29. How to Adjust Sidepull Caliper Brakes

Learn how to adjust brake pads, cable tension and centering on road-style caliper brakes.

IMPORTANT: Nuts and bolts on your bike should always be tightened to the manufacturer's specifications.
How to Adjust Sidepull Caliper Brakes
DVD Vol. 2 DVD Volume 2
This video is available on DVD

VIDEO UPDATES

  • 00:13 - Correction: 9 or 10mm open end wrenches.
  • 00:25 - Correction: It's called a 4th Hand Tool.
  • 00:31 - Watch How to Tape Drop Handlebars at about 00:30 for lever alignment tips.
  • 00:52 - Remove the wheels if your pad adjustment is good and you don't want to mess with it. Otherwise you can simply remove the pads for resurfacing.

In this week’s tutorial, we’ll learn how to adjust sidepull caliper brakes, found on most road bikes. For this job, depending on your bike, you’ll need a set of 5 or 6mm allen wrenches, a set of open-end metric wrenches sized 9 or 10mm, a 14mm offset brake wrench for centering, some rough sandpaper for re-surfacing the brake pads, a light lubricant like TriFlow, and an optional 4th hand tool for adjusting the cable tension.

Lever Adjustment

First you’ll want to make sure that your brake levers are properly positioned. Check the handlebar wrapping tutorial for a more detailed procedure. It’s also a good idea to make sure your wheels are properly centered in the frame.

Many road brake systems have a quick release mechanism that loosens the brake enough so that you can remove the wheels. If not you’ll have to loosen the pinch bolt enough to give the cable some slack.

Brake Pads

Now remove your wheel and resurface the pads with your sandpaper to remove road grime. Then reinstall the wheel and check to make sure the pads are lined up with the rim. Some pads have a curved washer that allows you to set the toe-in adjustment. To avoid squealing noises while your ride, try to set the rear of the pad so there is about a 1 or 2mm gap when the front of the pad contacts the rim.

Cable Tension

To set the cable tension, first make sure your barrel adjuster is threaded all the way down. If you have a cable quick release system, make sure it is set to the tightest setting, where the brake arms are closest together. If you don’t have a quick release, you can always back off the barrel adjuster a few turns so that it can be easily loosened later.

Now set the cable tension with the cable pinch bolt. The 4th hand tool makes it easier by pulling the cable for you while you tighten the bolt. This is a personal preference, as it sets how far you’ll have to pull the lever before the brakes contact the rim. Some people prefer very responsive brakes and set them really tight, while others prefer a bit more slack. I like to have the brake contact the rim when I’ve pulled the lever about 1/4 of the way.

Pivot Adjustment

If your brake unit is really stiff or too loose, you’ll have to adjust the main center bolt. Some brakes have two nuts on the front side that turn against each other, while other systems like this one are adjusted by loosening off the back bolt, adjusting the front bolt, and then tightening it against the back bolt. The adjustment is correct when the brakes are tight but function easily.

Centering

Now check the brake centering. Both pads should contact the rim at the same time. If not, you can adjust this by loosening off the main back bolt and placing the centering wrench on the flats of the thick washer on the other side. Center the brakes with the wrench and then tighten the bolt. This sometimes takes a few tries because the brake will move a little bit while you’re tightening.

Once the brake is set up, drop a tiny bit of light oil on the pivot points. Wipe off any excess and be careful not to get any oil on the rim surface or brake pads.

Tags

Related Links

Discuss this topic in the Brake Forums

08/18 Help With Brakes Please

I have loosened 2 screws on the front brake calliper and since then the front brake no longer works, could someone help me please.... Read more >>

08/17 Suggestions on fixing / changing this rear brake [pics included]

Hi,

I was given this MTB which has the right support for the rear brakes broken on the frame.

Here is the bike seen from the left side
[attachment=5300]

And here is the details on the "pins" coming out of the frame in the rear, where the rear brakes were mounted (I didn't disassemble them myself, was already like this).

[attachment=5298]

[attachment=5299]

I'm not sure what I can / should do here. I guess to put the same brakes back on, the loose/broken part would need to be re-soldered onto the f... Read more >>

07/29 Bmx back brakes not springing/working

So i have pad brakes and on the back 1 works and one doesn't, the one that doesn't work, when places in position it is automatically pulled towards the wheel causing the pad to rub the wheel as soon as i tighten it, I've tried taking it off an repositioning it, doing my cables looser and tighter an changing it round for one of my old front brake holders but it just does not stay off the wheel.
Please help... Read more >>

07/14 Schwinn Breeze with Bendix brake question

I bought a Schwinn Deluxe Breeze and tried it out, back pedaled and bike braked quickly (maybe a 1/4 rotation) and firmly. Took it for a ride later and about 3 times I pedaled back 3-4 complete rotations and a time or 2 it never did brake.

When walking up a steep hill I noticed the pedals turning with the chain. A bit later pedals remained stationery when walking it.

