Help for the clueless?
Avenger's front brake squeaks, where by "squeaks" I mean "emits an ear-piercing screeching noise that can be heard up and down the block and causes all the neighborhood dogs to start barking." It's done this ever since, I don't really remember, last summer maybe. I noticed that it was mostly only a problem when it was wet, but these days it's always wet, so the brake always squeaks.
I haven't considered it much of a problem because I've been thinking that if I need to stop so quickly that I'm hitting the front brake hard enough to cause it make a really annoying noise, then that's a good thing, right? There's always some delay between hitting the brakes and emitting my own annoying high-pitched squeak, so thank goodness my bike is doing it for me automatically! However, on group rides I find myself apologizing for my squeaky brake and then trying very hard not to use the front one at all. Which is madness, of course. Or is it not supposed to be madness? Am I in fact riding recklessly if I don't trust my bike to stop completely with only the rear brake?
So anyway, I keep checking and checking the brakes, which is what they tell you to do before each ride, but for some reason they never tell you what it is that you're supposed to be checking for. Are you checking to make sure they haven't magically disappeared when you weren't looking? Seriously, if the brakes aren't too loose and aren't rubbing, then what else is there that could be wrong? Which tiny screw corresponds to which seemingly alarming problem? I was instructed once to check the brake pads to make sure they're clean, so when they look really icky I wipe them off with a paper towel (or a thumb, in a pinch). But it doesn't seem to stop the squeaking. That can't be normal, or people wouldn't look at me like "Gosh, what's wrong with your brakes?" on group rides.
Maybe I should just take it back to the shop. (That would be free, right? With the winter tune-up? Or would it be like a preexisting medical condition?) The chain has also been slipping lately, even though--I think, I'm sure--I've been pretty good about keeping it lubricated. Yeah, probably time to go back to the shop. I'm pretty helpless when it comes to anything beyond adjusting the rearview mirror, and sometimes I can't even get that right. I'm terrible, aren't I.
And as long as I'm thinking about chains doing funny things, I'm pretty sure Scooty-Puff's front gear is misaligned or something. The guy who sold it to me insisted that everything was fine, but I think he might have been, well, I don't want to badmouth a community business if I don't have something in particular against them. They provide fast, cheap, adequate service right behind my office and sold me a fine bike, and as far as I'm concerned that's all that matters right now. Anyway, if there's some perfectly normal reason why a folding bike chain should make a constant noticeable grinding noise even when freshly lubricated, please let me know so I can stop worrying about it.