Bike Brakes Maintenance

Bike Brakes Maintenance
Maintaining your bike brakes is not only necessary, but also sensible. Well-maintained brakes provide optimum stopping power, which can mean the difference between staying safe and entering the jaws of harm's way. Through general use and the debilitating effects of dirt and grime, brakes become less effective over time, if not properly maintained. General brake maintenance demands little time and requires no special tools.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • 5 mm Allen wrench
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Rag
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Adjustable wrench (as needed)
  • 2mm Allen wrench (as needed)
Step 1
Use a 5mm Allen wrench to loosen the brake cable anchor bolt. This will relieve tension on the brake, allowing for easier access to the brakes' inner parts. The anchor bolt is located where the brake cable attaches to the body of the brake.
Step 2
Remove the brake pads and clean them by using a rag moistened with rubbing alcohol. Some brakes will have a small retaining screw on the brake shoe; removing this Allen screw will allow you to slide the pads from the brake shoe. Other brakes may require you to remove the entire shoe; remove the Allen bolt at the back of the shoe.
Step 3
Reinsert the brake pad inside the brake shoe and align each of the shoes. When braking, the pads should strike the braking surface of the rim evenly. To make an adjustment, simply align the shoe so that it is even with the braking surface of the rim, and tighten the Allen bolt at the back of the shoe.
Step 4
Squeeze the brakes together so that the pads strike the rim, pull the end of the brake cable taut with a pair of needle nose pliers, and re-tighten the brake cable anchor bolt over the cable. This is a three-hand job, so enlist a friend. If no one is available, improvise a strap to tie around the brake and to hold the pads flush against the rim while you're tightening the cable.
Step 5
Customize brake cable tension by turning the adjuster barrel on the cable in toward the brake. This will reduce tension upon the cable, causing the pads to back away from the rim. According to, clearance between the pads and the rim should be 3 to 4 mm.
Step 6
Center the brake if necessary. The brake isn't centered when one pad is striking the rim before the second pad. The brake may contain a small centering screw on the top of the body of the brake; turn this screw with a 2mm Allen wrench to move the brake left or right. If there is no centering screw, use an adjustable wrench to turn the brake pivot bolt. This pivot bolt is located immediately between the brake and the frame of the bicycle.

Tips & Warnings

Before beginning any work on your brakes, check the condition of the cable. Damaged cables and cables that are over a year old should be replaced immediately. New cables will hold adjustments better.

Article Written By Matthew Ferguson

Matthew Ferguson is a writer living in Savannah, Ga. He has been writing for over 10 years and his work has appeared on various online publications. A collection of his short stories was published in spring 2010. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.