How to adjust bike brakes?

You are wondering how to adjust bike brakes ? If you perform routine adjustments to your bike’s brakes, they will continue to perform better. It will also ensure your safety because you have to hit them in an emergency to avoid an accident.

To keep your bike’s braking system highly responsive, you need to take care of the brake cables and pads. When these two components wear out, your braking system will fail, and it might be a safety hazard for you.

Brakes pads and cables either too high or too low on your wheel rim can also make the braking system work improperly. Therefore, you need to keep a check on these issues to avoid any possible road accidents.

Don’t know how to adjust bike brakes? Don’t worry!

We will provide you with brief details to make sure that you can adjust your braking system safely and efficiently

So let’s begin with the different types of brakes.

Types of bike brakes

All bike brakes have a similar purpose, and that is to stop the wheel from spinning. Still, there are different types of bike brakes that you can go for. And they all are designed for different conditions and bikes.

For example, some of them are designed to slow the wheels down, while others are designed to stop them altogether. Some of them are very light, while others are extremely powerful.

Let’s go through each type briefly below.

Caliper brake

The caliper brakes feature two arms. One of them is attached to the brake cable while the other arm is attached to the cable sleeve. This brake is designed to clamp the rim right between the two arms that have brake shoes.

It is one of the most commonly used brake types for a range of different bikes. This brake type tends to slow your bike down and eventually stop. If you are looking for a quick stopping feature, this brake shouldn’t be your choice.

how to adjust bike brake

Band brake

This type of braking system uses the friction between a rotating drum and the tethering band on your bike wheel.

Again this is a type of braking system that is designed to slow your hybrid bike down and, of course, eventually stopping it. Therefore, this is also not a right choice for you to consider if you are looking for a quick emergency stop.

Drum/hub brake

Drum or hub brakes were very popular in the past. But with the introduction of highly reliable and affordable disc brakes, their popularity deteriorated with time. Drum or hub brakes tend to wear out pretty quickly and feature two drums on the arms of a gripping system that halts the wheel from spinning.

This braking system was better in stopping the wheel from spinning than caliper and band brakes. But the disc braking system is far better in every aspect. And we will talk about it a bit!

Coaster brake

A coaster brake is a rear hub specially designed for bikes, and it performs two different functions. This brake allows your bike to roll without your pedals turning. You can also use it as your bike’s braking system by turning your pedals backward. It means that when you’re rolling on your bike, you are turning your pedals forward.

To stop the bike, you can immediately start turning your pedals backward and the wheels will stop rolling forwards. It means that you can go backward on your bike with this braking system.

Cantilever brake

Cantilever brakes are more commonly known as V-brakes now. It is a hub brake featuring both the brake arms with a brake pad along with a cable attachment.

The cable comes from above the tire, and the pivot is below the brake shoe. This setup is very common because it has a significant stopping power to halt a speedily spinning wheel.

Roller brake

The roller brakes can apply force right from the brake lever and on to the central rim of your wheel. It means that the rime will be pushing against the show segment. This braking system further pushes this segment into the rim so that it can get in contact with the rotating rim. This cable operated drum braking system was introduced by Shimano for the splined rear and front hubs.

The advantage of these brakes is that you can remove it from the braking system with ease. It is a feature that was not there in a traditional drum braking system.

adjust bike disc brake tektro

Disc brake

It is the most popular braking system type that is used these days for different vehicles, let alone bikes. Disc brakes gained popularity because they are stronger and are more reliable.

This braking system is a lot more durable. Besides, this braking system is excellent for all-terrains. They don’t overheat, and they also don’t wear out your tires.

Things to check before you start adjust bicycle brakes

In this section, we will discuss all those important things that you need to keep in mind before you start thinking about how to adjust bike brakes.

Test your brakes

The first thing up in the process of how to fix bicycle brakes is testing your brakes. You don’t want to start opening up everything hastily. First of all you need to check the current working condition of the brakes and how much adjustment they need.

