29. How to Adjust Sidepull Caliper Brakes
Learn how to adjust brake pads, cable tension and centering on road-style caliper brakes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am converting a MTB with 26" wheels to 700c. I live in the UK and do not go off road, but would like a bike to ride on canal tow paths (some of which can be a "little rough". All is OK, have swooped out the front forks to a rigid type (with the correct bosses for mounting a V brake onto a 700c wheel) - but....i would prefer too fit V brakes on the rear, and the bosses are in the wrong place. I know that Mavic used to do a converter, but cannot find one anywhere. Has anyone else done this? and what did you do?
Many thanks in advance.
Kevan... Read more >>
I'm trying to get an old Cannondale M500 mtb back rolling again. I'm missing the post that screws into the fork on each side and the back seat stay post too, so I can install some v-brakes. I'm not sure what the true name for these post are or where to find them. Anybody know... ??
Thanks... Read more >>
I understand there are 2 types of disc brake pads either sintered (metallic) or resin (organic). I just bought some disc brake pads. How do I tell which type it is when im looking at it?
Thank you... Read more >>
Anyone know the link that's out there for replacing the recessed nut studs on tektros top end sidepull brakes (I did it on the quartz) using tektros lower end sidepull nutted studs. Believe it was a YouTube vid.
Have a friend who wants to do something similar and the link to the video would be far easier than trying to word by word the conversion.... Read more >>
My 90's road bike is working but the brake to the right is loose a little bit (from the brake sleeve or what ever that's called) it's still braking but the cable is trying to come out. How do I fix that?... Read more >>
Simple one for you. I have an Azzurri Tigre which has the gear changers intergrated into the brake levers.
What is this system referred as?
Thanks in advance for the education.
Daniel BACH... Read more >>
hey im having a difficult trying to figure two thing out one is my mountain bike able to have disc brakes and two is it a good idea to switch to disc brakes from vbrakes any help please and im trying to get my two mountain bikes ready for the summer time in georgia so please any words of advise or great tips or suggestions will be glady taken because im at a major confusion im bout to go crazy trying to figure this out... Read more >>
On Wife's ~1970 Gitane Grand Sport Mixte, with Mafac Racer Brakes, at the handlebar brake lever (Safety Brake levers, by the way).....
At the point where the brake cable enters the brake lever, is a cream colored plastic nipple that mates the cable shield to the brake lever assembly.. Not adjustable, just an interface from cable shield to brake assembly.....
The brake assembly does not contain plastic covers, just aluminum metal.
One cracked earlier this year, and I bought two loose pieces that look like this type:
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Did a search and didn't see any info on it... have any of you guys ever tried this tool ?
I like the tool... it even sets the proper toe in and adjustment. The only thing I find troubling about it, is the lip on the top of the tool keeps the pads from going high enough on the outside edge of the rim. The pads run closer to the inside edge near the spokes(see pic)(Is this the proper position for the shoes or should it be higher ?) Other than that, it seems to be a great tool.
What do you guys think about it ??... Read more >>
My original set of rear pads prematurely expired due to crooked wear on the outside pad. Upon closer inspection I see the piston extends at an angle, or crooked. This is not how the front brake extends (same model). Anyone know if opening the caliper to address this is possible? Thanks... Read more >>
Gitane Mixte circa 1970 or so.. Trying to find date-codes..
Did they have any?... Read more >>
Picked up some strong mtb(36h,dw) disc and rim brake compatible wheels for a great price. Was looking to convert my mtb from v-brake to disc(frame and fork have the mounts for disc brakes).
Been looking at some mechanical knockoff Avid BB5, BB7 disc brake kits that come with what is in the pic.
Anyone know anything about these? Will they work?
From what I can tell, they are just like the brand name stuff, just don't have the brand name branded on them.
Have not had any experience with disc brakes and I'm looking to try some out. If there is a better br... Read more >>
Bought some new wheels(36h, DW) for the MTB to replace the old beat up original wheels(32h) that my MTB came with. The original wheels had the machined V-brake rim surface for the brake shoes to rub on. The new set has a painted brake rim surface and the brake pads are leaving black marks on the rims. They also are making a lot of noise when braking(shoes have been toe'd in too).
Should I be using a different type brake shoe with the painted rims??
Thanks... Read more >>
Hello, I bought a bike the other day simply for getting from a to b. It was second hand with a back flat, no biggie. However the back breaks, when I pulled them they don't seem to spring back out for the wheel to turn, so I was fiddling about with it and made it a little better but then I noticed the break cable by the handle bars have come out of its mount, the wire is still in the lever but there is no tension.
Could someone help me with this? Tried looking on the Internet but can't see any clear videos or information about fixing it. thank you!... Read more >>
where can I get the best price and decent equipment for an XR200 front disc brake???All that is there is an old stretched cable and the disc. I am a golf course rider....... Read more >>