian moments squeaky brakes can be an asset. When I saw someone stepping directly in front of me at the last minute:



I laid on that front brake…



And they jumped back in realization that I was braking hard and hoping to avoid hitting them.

However, I also learned a squeaky brake squeals at every stop and will scare people unintentionally. Such as when you’re stopping at a red light just as a gray haired pedestrian is crossing. SQUEEEEEAAAAAAK! And as he leaps back and turns to see what’s about to hit him, you see it is Michael Dukakis looking at you with terror in his eyes.

However, not being trapped in a car-shaped-box, you can laugh and say “Uh, sorry, Governor, didn’t mean to startle you.“ and when he still looks nervous as he crosses the street you can shout “Hey, I love Greek food!” which undoubtedly clears up any remaining tension of the situation.

After that I opted to do a little brake maintenance to save everyone’s ears some pain.

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  • jthandle July 8, 2011   Reply →

    Love your posts. You rock.

  • Jen July 9, 2011   Reply →

    My brakes start to squeak when I bike in the rain, and I love the car horn effect!! Particularly because the loud, alarming noise is “not my fault.”

    • Bikeyface July 9, 2011  

      Yes, the rain! It’s funny how the sound is so disproportionate to the braking action. It sounds like I’m screeching to a sudden halt when really I’m calmly coming to a contained stop.

      p.s. took a peek at your blog, it made me hungry. quinoa is awesome!

  • Matt July 10, 2011   Reply →

    Get yourself an AirZound. Perfect for clueless pedestrians and especially oblivious joggers with headphones, works pretty well for cars too

    • Bikeyface July 11, 2011  

      Haha, it would give them a surprise no doubt. I’ve considered horns however there’s enough road rage out there so I don’t want to add to it if at all possible. Bells are probably fine for pedestrians in most cases (except headphones.)

  • yikesbikes July 13, 2011   Reply →

    Enjoyed catching up on your posts. Keep it up!

  • cycler July 19, 2011   Reply →

    Fantastic illustrations.
    And yes, I’ve purposely put off brake fixing just to use the sound to alert pedestrians :)

  • John July 19, 2011   Reply →

    Wow, I now have company in almost hitting Michael Dukakis, though I was driving and he was jaywalking across the Fenway. This was back before the REI/Best Buy, etc when there was an old Sears Warehouse there. I came around the curve from the Riverway and there he was! I had no anti-locks so there was a loud tire screech, I recognized who it was while I was skidding and I remember thinking “I’m in Trouble”, but the car stopped with a few feet to spare. He did a little “mea culpa” wave and we both went on. I remember thinking that was pretty graceful of him because even though he was the one jaywalking, in a frightening situation, it’s easy to release the tension with anger.

    I loved your story about the squeaky brakes and I also like to have that sound as a warning. I have delayed adjusting my brakes so I could purposely keep the noise!

    • Bikeyface July 19, 2011  

      Have you ever almost hit Robert Reich? Then it would be 2 for 2. That was my other politics-traffic run in. I can’t count George Stephanopoulos because that was an ordinary case of stalking.

  • rollinger June 11, 2013   Reply →

    Did you know this old fashioned in german “Sturmklingel”? It works like that dynamo..only with sound like a street train. Works fine. It is not allowed here but who cares. In this days it is not easy to buy in this way.


  • Teri April 22, 2014   Reply →

    I often think the same thing of my click-y freewheel while coasting. It’s really a pleasant sort of tick-tick-tick. When I am walking my bike along I usually wish it was quieter, but when I am approaching a pedestrian it has the benefit of alerting them to my presence in a manner that is not frightening!

    I’m really enjoying looking back through your first posts!

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