The Short Break Road Cycling Holiday Specialist

How to adjust bike brakes

Check your brakes!

While you’re enjoying an exciting descent of a col in the French Alps, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not your bike’s brakes are working properly.

Before riding in the mountains it is important to check that your bike’s brakes are working perfectly, that the brake blocks are not worn down, and that the brake cable tension is correct.

Brake Pads

Start by pulling the brake lever in toward the handlebar of the bicycle and watch as each pad squeezes the side of the rim of the wheel. Both brake pads should meet the rim directly to be correct. If either pad is slightly off or if it is too high or too low, adjustment is required.

To adjust the brakes, using an adjustable wrench or 5-mm hex key, loosen the nut that secures the pad’s shell to the brake arm. Angle the pad until it sits parallel to the rim of the wheel. Hold the pad steady while re-tightening the nut to secure the brake in place.

Brake Cable Tension

Now test the brake cables. Once again, pull the brake lever in toward the handlebar. Brake cable tension determines how far the lever travels before the brake engages the wheel. If the braking feels too elastic or flexible, the cable is too loose. If the braking is over-responsive, the brake cable is too tight.

Where the cable and the brake meet, turn the nut counter clockwise to increase cable tension, or alternatively, turn clockwise to decrease cable tension. Easy does it, turn the nut no more than a one-quarter turn before checking and then turning a little more or less, as necessary.

Give the bike a test ride to check that you are happy with the adjustments before heading out on the mountain.


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