Updated on March 7, 2022
Adjusting Your Bicycle Brakes: A Quick and Simple Process
Adjusting your bike brakes is necessary for a variety of reasons.
For the purpose of changing out the brake pads/rotors.
In order to prevent them from squeaking or rubbing against each other
For the purpose of cleaning your bike’s brakes and other difficult-to-reach locations
To keep them going.
Bicycle brake adjustment is a skill every cyclist should have, even if it appears daunting due to the number of moving parts.
You’ll learn how to maintain, align, and adjust your bike’s brakes in this article.
Brake cable adjustment instructions
Adjusting cable-based brakes, such v-brakes and mechanical disc brakes, has two basic areas of adjustment. Calibration takes place at two points: the calliper and the barrel adjuster.
It’s the horseshoe-shaped device that sits over your tyre and is connected to the brake pads on v brakes. The calliper is the claw-like mechanism at the disc in the centre of your wheel on mechanical disc brakes. The metal cuff around your brake cable is called a barrel adjuster. It can be found at your brake lever.
There is a good chance that your brake cable needs to be adjusted if you have to pull hard on the brake lever in order to slow down, or if the lever squeezes into the handlebar.
To find out if your brakes are too tight or too loose, use the brake lever.
It is the most obvious sign that something is wrong with your brakes if you notice that the brake lever is either too tight or too loose.
If the brake lever comes into contact with the handlebars, the brake cable is likely too slack to function properly. The wire is too tight if you can’t even squeeze it. Ideally, you should be able to squeeze the brake lever 3-4cm before it gets tough.
Adjust the barrel adjustment to the proper tightness or looseness.
You can use the barrel adjuster to make minor changes after determining whether your brake cable is too tight or too loose. Using a clockwise or counterclockwise rotation, adjust the barrel. As a result, the cable’s tension will either grow or decrease.
Once you’ve loosened or tightened the barrel adjuster, give the brake lever a squeeze again to see if the problem has been fixed.
While out riding, if your brakes aren’t working as they should, all it takes is a quick adjustment of the barrel adjuster. The situation may improve long enough for you to get home and fix it properly even if it doesn’t solve the problem.
The brake calliper bolt must be loosened to allow for proper adjustment.
The cable on the brake calliper may be too tight or loose if the brake lever is still too tight or too loose after the barrel adjuster has been corrected.
The cable from the calliper can be loosen by turning it anticlockwise with an Allen key. Be careful, however, not to completely unbolt it, or you’ll end up having to reassemble the brake. A visual demonstration can be found in the video at 1:25 – 1:33.
Reverse the calliper by pulling or releasing the cord.
As soon as the calliper bolt is sufficiently loosened, the wheel and cable should be free of the calliper. If you want to tighten the brake, you should pull the cable outwards, or if you want to release it, you should let the cable retract inwards.
Remember that with v brakes, you don’t want the pads to touch the rim, but rather sit a few millimetres away from it.
Cables threaded via calliper levers on disc brakes move when brakes are applied. When you tighten the cable, be careful that the lever doesn’t strike the calliper since it’s too far back. The rotor will be impeded and the pads will not be able to reach the rotor if it happens. Watch see an example of this, go to the video below and fast forward to 1:11.
re-tighten the calliper nut.
Reinstall the calliper bolt and give your brakes a squeeze once you’ve found the ideal location where your brake pads rest pleasantly on the rim and the cable is snug.
If the brakes still don’t feel right, it’s a good idea to revisit the barrel adjuster to fine-tune the adjustment.
Adjusting brake pads using a v-drive
When it comes to v brakes, the brake cable must also be adjusted in conjunction with the brake pads. After all, you’ll have to get them replaced or adjusted at some point in the future.
The time may have come for you to replace your brakes if you experience brake pull when riding, hear an annoying scream when applying the brakes, or if they aren’t even on both sides. What you need to do is as follows.
Brake pads should be checked regularly.
One of the most common causes of brake misalignment and poor traction is worn brake pads, so this is an excellent place to start when diagnosing a problem with the brakes.
It’s time to get new brake pads if the old ones have worn past the wear line or are wearing unevenly.
To avoid that annoying honking sound, we recommend using black or natural coloured brake pads, as any artificial colours in the rubber compound can cause it.
Get a feel for where your brakes need to be adjusted by pressing the brake lever.
Pulling the brake lever will result in an even pressure distribution between the brake pads on your tyre rim if your brakes have been properly adjusted.
The brake pads should fit snugly on the rim’s centre, not bulging past the rim’s lip or contacting the tyre. Ideally, you want the rim of your wheel to be in full contact with your brakes.
Brake misalignment can be found by noticing if one side is looser than the other, or if only one side is squeezed at all.
