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

04/19 Kid's bike brakes

Hello gurus,

My daughter has trouble activating hand brakes on her bike. She has small hands and she can hardly reach the handles, and the handles are too hard to pull. I saw the post on the adjustment but I was wondering if instead it would be possible to replace these terrible brakes with something better? I went to a store today and they told me that nothing better would fit the bike because it is a "price point bike". Well, I know it is a cheap bike but I have hard time believing that nothing can be done.

Th... Read more >>

03/27 Crosstop /Interrupter Lever Adjustment

Hi Guys,

I am having trouble adjusting some cross top / interrupter brakes on my cross bike. The brakes are Avid BB 7's. The trouble I am having is when the cross top lever is tensioned how I like it the main lever is soft. When I tighten the main lever to how I like it the cross top is way to tight. Is this due to different pull ratios of the lever styles or am I missing something? Ideally I would have both levers at even tension. Any suggestions appreciated!

Thanks... Read more >>

03/23 What adapter will i need?

so I ordered a set of m615 brakes, I think, and i'm gonna go 180m on the front. I think I need an adapter but don't know which. anybody help out there? pictures are nice. thanks.... Read more >>

03/16 Shimano hangar and straddle wire brake assembly instruction video?

Today I replaced a shimano hangar and straddle wire brake assembly cable and sheath and was successful. What I would like to see now is a video on adjusting these type of brakes, my favorite brakes btw, to see if I missed any short cuts. I googled for a video but couldn't find one. Anyone have URL for a video on this repair?... Read more >>

03/15 Tektro gemi rear brake noise help

H i wonder if someone could help me find out what this noise from my back brake is
a bubble type water liquid sound only under hard breaking its quite annoying front brake is fine
here is the same sound on youtube  from someone else  but no answer to the  problem my brakes are
Tektro Gemi i no they are  entry level  should not make this sound   any help thanks
 
youtube brake noise  clip  link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F8Ugg-i4-s... Read more >>

01/28 26" to 700C conversion.

Hi,

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 >>

01/27 V-Brake posts?

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... ??
See pics...
Thanks... Read more >>

01/27 Difference between disc brake pads?

Hi guys

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 >>

01/21 Replacing Tektros recessed nut with nutted

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 >>

01/20 How to tighten brakes?

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 >>

01/01 Another question from the uneducated.

Hey guys.
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 >>

12/30 Converting from vbrakes to disc brakes on a 2005 21 speed vertical pk7

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 >>

12/20 At Brake Lever on Handlebars... Adjuster

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:

Read more >>

11/27 Tacx brake shoe alignment tool ??

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 >>

11/21 Crooked Piston in Shimano R-R505 Disc Brakes

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 >>

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

Free Email Updates: