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Simple Brake Adjustments

By Sarah Bonner

I remember panicking before a road race once because my brakes were rubbing. I asked a friend to fix it for me and, after two seconds the job was done. “That’s it?” I said. After that I learned that minor brake adjustments were easy and often don’t require any tools. Whether your brakes are rubbing or they feel a little too loose for comfort, common problems can be often solved by one of the three minor brake adjustments below. Before you begin any brake adjustments, first ensure your quick release lever is down.




1. Manual adjustment: Brake callipers can be knocked out of alignment and cause your brakes to rub against the rim of your wheel on one side. Easily realign the brakes by manually pushing the callipers back to centre.

2. Barrel adjustment: Sometimes when you switch wheels or insert new brake pads, when you put the quick-release brake lever down the brake pads are too close or rubbing against the rim of your wheel. Other times, your brakes may feel too loose when you pull your brake levers and the brake pads need to be positioned closer to the wheel. For small adjustments, turn the barrel adjuster located above the brakes to move the brakes closer or farther away.

3. Cable adjustment: If your brakes are too loose or too tight and barrel adjustment isn’t enough, a quick fix with an Allen key to reset cable tension will solve either problem. First, locate the brake cable bolt and loosen it. Next, using your hand or a pair of pliers, hold the cable with one hand and compress the corresponding brakes at the wheel with your other hand. Pull the cable taught (not tight) and then tighten the bolt (tight, preferably to the specified torque reading). Test the braking sensation by applying the brake levers (while stationary) and then readjust the cable if necessary or fine tune using one of the methods above.

Sarah Bonner the author of two e-articles, How To Use A Foam Roller: An Illustrated Guide for Cyclists and The Clean Girl’s Guide to Cycling: How to Clean Everything from Bar Tape to Sports Bras, has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion for cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com

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