How to Adjust Bike Brakes

How to Adjust Bike Brakes
Adjusting the brakes on your bike will help it continue to operate at peak performance. Learning how to adjust the brakes yourself will save you time and money, and enhance your riding experience. Road bikes commonly use side pull brakes, which provide strong contact between the pad and rim, enhancing the performance of the brake. Although side pull brakes perform well, they can be challenging to adjust if you have never worked with the brakes.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Multi-size allen wrench tool
  • Bike stand
Step 1
Place your bike frame in the bike stand so the wheels are off the ground and can freely spin without contacting the ground. Secure the bike in the work stand.
Step 2
Inspect the position of your brake pads. Adjust the pads by loosening the bolt on the outside of the pad enough to move the pad, without completely removing the pad from brake caliper. Rotate the brake pad to position the rubber parallel to the rim while centering the pad against the bend of the rim.
Step 3
Spin your wheel slowly while watching the each side of the rim and the adjusted brake pads. The pads should never have more than 1/8 inch between them and the rim. Pads spaced any further require an adjustment of the caliper.
Step 4
Using your allen wrench, loosen the nut on the side of the brake caliper. While loosening the nut, use your free hand and pinch the caliper until the pads contact the rim. Use your pliers to pull the excess cable through the caliper. Ease the pads off the rim by loosening your grip until you have the desired spacing. Tighten the bolt. Slowly spin the wheel, peering at the rim and pad. If the spacing is not proper, loosen the bolt and repeat the process.
Step 5
Remove the bike from the stand. Test the brake before mounting the bike. Determine if the brake functions properly by watching the brake action as you work the brake lever. Take the bike for a test ride.

Tips & Warnings

Keep your brake cables lubricated--it keeps the pull smooth and maintains the power
Always test your brakes before riding the bike
Double check all bolts used to tighten brake parts

Article Written By Jeremy Slaughter

Jeremy Slaughter is a tax, accounting and small business expert. After completing his master's degree in accounting at Keller Graduate School of Management, Slaughter co-founded an accounting and tax firm where writing plays a daily role.

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