This is what I've found when researching: 1960-65. There is a serial #
It has a Bendix automatic red band brake - no kickback
I read the arm has to be in proper place with the cone to work ... Read more >>

06/16 Beware length of brake center bolt

Been discussing this on a different post, but with what has happened I thought I would just make anyone interested aware of a problem. I bought a new carbon fiber road frame and a new 105 groupo. I now find that, due to the chunky nature of the new carbon frames, the standard front brake centerbolt is about 1 1/4" short of making it through the bridge and the rear is about 3/4" short for the rear bridge. With the frame construction, finding longer nuts is not an option.
Does anyone know where I can find a 3 3/8" long (total length)bolt for a shimano brake? I will be calling Shimano t... Read more >>

06/14 Brake Noise Standing Still Magura Julie BAT

Hi all,

I have a bit of a noise coming from the rear brake, it makes no noise whatsoever when moving it's only at a stand still when you hold the rear brake on tight and put some tension on to the pedal or if you try to push the bike forwards.

I have had everything apart and cleaned it all, the rotor has been off the wheel and cleaned and refitted everything, made sure there are no loose items.

I do not remember this happening on old alu kona frame, I have a carbon cube frame now.

My next move was going to fit some washers between the callipe... Read more >>

06/12 Hydraulic brakes leak

Hello,
I would like to ask for some help from you.

Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic. Used for 1000 km.
Problem: It started to leak. It seems that it is leaking from the "Pushroad to Brake padal/lever" (view image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/47/Hydraulic_disc_brake_diagram.gif). I do not know the terms but the metal "cable" that connects the reservoir and the lever and the lever itself is oily.
Brakes lost the power.
Read more >>

06/10 105 sti

Building up my new bike and in preparation (waiting on frame) I have installed my 105 5700 STI levers onto the bars. However, they look funky, looking from the front, the change levers stick outwards a lot, do they 'pull in' when the cables ar hooked up, or is their normal 'rest' position ? The body of the changer is not too far up the bar and the body sticks straight out.... Read more >>

04/25 Coaster Brake Ceases Up on New Bike

I bought a brand new Specialized Hotrock 12 Coaster bike yesterday only to discover that the coaster brake ceases up after being applied when I got home. The crankshaft freezes up and will randomly unlock when fiddled with. I hope that makes sense.

Since the bike shop is so far away, I was wondering if anyone could give me a quick fix for this kind of issue before I pay a local bike shop to fix my brand new bike. I would really appreciate it.

Thanks!... Read more >>

04/20 How to fix old dual lever brakes- plastic spacer broken

Hi there!
I have an old 1980s peugeot road bike with dual lever "suicide brakes".

The little plastic piece that is a spacer between the screw and the suicide lever is cracked, but I can't figure out what it is called to find a new one.

It looks like a washer, but it actually is not, it is a cylinder that slides in with a washer thing on top... think of like a top hat but with a hollow center column.

Do you know what these are called and where I could find a replacement one?

I like my suicide brakes and would like to keep them but i need... Read more >>

03/19 I disassembled my dual pivot side-pull and can't put it back together!

Any help much appreciated! I disassembled my Shimano Sora BR-3400 dual pivot side pull rear caliper.

For some reason, the bolt that runs through the whole caliper in the centre gets thicker and will only allow the middle bit of the caliper to go onto it. See pictures.

[attachment=4957]

[attachment=4958]

[attachment=4959]

Any suggestions?... Read more >>

03/16 Fixing coaster brakes

Hi All - Trying to fix the coaster brakes on the bike my daughter outgrew so we can give it to the younger daughter of a family friend. However, the coaster brake is no longer working and I obviously don't want to give away something that is useless or unsafe. I'm not handy but decided to give it a try. The problem is that the brakes just would not engage at least not without turning the pedals backwards maybe 1-2 full revolutions. It really occurred after I took the wheel off to put on a new tube/tire. It's been useless ever since that event.

I started with these sites:
Read more >>

02/19 Brake pads rubbing

I'm not sure why but the pads on my front v-brake continuously rub against the rim, I've replaced the pads, re-installed a new brake cable, screwed the adjuster screws as far in as they can go, cleaned the calipers and re-greased them. I've even installed new v-brake levers but when I press the brake one of the pads does not retract fully and stays up-tight against the wheel while the other pad retracts a little better.

My wheel wobbles a little bit when I turn the bike upside and spin it freely but it isn't buckled, perhaps it needs truing but I'm not entirely sure. Not sure if ... Read more >>

01/21 Question about brakes

hello, some of you may remember me, i posted a while back about my gears on the forum relevant to that. ive had some problems with my brakes, though, and finally decided to do something about it.

for those who dont remember, ive got an old fuji road bike refitted with hybrid tires.

for a long time, ive felt that my brakes are not all that effective. i mentioned this once when having a repair done, and he told me that theyre not really 'brakes' theyre just to slow you down. (as opposed to stopping you.)

so the first question is, what exactly did he m... Read more >>

01/06 V Brake tension problem

Hi,
I've just joined the forum and am hoping someone can give me some advice and save the remaining hair I have from being pulled out.
I have an old Raleigh mountain bike that I have given to my son, but before I did I attempted to upgrade it a little.
I have fitted new brake levers, cables and V brakes (All Clarks brand), yet I cannot get any tension in the rear brake. I have fitted the v brake and used the location hole (choice of 3) that gives the most springiness, but no joy.
I set it all up and pull the lever, but the lever will not return to its original position ... Read more >>

New Thread
How to Adjust Sidepull Caliper Brakes
Repair Guide / Help Forums

Free Email Updates: