How To Adjust Bike Brakes | Step-by-Step Guide

wheel, bike, brakes

You don’t need to be a professional bike mechanic to adjust your bike brakes. A few simple tools and some patience are all that stand between you and better control of your ride. Most importantly, understanding how to adjust your bike brakes is a key part of being a safe, confident cyclist.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps of correctly adjusting bike brakes. We’ll cover what tools you need and how to identify brake pads in need of maintenance or replacement. We’ll also include an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide on adjusting both cantilever and disk brakes—so no matter what kind of bike you have, we’ve got you covered. Now let’s get started!

What Type of Brakes Are on Your Bike?

Before you start tinkering with your brakes, it’s important to know what kind of brakes are on your bike. Typically, you’ll find either calipers or V-brakes on most bicycles.

Caliper brakes have slick-looking arms that move in a parallel motion and press against the rim of the wheel. You’ll typically see these on road bikes. On the other hand, V-brakes are more of an older style, but you’ll still find them on a lot of casual bicycles and mountain bikes. These consist of two independent arms that are connected at the top and press against the rim.

Knowing which type of brakes you have will help you choose the right components for adjusting your brakes, so take a close look before you get started.

Identifying the Brake Pads and Cable

Now that you know the basics of brake adjustment, let’s have a look at your bike. If you’re dealing with segment brakes, your first step is to identify the brake pad and cable. The brake pad is the circular piece that’s located on the rim of your bicycle’s wheel, while the cable attaches the brake handle to the brake pad.

You should be able to identify two springs near the brakes—these ensure tension on each side of your bike’s braking system. Make sure that they are connected properly, so they can help provide reliable braking when you press down on the handle.

If you suspect that these components are not connected correctly or need replacing, refer to your bike’s user manual for more specific instructions. Before making any serious adjustments to these parts of your bike, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional or experienced cyclist for expert advice.

How To Adjust Bike Brakes Cable Tension

Now that you’ve finished with the brake pads, it’s time to tackle the brake cable tension. You might be thinking that this sounds like a daunting task—but it’s actually pretty easy. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Unscrew the barrel adjuster until it stops moving, then turn it clockwise 6 times. This should give you enough slack in your brakes to adjust them properly.
  2. Next, squeeze your brakes and simultaneously move the brake pad closer to the rim by turning the barrel adjuster counterclockwise.
  3. Once you’ve achieved your desired tension level, push the wheel back into place, and check that both sides are evenly adjusted by squeezing each brake lever in turn – if one feels looser than the other, give its barrel adjuster a couple more turns until both sides feel equal.
  4. Finally, spin your wheel and press both brakes at once – if they grab evenly on each side and slow down as expected, then congratulations! You’re done with your brake adjustment!
  1. Once you’ve achieved your desired tension level, push the wheel back into place, and check that both sides are evenly adjusted by squeezing each brake lever in turn – if one feels looser than the other, give its barrel adjuster a couple more turns until both sides feel equal.
  2. Finally, spin your wheel and press both brakes at once – if they grab evenly on each side and slow down as expected, then congratulations! You’re done with your brake adjustment!

How to adjust bike brakes rubbing

To adjust bike brakes that are rubbing, follow these steps:

1. Start by inspecting the brake pads to ensure they are properly aligned and not worn out. If needed, replace the brake pads

2. Loosen the brake caliper mounting bolt(s) to allow for adjustment

3. Squeeze the brake lever to fully engage the brakes and hold it in that position

4. While holding the brake lever, tighten the brake caliper mounting bolt(s) securely

5. Release the brake lever and check if the rubbing has been resolved

6. If the rubbing persists, you can fine-tune the adjustment using the barrel adjuster on the brake lever or caliper. Turn it clockwise to loosen the brake cable tension, or counterclockwise to tighten it

7. Repeat steps 3 to 6 until you achieve the desired brake performance without any rubbing.

Remember, if you are unsure or uncomfortable performing these adjustments yourself, it’s always recommended to take your bike to specialist.

How To Adjust Bike Brakes Pads Position

One of the most important steps in adjusting your bike brakes is the adjustment of the brake pads position. To do this, you’ll need to first make sure that your brake lever is in its original position, and then you’ll need to use a hex wrench to adjust the bolt located on the side of the brake caliper.

To make sure that your brakes are properly adjusted, start by pushing the wheel all the way back into its dropouts. Then, rotate the wheel while holding both sides of the pads so that they are parallel to each other. If they aren’t parallel, loosen and tighten them until they are.

Now it’s time to adjust the brake pads position! Start by loosening the bolts on both sides of the caliper and slowly sliding each pad until it’s just slightly above its rim without touching it (this will ensure that your brake pads don’t rub against your wheel). You may also need to readjust them as you go if you find that one side is rubbing or making strange noises when braking.

Once you’re done adjusting the position of each pad, turn your wheel one more time to make sure everything is still aligned correctly and check for any signs of rubbing or squeaking. If nothing seems off, tighten up both side bolts and test out your brakes!

Testing the Brakes After Adjustment

Testing the brakes after adjusting them is an important step. When testing, you should check both the front and rear brakes, as they may require different levels of tension. You are looking to get the perfect balance between stopping power and comfort.

To test the brakes:

  1. With your palms on the brake levers, press lightly to make sure there is no friction at first. If there is still rubbing, you need to continue making adjustments.
  2. Slowly squeeze the brake levers while slowly rolling your bike forward, increasing pressure slowly to see how much pressure it takes for the brakes to engage properly. You want a smooth transition from no pressure to full braking power, with no sudden spikes or dips in tension along the way.
  3. Switch between applying more pressure and less pressure as you roll forward so you can identify any bumps or jumps in pressure that would indicate an issue with one of your brakes or with the tension of your cables.
  4. Once both brakes are adjusted properly, cycle at a moderate speed and test out both front and rear brakes individually to ensure they are engaging properly and providing ample stopping power without feeling overly firm or stiff on your hands.

By taking these steps for testing your bike’s brakes after adjustment, you can ensure that everything works just right so that when you need to stop quickly, you can depend on it!

Maintaining Your Bike Brakes

Like all mechanical parts, your bike brakes need a little maintenance every now and then. After some time and use, the brake pads will start to wear down, and they’ll need replacing. It’s also important to make sure the brakes are properly adjusted. That way, you can be sure that your bike is safe to ride and in good working order. Luckily, adjusting bike brakes isn’t too difficult to do yourself.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for maintaining your bike brakes:

  1. Start by checking that the cable run is clear – you should be able to clearly see the cables running from the handlebars, through the frame, and down to the caliper
  2. Adjusting the brake cables is done on the handlebar levers, either by turning a dial or opening/closing a clamp. When adjusted properly, there should be minimal play after squeezing the brake lever on either side
  3. Next, check for brake pad wear by inspecting both sides of each wheel with a flashlight and looking for any visible indents on the rim of your wheel or any deformations or deterioration of the braking surface
  4. If necessary adjustments are needed for either wheel’s brake pads to be parallel with each other and level with the wheel rim then loosen or tighten them accordingly (if possible)
  5. Don’t forget to test after these steps are complete – squeeze each lever firmly multiple times in succession without jerking your wrist or pressing too hard

Following these steps will help ensure your bike has maximum stopping power while also prolonging its lifespan!


Q: How do I know if my bike brakes need adjusting?

You can tell if your bike brakes need adjusting if they feel spongy, loose, or if the brake pads are not making proper contact with the wheel rim.

Q: What tools do I need to adjust bike brakes?

To adjust bike brakes, you will typically need a 5mm Allen wrench, a screwdriver, and possibly an adjustable wrench or pliers.

Q: How do I adjust the tension on my bike brake cables?

To adjust the tension on your bike brake cables, locate the barrel adjuster on the brake lever or the brake caliper. Turn the barrel adjuster clockwise to increase tension and counter-clockwise to decrease tension.

Q: How do I align my brake pads with the wheel rim?

To align your brake pads with the wheel rim, loosen the brake pad fixing bolt with an Allen wrench. Squeeze the brake lever to position the brake pads against the rim, and then tighten the fixing bolt back up.

Q: How do I test if my bike brakes are properly adjusted?

To test if your bike brakes are properly adjusted, squeeze the brake lever firmly while riding slowly. The brake pads should engage the wheel rim smoothly and bring you to a complete stop without any squealing or excessive noise.

How To Adjust Bike Brakes : Conclusion

Overall, adjusting the brakes on your bike is not a difficult task. With just a few simple steps, you can get your brakes working like new in no time. It’s important to check your brakes often and make sure they are not too loose or too tight, as this could cause an unsafe riding experience. Now that you have learned how to adjust your brakes, you can make sure your bike is safe and road-ready in no time.


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