Just squeeze the brake level either front or rear and move the bike in the same direction. For instance, if you are checking the front brake, move the bike forward.

Your rear wheel should lift, but the brake lever shouldn’t touch your handlebars. If the brakes are not working, there must be some problem with your brake cable.

Visual checks

Check whether the braking system is in place correctly or not. Those V-brakes come with a quick-release mechanism, and you remove the wheel easily and refit it with the same ease. The J-shaped noodle tube is easy to disengage from its cradle.

From here, you won’t work. The side pull brakes come with a quick-release lever right on the clipper that can allow you to open it wider. Close the lever properly; otherwise, the pads will be too far off from your wheel’s rim.

The braking systems that allow you to perform visuals checks are discussed here. Other braking systems require a more thorough investigation. Make sure the brake pads have enough thickness in their brake surface.

If you experience grinding when you press your brakes, there is no padding-left. The noise is coming from the metal that comes in contact with metal without any braking pads. 

adjust bike brake pads

Adjusting Your Brake Pads

You need to install a new pair of brake pads if the existing brake pads are worn out. But if your brake pads are intact and the system is still not working, then you need to make some adjustments. When you have side pull or V brakes, you need to bring the pads in line with the rim’s surface.

In case if the brake pads are set too low, they will develop a lip, and it will hold the pad against the wheel rim. If you set it too high, the pads will hit the tire, and they will start rubbing a hole in it. It means that the tires of your hybrid bike will wear out pretty quickly.

If you are looking to make adjustments to the position of these brake pads, undo the bolt on the brake pad. And while being careful, tighten the brake manually as you hold it against your wheel’s rim.

In case you’re using disc brakes, you need to fix the pad and the piston. It won’t move when you squeeze the lever. However, you get it right by moving it in or out according to the right distance from its rotor.

You need to reach it through the spokes with the help of an Allen wrench or a Torx key. Turn it counterclockwise for moving the pad away from its rotor. Turning it clockwise will move it close to the rotor.

You can determine the moving piston’s position only with the help of cable tension. However, in some cases using a ratchet dial, you can move it in/out independently.

Bicycle brake cable adjustment

First of all, you need to check whether your bike features a cable operated braking system or not. If there isn’t any cable involved, you don’t need to go through this process at all. Adjusting the brake pads will do the job for you.

All braking systems with cables have a barrel adjuster as well. It is a hollow knurled bolt in which the cable is present, and it is where the cable goes out from the level and enters into the caliper. Some bikes come with inline adjusters that are along the cable outer.

Increasing cable tension

For increasing the cable tension, you need to turn the barrel adjuster counterclockwise. Initially, go with a single full turn. After that, continue with half turns while periodically testing the brakes!

If there is a threaded lockring present in your barrel adjuster or a lock nut, unscrew it before you start turning your barrel adjuster. When you have made adjustments to the cable tension, then you will need to screw it back in to keep the barrel adjuster in its new place firmly.

Reclamping cable

Have you tried the cable tension but the issue is still intact? You need to reclamp the cable. You should begin by winding the barrel adjuster by screwing it in. Now unscrew the bolt that is anchoring the cable within the braking system.

You need to use one hand for squeezing the braking system and keeping it in place. If you have V-brakes or side pulls, then it won’t be an issue at all. Just hold the blocks against the wheel rim.

In a disc brake system, you need to pull the caliper’s arm to keep the brake engaged. But you don’t need to keep your brake jammed in. It just needs to be in touch with the rim surface. Don’t let it go until you are done with reclamping.

Using your other hand, pull out more cable from the clamp until it is just taut. Not let the cable go and tighten the clamp. No, leave the braking system as well. As you were not pulling the cable when you are reclamping it, enough slack should be there that the brake pads are not rubbing the wheel rims or the rotor. Hold it tight and pull the cable through to the previous clamping position.

