44. How to Adjust your Child’s 1st Hand Brake

Adjust the brake lever reach and spring tension to work for small hands.

IMPORTANT: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
How to Adjust your Child’s 1st Hand Brake
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This video is available on DVD

In this tutorial we'll learn how to set up your child's first hand brake. Often the excitement of getting a new bike with a hand brake quickly turns to disappointment when your child tries to use it, only to find the lever is too far from the handlebar and hard to pull. On most children's bikes this is easy to fix.

Tools

For this job you'll most often need a 10mm wrench to adjust the brake cable bolt, and a small metric allen key or phillips (+) screwdriver for the lever's reach adjustment. When adjusting cables it also makes things a lot easier if you have a 4th hand cable puller. We'll assume your brake pivot and pads are already adjusted as explained in the sidepull caliper tutorial. Search the site for "How to Adjust Sidepull Caliper Brakes" to learn more about this style of brakes.

Lever Adjustment

First you'll need to loosen off your brake cable bolt. You don't need to remove it completely. This will allow you to adjust the brake lever’s reach. On the lever you should see a screw or bolt on the inside close to the handlebar. This is the reach adjustment screw. As you turn this screw you'll notice the lever move closer to the handlebar grip. Turn it just enough so you child can easily reach the lever, but not too far, as it still needs to be able to move enough to pull the brake.

Now re-adjust and tighten your brake cable. This is where the 4th hand tool comes in handy, as it will grip and pull the cable for you while you tighten the bolt.

Reach Adjustment

Once the reach is set up and the brakes are working, your child may find the lever is close enough but hard to pull. This is caused by high spring tension on the back of the brake caliper. To relieve some of this tension, you can push the spring in toward the wheel on both sides. I use an old screwdriver that I've ground down to a have a concave end just for this purpose, so it doesn’t slip and gouge my knuckles. Push just enough so it gives a tiny bit. You don't want to push the springs too much as they still need some tension to pull the brakes back outward.

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Discuss this topic in the Brake Forums

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