How to Adjust Bike Brakes: A Quick Guide

Got a tight brake? Is it making a squeaky noise? If there seems to be any problem, you should act as soon as possible to have it checked. The good news is that it does not need to be difficult. It is an easy task that can be done by almost anyone. There is no need to have technical experience or expensive tools.

If you want to know how to adjust bike brakes, keep on reading the rest of this post and we’ll let you know the basic steps. With a little time and patience to spare, this is one task you can accomplish easily.

Table of Contents

How to Adjust Bike Brakes

Now, let us quickly look at some of the things that you will need to adjust the brakes on your own.

Check the Brakes

The first thing that you have to do is to check the brakes to see if there is any problem. Chances are, the problem first becomes apparent when you are biking. You might have felt that it is harder to engage the brake or that it does not have a strong hold. You might have engaged it, but nothing happens.

To add, you can also perform a quick visual inspection of the brake to know if there is a need for certain adjustments. Check for the setup of the brake and make sure that it is not disengaged from the cradle. Otherwise, the brake won’t work as expected.

Specifically, you need to change the bike’s brake pad. This is the part that clamps the front tire once you engage the brake. Later in this post, we will have a quick look at some of the indications when it is time to change a brake pad instead of just adjusting it.

Test the Brakes

As a part of checking the brake, you should test it out to identify the problem and execute the best solution. When the brake lever is squeezed, the brake pads should press against the rim of the front tire. It should hit the center. If it is too low or too high, it can press against the bike’s rubber component.

Adjust or Replace the Brake Pads

In the event that the brake pad is already worn out, it is time for a replacement. Otherwise, a quick adjustment will be enough to improve the bike’s braking mechanism.

Using an Allen wrench, rotate the bolts that are holding the brake pads. Turn it counterclockwise but do not turn it all the way. Otherwise, the brake pads will be released from the part that holds it in place.


Now, adjust the position of the brake pads by placing it higher or lower depending on its misalignment. When adjusting the brake pad, make sure that the end position will be close to the rim.

After putting the brake pad in its center position, time to tighten the bolt. Use the Allen wrench again, but this time, you have to turn it clockwise.

When to Replace the Brake Pads

There are some instances when a simple adjustment of the brake pad is not enough. Therefore, you will need to invest in new brake pads to replace those that have already worn out. In the case of most rim brakes, the pads will most likely have teeth or tread pattern on the contact side. If the groove is no longer there, which means that the surface is already flat, this means that you will need new brake pads. There are some with a visible wear line, so inspect this line to see if a replacement is warranted.

Tighten the Cables

If you do not have problems with the brake pads, the next thing that you should check is the brake cable. First, perform a quick test to determine its tightness. Pull the brake lever and pay attention to how close it is to the surface of your handlebar. If the two parts get in contact with each other, it is an obvious indication that cables are too loose.

To adjust the tightness of the cable, look for the barrel adjuster. This will do the job if the problem is just slight. The adjuster is the part that links the cable to the lever. To loosen the adjuster, all that you need to do is to turn it counterclockwise. After doing this, check if it is now tighter. Otherwise, you need to adjust the caliper.

To make adjustments on the caliper, the first thing you need to do is to take off the bolt that holds the caliper and the brake cable. An Allen wrench will do the job. Make sure to not unscrew all the way. Turning it counterclockwise for two to three times will be enough.

Tighten the brake cable by pulling it. Pulling the cable will tighten the brake pad in its position. However, make sure that it isn’t too tight. The tightness should just be enough to have some resistance when you engage the brake. If it is too tight, on the other hand, it won’t move at all.

After pulling the brake, turn the bolt to tighten the brake cable. Next, tighten the adjuster. By now, you are done adjusting the brakes.

In some instances, there are still some parts of the wheels that may be rubbing on the cables. If this happens, take this as a sign that the problem is not with the brake. The problem could be with the wheels. If this is the case, it will be best to bring the bike to a nearby mechanic and let them handle the job. It is quite a complicated task that needs the knowledge of experts.

Wrap Up

As shown in the discussion above, adjusting the bike brakes is pretty much an easy task! It can be done by almost anyone. You can adjust either the brake pad or the cables. There is no need for any special tool to complete the task, except for an Allen wrench. Best of all, no need for a helping hand!