Windbag Miles is a blog about points, miles, credit cards, travel, and general windbaggery.

[Off Topic] How American Express and Chase helped me fix my mountain bike.

On the trail halfway through a mountain bike ride is an odd place to be reminded how glad I am that I got into credit card churning, but that's where I was today when I said to myself, "GODDAMN I'm glad I got into credit card churning." Here's what happened: I was riding downhill, and my front brake started making a lot of noise. That in itself isn't too unusual, since the braking surface gets pretty hot and can cause a squealing noise when the pads clamp down, but toward the end of the steep section, I could also feel a lot of feedback coming from the front wheel, like the brake wasn't disengaging. When I got a chance to hop off and inspect further, I realized that the brake was completely clamped down and wasn't going to release unless I took it apart... which is not something I was very excited to do on the trail. One quick fix is to take the brake pads out and manually push the brake pistons back into the caliper, but in a situation where the pistons "want" to be in the out (clamped down) position, they'll just return there over time. The only other thing that was going to work at this point would be to reset the pressure in the caliper by pushing the pistons back in manually, replacing the pads, and stuffing something between the pads that's thicker than the brake rotor. That way, the pistons would hopefully default to the new thickness in between the pads, meaning that when I put the wheel back in, the pistons would be retracted enough to leave a gap on either side of the rotor.

One problem... In my workshop I would just use some feeler gauges, but I don't bring any feeler gauges with me when I ride. You know what I do bring with me, though? My Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. These are perfect, since they're stiffer than normal cards, which means they won't deflect when the brakes are pushing against them. I basically made a sandwich with the two metal card acting as bread, and then I stuffed random other cards in between to create outward pressure against the brake pads while I squeezed the lever a bunch of times. Somewhat surprisingly, it actually worked, and I rode the rest of the way to my car with nary a peep from the brakes after that point.


So, while the Amex Platinum card constantly falls out of my wallet (and has stretched out the pocket where I normally put it, making it so any other card I put in there would also fall out), every once in a great while I'm reminded of how handy it is to have a thin piece of metal at my disposal. I've heard of people using these cards as ice scrapers before, but I'm pretty stoked I was able to use them to fix my bike.

Anyone else have any crazy uses for their metal cards, or do you refuse to carry them and insist on plastic cards instead?

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