Bolts holding the brake pads in place should be loosened.
Once you’ve found the problem region, use an Allen key to loosen the first brake pad’s bolt. Adjusting one may necessitate adjusting the other, so loosen the other end as well.
It’s critical not to let them loosen too much. Because of this, the pads are going to fall out of the holder, as well as everything else. You only need to loosen the bolt by around 5 millimetres in order to slide the brake pad up and down in the holder. Your brakes should now be properly aligned.
If you require new brake pads, you’ll have to totally remove the old ones before installing the new ones. Keep in mind any washers and bolt positions on the stem so that you can reproduce this when adding new pads.
Put the brake pads back in the proper place.
You may now fine-tune the position of the brakes on your wheel. Push the pads closer to the rim if they were previously too far apart. Try positioning them slightly further from the rim than you did previously.
Also, keep in mind that the pads should be aligned with the arc of the wheel so that they do not scrape against the tyre or overlap on the inner borders of the rim.
A few millimetres out from the rim is the optimal position for your pads The more sensitive your brakes are when you apply the lever, the shorter the space between the brake pads and the rim. Pulling the lever while the pads are in contact with the rim will cause damage.
Retighten the nuts on your brake pads.
Tighten the bolts with the Allen key once you’re satisfied with the pad placement. When re-tightening your brakes, take care not to pull them out of alignment.
Also, make an effort to evenly distribute the force with which you’ve tightened the bolt. Brake pads should be replaced at the same time to provide equal responsiveness.
Disk brake pad adjustment: what you need to know.
It’s no secret that disc brakes use two pads that pressure against a moving component of the wheel when you press the brake lever to reduce your speed. The rotor, the metal disc located in the centre of your wheel when using disc brakes, is what you’re looking at.
When brake pads on discs wear out, the rotors might become out of alignment. Furthermore, worn brake pads can be dangerous and are more difficult to detect than those on v brakes, therefore they should be checked on a regular basis. Here’s how you can do it.
On a flat area, place your bike in an upside-down position.
When adjusting your brake rotor, you’ll need to spin the wheel a bit. Consequently, you’ll want to place the bike upside down on its handlebars and saddle to prepare for this eventuality.
If you don’t have a companion to help you lift the bike, you can also purchase a bike stand.
If you’re going to be handling your own maintenance in the future, a bike stand can be a sensible investment.
Make sure the rotors are aligned.
There is a space between the rotor and two brake pads when you look down at your wheel. It is necessary to adjust the calliper if the rotors are not equally spaced.
Nothing appears to be amiss from this vantage point. However, rotors can become damaged or warped, and only reveal themselves when the wheel is moving, which can be dangerous. Spin the wheel, please.
If the rotor is bent, it will jiggle from side to side while the wheel spins. This usually necessitates the purchase of a new rotor, but a specific tool can be used to bend the rotor back to its original shape.
If the wheel spins without any lateral movement, you’ve successfully corrected the rotor.
Your disc brake bolts should be loosen.
You’ll need to realign the calliper if your rotor appears to be closer to one brake pad than the other. The first step is to unscrew the caliper’s top and bottom nuts.
Make sure you don’t completely loosen them. In order to prevent them from breaking apart, you want to leave just enough slack in their fittings for them to move around.
Take a hold of the handbrake and tighten the bolts.
The calliper is loose, so you can rotate the wheel and then apply the brakes with a firm squeeze.
When the brake calliper clamps down on the rotor, the two brake pads will line up perfectly.
Retighten the bolts while holding the brake in place.
Let go of the brake and see what happens.
This means that when you release your brake pedal, it should rest between two brake pads in the calliper, in the centre. Test it by turning the wheel to make sure there’s no lateral movement and the calliper remains in place, even if you can see it.
If the callipers aren’t exactly evenly spaced, unscrew one bolt at a time and reposition it until it is.
Maintain a safe distance from oncoming traffic while cycling.
You’ll be better able to care for your bike if you know how to properly adjust the brakes. Getting cycling insurance is another method to keep it safe.
Injuries and damage to your bike and other equipment are covered by our specialised cycling insurance, whether you’re on the road or at home. See what we can do for you right now by requesting a free, no-obligation quote online.
Hey, all I am Joe Marino I love to ride bikes and teach others how to ride them. Most of my articles are about which bike is best for others. I am passionate about cycling and it shows, whether I am writing about a $25 bicycle from any random website or a $5000 Santa Cruz.
I have always been the guy who gets calls from friends while at work asking which bike they should buy. I have written about the best city bike for commuting, the best folding bike for use on public transit, and even what to keep in mind when shopping for kids’ bikes.
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