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.
Hi I'm having trouble with my rear mechanical disc brake when I pull the brake lever the lever on the brake calliper that pulls up when the pads bite the rotor pulls up but when I release the brake lever on the bars the calliper lever doesn't release and move back down if you know what I mean.....any suggestions ??... Read more >>
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I installed a Rock Shox Recon fork on my Kona Mahuna. I currently have Avid Elixer 1 hydraulic disc brakes. I am unable to get the brakes to stop rubbing the rotors. Given the fork upgrade (upgraded from a Suntour), I also installed a new mount. Here's what I've tried so far: 1. Loosening the calipers and centering the pads on the rotor then retightening the calipers. 2. Loosening the calipers and squeezing the brake levers to the pads grip the rotor, then retightening the calipers. 3. Inserting business cards between the pads and the rotor, squeezing the brakes a few times, then r... Read more >>
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Hi, Ive tightened my vbrakes successfully on two occasions by loosening the bolt holding the wire, pinching the brake pads on to the wheel and pulling the cable through to increase the tension before tightening the nut. I need to do it once more, but when i squeeze the brake pads on to the wheel and pull the cable through, the rubber fitting by the noodle and between the calipers is being squashed very tight meaning the brakes cant pull tight enough to work. I have the same problem on both back and front brakes. Have i dont something wrong when tightening them previously or is this a cable ... Read more >>
Hi a friend of mine has bought a new mountain bike from tesco as a go around. He has assembled it but when he applies strong force to the brake lever the rear disc brake the caliper jams and the wheel skids. The only way to release it is to stop and fiddle with the lever or stick an Allen key in the jammed arm and it will immediately loosen. Can anyone help with a solution please? Is it just a stiff arm or is it more technical? Many thanks... Read more >>
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I was looking at a new set of rims for the old 25 year old Bounty Hunter MTB bike, I came across someone who has a nice looking set but they are strictly for disc brakes for $120. He also had a disc brake kit (Front: 74mm post mount or IS, Rear: IS only, Wheels: ISO 6-bolt rotor mount) for $80 and said it should fit most bikes. My question is what is an IS mount for the brakes?... Read more >>
Hi Ever since I bought my bike (it's 2nd hand). The rear disc, which is slightly bent was causing an annoying noise each time it would spin since it would touch the pads. I tried strengthening it myself and also had someone at the shop try to do it, but after about 10 minutes it only got worse. I really hate this sound and I wish I wouldn't hear the squeak. The guy at the shop told me that the rear disc is very thick and thats why its hard to strengthen it. Is that true? Is it worth buying a brand new disk which is less thick or will it get bent as equally fast? Another issue is that, unfortun... Read more >>