How to Convert Rear Disc Brakes on a Mountain Bike

How to Convert Rear Disc Brakes on a Mountain Bike
Disc brakes offer several advantages over rim brakes. They're more reliable in wet weather and over muddy terrain. You can still use your brakes to get you off the trail even if a crash leaves you with a wobbly wheel. You don't have to apply more pressure to your brake levers during a long descent. These advantages make it worth the investment for many cyclists to convert their rim brakes to disc brakes.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Disc brake
  • Mountain brake cable
  • Cable housing
  • Cable cutters
  • Set of hex wrenches
  • Rear disc break wheel
  • Rotor
Step 1
Remove your rim brakes and brake cable. Use cable cutters to take the cap off your old cable. This will allow it to run through the cable housing as you remove it. You can throw this old cable away, as it will be too short to use for your new disc brakes. You should be able to remove your rim brakes with a hex wrench.
Step 2
Install your new brake to the disc brake tabs. Use a hex wrench to bolt down your brakes. Don't tighten them too much, as you'll want them loose when it's time to center your brakes. If you get confused orienting your brake, remember the opening for the rotor needs to face the rear of your bike.
Step 3
Replace your old cable. Because your disc brake sits further down your bike's frame, you'll need a new cable. Run the cable through your brake levers and your old housing. You'll need new housing where the cable enters the brakes. Run the cable through the bolt that holds it in place and screw it down lightly. You'll come back and adjust the tension in the cable when it's time to center your brakes.
Step 4
Replace your rear wheel and put it back in the rear drop-outs. Most wheels that come stock on a bike with rim brakes do not have a place to install a rotor. To avoid compatibility issues, it's easiest to buy a new wheel that's rotor-ready. You'll buy the rotor separately, which you'll install using a star wrench. After you install the rotor, put your wheel back in the drop-outs. Make sure it's centered or you'll center your brakepads around an off-centered wheel.
Step 5
Center your brakes so the rotor doesn't hit the brake pads and there's an equal amount of space between the rotor and each pad. If the rotor rubs constantly, you'll wear your pads down too quickly. If the pads are spaced unevenly, you won't brake as smoothly and will wear your pads out unevenly.

Tips & Warnings

If your frame was not built with disc brake tabs, you will not be able to convert your rear rim brake to a disc brake.

Article Written By Kathrine Cole

Kathrine Cole is a professional outdoor educator. She teaches rock climbing, backpacking, cycling, and bike maintenance classes. She is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, a Wilderness First Responder, and a Leave No Trace Trainer.

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