How To Fix Bike Brakes

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This step by step guide will tell you how to test, service and if necessary replace your bike brakes.

First, identify the type of brakes on your bike – the V brakes found on mountain bikes, cantilever types, disc brakes or the side pull breaks. Whichever one you have, they must be set up properly. In terms of tools you will need is an allen key or a small spanner. Some bikes come with a spanner supplied. Follow this simple four stage method. First grab your brake levers. They should feel tight and have a smooth action. If the lever goes straight down to the handlebar, adjust your brakes immediately. This involves increasing the tension in the brake cables. If you have V or cantilever brakes, you will need to adjust the screw attachments on the brake levers. Screw out the tensioning bolt until the brakes are active, then tighten the locking nut back against the brake lever.

Next check that your brake pads are not worn down, and that they are wearing evenly. If part of the pad is missing the wheel rim, the pad will either need to be cut down or replaced. If there are signs of major wear on either the brake and or wheel rim, one or both may require replacement.

The first step in replacing the pads is to operate the brake quick release mechanism, found at the top of the brake arms. Undo the nuts securing the brake pads, take out the old ones and pop in the new. Ensure the pads are in the right position and the right way up before tightening the nuts slightly. Squeeze the brake lever to check that the pad meets the rim about a quarter of an inch beneath the top of the wheel rim. Tighten the nuts by degrees, making sure the pads remain aligned with the wheels.

If you wish to upgrade your brakes, make sure you have a full set of manufacturers instructions and if possible a photo of the brakes in full working order to refer to. This is quite a complicated procedure for a beginner, and if you have any doubts at all contact a specialist cycle supplier. When fitting new brake cables, you should have some grease to apply to the pivots, and ideally a cable puller, in addition to your allen key and spanner. If fitting V and cantilever brakes, there is a specified ideal distance between the brake arms. It is usually indicated by a line on the cable carrier that links the pieces of cable attached to the brake arms.

If you align this guide to the cable, you’ll have the correct setting. Test your brakes weekly, and service them monthly if you are a regular bike user.


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