How to adjust your bike’s brakes

autorRotor Bike Components
fecha29th May 2019

When you go out on the road with your bicycle, it is essential that everything works to perfection. In order to avoid accidents and improve safety, it is necessary to adjust the brakes of your bike.
One of the worst, and most dangerous situations, to which you can expose yourself on the road is to brake failure, either because they are in bad condition or because they’re badly adjusted.
This becomes a danger to you and others. Therefore, it’s important that you don’t take any risks and find out for yourself how to keep your bike’s brakes in perfect condition to avoid major problems.

There are some signs that your bike’s brakes aren’t working correctly

Adjust bike's brakes
For example, having the brake pads too close to the rim. Or if the brake levers touch the handlebar grips, damage or the brake arms do not move equally. Whatever sign you get that something is wrong, you should adjust your bike’s brakes as soon as possible.

But before you adjust the brakes on your bike you have to identify what type of brake you have, as there may also be some differences between models and brands, although it goes without saying that the fundamental parts are always the same.

It must be considered that the most important rule at the time to adjust the brakes, no matter what type of brake you have, is to make sure that the wheels are correctly fitted in the rear pads.

Let us explain how to adjust the brakes of your bike depending on the type you have

  1. Center the brakes: Verify that the brake pads are at the same height as the rim.
  2. Check the distance the brake pads are from the rim.
  3. When adjusting your brakes, make sure that the tip of the lever is facing downwards.
  4. Align the brake pads: They should be set so that they are in the right position centered in the braking space.
  5. Turn the adjuster clockwise to move the brake pads out of the rim or counterclockwise to move them closer.

What to avoid

To avoid danger and make sure you don’t have any problems after adjusting your caliper brakes make sure you don’t make any of these common mistakes:

  • Adjust the lever facing up.
  • Sand the surface of the tire.
  • Leave the oil on the tires.

Adjusting hydraulic brakes

Hydraulic brakes also use brake levers to propel fluid from a hydraulic system through a hose to move the pistons of a caliper, forcing the piston to move and the brake pads to push into the breaking space.

Scratching discs or insufficient braking force are clear signs that the hydraulic brakes on your bike need to be adjusted:

Caliper centering:

  1. Use an Allen key to loosen the two screws that hold the frame to the caliper.
  2. Actuate the corresponding brake lever with energy, without releasing it, Tighten the two screws you loosened without much force.
  3. Release the brake lever and check by turning the wheel in the air if it continues.

Brake pad replacement and piston cleaning:

  1. Remove the wheel corresponding to the brake caliper.
  2. Remove the brake pads.
  3. Observe the pistons if they are dirty, very likely, and with oil of quality, you clean them.
  4. Replace the pistons.
  5. Reassemble the pads.
  6. Put on the safety pin and we engage the wheel again.

Cleaning the brakes:

  1. Place the brake lever horizontally to the ground.
  2. Remove the oil tank cover.
  3. Attach a bleeding tube to the bleeding nozzle.

What to avoid

To avoid danger and make sure you don’t have any problems after adjusting your hydraulic brakes, there are things you shouldn’t do.

Some of these mistakes, commonly are:

  • Do not seal the bleeding mouthpiece.
  • Make sure the wheel is not too tight.
  • Piston breakage.
  • Poor disc lubrication.

Adjust brake drum

Adjust brake drumDrum brakes are a type of Hammer Brake, which exert the force of the brake directly on the wheel hub. The use of drum brakes is not as common, especially because they are heavy compared to other types. Its operation resides in a pair of shoes contained in a cylinder or drum. If you have cracked drums, thermal marks, or excessive drum wear are clear indications that it is more than necessary to adjust the drum brakes on your bike.

Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Loosen the wheel nuts a little.
  2. Remove the wheel.
  3. With the help of the screwdrivers, lever the drum to remove it.
  4. With the help of one of the flat-tip screwdrivers, proceed to rotate the drum axle. This axle allows us to adjust and loosen the pressure of the brake shoes on the drum.
  5. With the help of the sandpaper, and with care not to scratch we will proceed to clean in dust that is accumulated in the shoes (brake plates) on the drum.
  6. Remove any dust that may accumulate on the brake pads.
  7. Place the drum in its place and rotate the “axle”, this way we will verify that is not too tight and the shaft locks when turning.
  8.  Mount the wheel, adjust it and check that the brakes are correctly adjusted.

What to avoid

Some common mistakes are:

  • Use an improperly sized screwdriver.
  • Tighten adjusters too tightly and lock a wheel up.

Adjusting Disc Brakes

Disc brakes have enjoyed great popularity, especially on the mountain, for a long time now. This is due to the fact that it is more difficult for this type of brake to get muddy or wet when pedaling through the mountain. The system resides in a rotor, which is attached to the hub generally by means of screws and a caliper with two brake pads that when activated press both faces of the rotor. Warping, breakage or crystallization are clear indications that it is necessary to adjust your MTB disc brakes.

Adjust them by following these steps:

  1. Check the tension: Tighten the lever and if you notice that it has too much travel without making hardly any force then it is necessary to tighten the cable.
  2. Tighten the cable from the brake caliper: With the Allen key loosen the screw and tighten it again with the new tension of the cable.
  3. Check the position of the clamp in relation to the disc: Loosen the screws a little. (screws that hold the caliper to the brake bracket and move the caliper until the caliper and the disc is perfectly centered).
  4.  Adjust the inner clamp position.

What to avoid

To avoid danger and make sure you don’t have any problems after adjusting your disc brakes you must avoid falling into any of these errors:

  • Touch the rotor brake surface.
  • Use of incorrect tools or fluids.
  • Making contact between the rotor or brake pads with brake fluid.
  • Forget to check the thickness of the disc brake pad.

Adjusting cantilever brakes

The Cantilever has two pivots, one on each side of the wheel. There are two types of brakes. Cantilever, Central Shooting Brakes and Direct Shooting (V-Brakes).

Loss of power, crystallized brake pads or air in the circuit are indications that it is necessary to adjust the V-Brakes. So you need to do the following:

  1. Sanding shoes: The first thing is to check your shoes to look at their wear and sand them just a little. You will have to use the Allen key nº5.
  2. Clean the rim: Use a cloth or cotton with a little alcohol or water.
  3. The whips and the linings: Oil the brake.
  4. Level of the shoes: With the Allen wrench, tighten slightly and start to adjust the height and position of the shoes.
  5.  The cables: The idea is that when the levers are actuated they move half way between your normal position and the handlebar grip. They should never touch the fists.
  6. The screws: Actuate the brake levers and check. You are going to make one more adjustment to the opening of the brake pads using the screws that are on the lower part of the legs.

What to avoid

When adjusting cantilever brakes you must be careful:

  • Do not fully understand the function of your bike’s brake system.
  • Apply the front brake too hard.
  • Do not check the brake cable for corrosion.
  • Dirt on the brake pads with oil or grease.


Bike brakes

As we have just seen there are many types of brakes for bicycles and each one of them have a way of adjusting them in the right way, but there are also things that shouldn’t be done with brakes. You must be very aware of these errors at the time of adjusting the brakes on your bike, as the slightest mistake can lead to you suffering an avoidable accident or injury.

Adjusting the brakes of an old bicycle is even more important than adjusting the brakes of a new bicycle, as the wear of the old bicycle makes the adjustment more difficult, urgent and a priority.

The next time your bike’s brakes have any symptoms of failure, you’ll know that you need to make an adjustment, as well as not having to consult any source, because thanks to this guide you will know how to make these adjustments you need.

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