Centering brake

There are some instances where only one of the brake pads is touching the rim. And here you will need to center your braking system. With side pull brakes, there will always be an adjuster screw right on top of its caliper on one side of the brake. You need to screw it in/out carefully. You will be able to see the brake arms moving.

If your bike doesn’t have this feature, then slack the bolt for fixing and hold the brake to its fork. Now move your brake and re-tighten that bolt. V-brakes also come with a small screw right at the bottom of both brake arms. These allow you to fix the spring tension by screwing in.

You can move the brake pad close to the rim and decrease the spring tensions by simply unscrewing. Brake pad positions are determined by the spring tension on each side. Make sure to tighten one side and unscrew the other and only go for half turns each time. 

You also need to undo the disc brakes using a couple of Allen bolts. But be sure to undo them enough so that the braking system becomes moveable from one side to another by hand. Squeeze the level by pressing the brake in full. Now by using the Allen key, tighten the bolts up.

centering bicycle brake

Frequently Asked Questions on How to adjust bike brakes

How to adjust bike disc brakes?

First of all, assess your disc brake system and determine the disc brake style. If cables are going through, then it’s a mechanical system, and if there are no cables, then it is a hydraulic system. Now before adjusting the brakes, you need to tighten the cables on your wheels.

And don’t touch the rotor’s edge because it is sharp. Loosen the bolts on the sides of the calipers and squeeze the brake lever. Now keep your ever pressed and tighten the bolts and then release the lever. Now spin the wheel to check and find out how braking feels.

How to adjust bike brakes rubbing?

Before doing anything, squeeze your brake lever and then lift each of your wheels and give it a spin. Now, look between the rim and the pads. If the road is closer to the rim, the braking system needs to be centered.

You can pull a bit on the offending brake pad for realignment or choose the bolt that links the frame with the caliper. Re-tighten one bolt while loosening the other one. You will see the arms move as you are screwing and unscrewing.

How to adjust front bike brakes?

Begin by squeezing the lever for your front brake. Now try to move your bike forward. Your rear wheel must lift, but your brake lever should not be in touch with your handlebar. If the brake is not working, then there must be slack within the cable. You need to adjust the brakes by working on the brake pads first.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, you need to make adjustments to the brake cable. You can either reclamp it or adjust its tension. In the end, if it is necessary, you need to center the brake if one pad is rubbing the rim.

How to adjust rear bike brakes?

Start by squeezing the lever for your rear brake. Again, try to move your bike forward. Now your rear wheel must skid, and your brake lever shouldn’t touch the handlebar. If the brake is not working, you need to make some adjustments.

Again work with the brake pads first. Otherwise, start working on the cable, and again you will either need to reclamp it or adjust the tension. If one of the pads is touching the rim, you need to center the braking system.

How to adjust Schwinn bike brakes?

Schwinn bikes feature V-Brakes. Therefore, you need to follow all the instructions above to make adjustments to a v-brake system. Start working with the brake pads first and then go for the brake cable. In the end, if it is required, do the recentering of the entire mechanism.

How to adjust bike brakes for small hands?

Start by undoing the brake cable with the help of an Allen key. Now tighten the screw there on the brake lever for presetting the position closer to the handlebar.

Now extend and re-tighten the brake cables and make sure that the brake remains fully engaged when you pull it.

Final Word on How to adjust bike brakes

How to adjust bike brakes is a simple mechanism. But it does involve some technicalities if you want to do it right. Different brake systems work differently. You need to identify where all the adjustments need to take place. In the beginning, you will have to identify different bolts and cables and their positions.

But once you have understood the entire mechanism and found out which components go where, it will become a piece of cake. If you know how to adjust bike brakes, you will remain safe from any incidents on the road because you will be in better control of your bike.

We hope that you have found this guide very informative and handy. If you think we have missed out on something, leave your comments and suggestions below!

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