How to adjust Bike brake pads

Brake PadsAdjusting your brakes can be problematic and difficult for the new cyclist or novice. Whether it is on a basic commuter bicycle, a mountain bike or a modern road bicycle, they are all different.

Below we are going to ‘break’ down the different types of brakes you may have and list some steps that may help you solve any issues you may be experiencing.

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To begin, I would advise you to take a few simple steps before adjusting your brakes; these few steps will help improve the efficiency of the bike you’re riding and may save you a lot of time.

The first is to check your wheels are sitting correctly in the dropouts. To do this, loosen the quick release on the hub and move the wheel from side to side, do this until you are sure the wheels are aligned straight.

Next, have a look at what type of brake pad set up you have on your bicycle. Also, note that different brands and models may vary in appearance, but generally all work the same.

Tools you need

You do not need a lot of tools to adjust your brakes, so, it should be quite achievable for new or novice riders. A set of Allen keys, pliers, an adjustable wrench and/or a ring spanner and some anti-cease grease to put on threaded areas will be efficient to get the job done.

Calliper Brakes

Calliper brakes are found mainly on road bicycles, but can also be found on mountain bikes. On road bikes, you are only able to micro adjust on the barrel adjuster, which is on the caliper. On mountain bikes you have the ability to adjust to two different increments; one on the caliper and one on the brake lever. This gives you the ability to adjust more readily whilst on the go.

Follow these steps below to adjust your Calliper brake pads:

Centre your brakes. Ensure the distance between each side is equal from the rim. You can often tell this by eye- squeeze the brakes and make note of whether the brake pads meet the rim at the same time. If one of the pads pushes the rim to the other pad, then your brakes are not cantered. To adjust this, loosen the bolt at the back, realign the brake for equal distance and tighten the bolt to secure.

Next, lets check the distance of the pads is equal from the rim. This will come down to personal preference; there are no set measurements for this position. To adjust, hold the brake Calliper in one of your hands, again, loosen the bolt, release or hold the cable and squeeze the brake callipers slightly. Secure the adjustment by securing the bolt tightly. Then test how the brakes feel by squeezing the lever, do this repeatedly until you are happy with the leverage.

The positioning of the lever is to allow for clearance of the tyre to ensure ease of removal of the wheel. At this stage, ensure the lever point is in the downward facing position.

At this stage you have adjusted the brake caliper position, cable tension and aligned the brake pads. The positioning should be centred on the braking surface and should never make contact on the sidewall of the tyre. Using your eye, spin the wheel with your hand or the pedal and check the alignment all the way around. Adjust if necessary.

Once the pad position and cable tension are adjusted, you can begin to perfect the tuning of the barrel adjuster. To start, turn the barrel clockwise and move the pads away from the rim and alternate to move closer in a counter-clockwise direction. You can use this process for cable stretch maintenance, relieving you of having to reset the cable tension. This also allows for slight adjustment when in the saddle.

Disc Brakes

Understandably, disc brakes can be a little more intricate than basic brakes such as V-brakes or cables. On this occasion, we will look at the common problems that can occur so you can maintain them yourself. This can reduce problems in the future, give your breaks longevity and prevent mechanical malfunctions whilst your riding.

Disc brakes on a road bicycle are cable actuated, meaning they still use a cable but have better modulation and stopping power. They also have a barrel adjuster on the Calliper, but not on the lever. These can also come in a hydraulic version but are much more difficult to adjust. For mountain bikes, cable actuated disc brakes both on the Calliper and on the lever, also being available in a hydraulic version.

One of the most common problems with such brakes is rubbing; if your disc brake is rubbing, you can probably hear it. It is important to fix this problem as soon as it occurs to prevent it from worsening and potentially damaging your wheels. Its most common causes are:

– Incorrectly aligned brake Calliper
– Incorrect wheel positioning.

Your first step is to release the quick-release skewer, check with you eye if the wheel is sitting straight in the dropouts, adjust if necessary and secure the position by replacing the quick-release skewer. If this does not fix the problem, the brake itself may be the issue. There are several ways disc brake Callipers’ are attached- to the fork or post mount on the frame, or more commonly, they are secured onto a disc brake adaptor.

See the following steps:

Loosen the bolts on the brake callipers, but not all the way. You only need a little side to side movement when wriggling the caliper.

Concurrently squeeze the alternate brake lever with firm pressure, then retighten the bolts firmly to secure. Now when you spin the wheel, there should be no contact and your wheel should have free movement. If you have not succeeded, simply repeat the steps; it may take a couple of attempts. It may show there is a gap on either side of the rotor. Loosen the bolts again and, with your eye, realign the Calliper using your hands. Concurrently hold it firmly in the desired position, secure the bolts using the other hand.

V – Brakes

The other most common braking system is the V-Brake. These are not applicable for the road bicycle. On mountain bikes you can adjust them similar to a road bike Calliper brake, the difference being in the cable configuration. One cable is shaped like a V and the other is a U, however, the adjustment essentially follows the same method.

See the following steps –

Again check the wheel is aligned in the centre and is spinning on a true line. Next you can adjust the cable tension by holding both the arms of the brakes in one hand and releasing the brake cable.

Release your grip slowly on the brake arms. When the brake pads are sitting at an equivalent distance from the rim, you have achieved the ultimate result. It is possible to assist the cable by hand through the clamping point.

Securely tighten the bolt with the brake cable attached. Test the lever by squeezing to ensure you have the desired brake lever travel. If not, repeat the steps.

Once the cable tension is set, adjust the brake pad placement. Again, squeeze the V-brake arms hard onto the rim with one hand to simulate braking, or, you can squeeze the brake lever- this will assist the positioning on the rim. Using your free hand, align the pads to ensure there is contact on the centre of the braking track on the rim. If you are satisfied there is no rubbing and that the level is correct, secure the bolt.

Repeat the above steps for the other pad, ensuring they are aligned.

Sometimes you may encounter rubbing on one side, whilst the other is set perfectly. What to do? There are screws on each side of the brake to allow for play. On the back of each brake arm is a metal spring, the screw will allow adjustment of the tension of these metal springs. If you have right side brake pad problems, such as rubbing, you can increase the tension on the right spring by making it tighter, in turn forcing the arm out.

Use these screws to adjust the arms depending which side you are having problems and repeat until you are satisfied with the positioning and do not have any rubbing. Check by squeezing and repeating the steps in order to perfect.