When you go out on the road with your bicycle, it is essential that everything works to perfection. In order to avoid accidents and improve safety, it is necessary to adjust the brakes of your bike.
One of the worst, and most dangerous situations, to which you can expose yourself on the road is to brake failure, either because they are in bad condition or because they’re badly adjusted.
This becomes a danger to you and others. Therefore, it’s important that you don’t take any risks and find out for yourself how to keep your bike’s brakes in perfect condition to avoid major problems.

There are some signs that your bike’s brakes aren’t working correctly

Adjust bike's brakes
For example, having the brake pads too close to the rim. Or if the brake levers touch the handlebar grips, damage or the brake arms do not move equally. Whatever sign you get that something is wrong, you should adjust your bike’s brakes as soon as possible. But before you adjust the brakes on your bike you have to identify what type of brake you have, as there may also be some differences between models and brands, although it goes without saying that the fundamental parts are always the same. It must be considered that the most important rule at the time to adjust the brakes, no matter what type of brake you have, is to make sure that the wheels are correctly fitted in the rear pads.

Let us explain how to adjust the brakes of your bike depending on the type you have

  1. Center the brakes: Verify that the brake pads are at the same height as the rim.
  2. Check the distance the brake pads are from the rim.
  3. When adjusting your brakes, make sure that the tip of the lever is facing downwards.
  4. Align the brake pads: They should be set so that they are in the right position centered in the braking space.
  5. Turn the adjuster clockwise to move the brake pads out of the rim or counterclockwise to move them closer.

What to avoid

To avoid danger and make sure you don’t have any problems after adjusting your caliper brakes make sure you don’t make any of these common mistakes:

  • Adjust the lever facing up.
  • Sand the surface of the tire.
  • Leave the oil on the tires.

Adjusting hydraulic brakes

Hydraulic brakes also use brake levers to propel fluid from a hydraulic system through a hose to move the pistons of a caliper, forcing the piston to move and the brake pads to push into the breaking space. Scratching discs or insufficient braking force are clear signs that the hydraulic brakes on your bike need to be adjusted: Caliper centering:

  1. Use an Allen key to loosen the two screws that hold the frame to the caliper.
  2. Actuate the corresponding brake lever with energy, without releasing it, Tighten the two screws you loosened without much force.
  3. Release the brake lever and check by turning the wheel in the air if it continues.

Brake pad replacement and piston cleaning:

  1. Remove the wheel corresponding to the brake caliper.
  2. Remove the brake pads.
  3. Observe the pistons if they are dirty, very likely, and with oil of quality, you clean them.
  4. Replace the pistons.
  5. Reassemble the pads.
  6. Put on the safety pin and we engage the wheel again.

Cleaning the brakes:

  1. Place the brake lever horizontally to the ground.
  2. Remove the oil tank cover.
  3. Attach a bleeding tube to the bleeding nozzle.

What to avoid

To avoid danger and make sure you don’t have any problems after adjusting your hydraulic brakes, there are things you shouldn’t do. Some of these mistakes, commonly are:

  • Do not seal the bleeding mouthpiece.
  • Make sure the wheel is not too tight.
  • Piston breakage.
  • Poor disc lubrication.

Adjust brake drum

Adjust brake drum Drum brakes are a type of Hammer Brake, which exert the force of the brake directly on the wheel hub. The use of drum brakes is not as common, especially because they are heavy compared to other types. Its operation resides in a pair of shoes contained in a cylinder or drum. If you have cracked drums, thermal marks, or excessive drum wear are clear indications that it is more than necessary to adjust the drum brakes on your bike. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Loosen the wheel nuts a little.
  2. Remove the wheel.
  3. With the help of the screwdrivers, lever the drum to remove it.
  4. With the help of one of the flat-tip screwdrivers, proceed to rotate the drum axle. This axle allows us to adjust and loosen the pressure of the brake shoes on the drum.
  5. With the help of the sandpaper, and with care not to scratch we will proceed to clean in dust that is accumulated in the shoes (brake plates) on the drum.
  6. Remove any dust that may accumulate on the brake pads.
  7. Place the drum in its place and rotate the “axle”, this way we will verify that is not too tight and the shaft locks when turning.
  8. Mount the wheel, adjust it and check that the brakes are correctly adjusted.

What to avoid

Some common mistakes are:

  • Use an improperly sized screwdriver.
  • Tighten adjusters too tightly and lock a wheel up.

Adjusting Disc Brakes

Disc brakes have enjoyed great popularity, especially on the mountain, for a long time now. This is due to the fact that it is more difficult for this type of brake to get muddy or wet when pedaling through the mountain. The system resides in a rotor, which is attached to the hub generally by means of screws and a caliper with two brake pads that when activated press both faces of the rotor. Warping, breakage or crystallization are clear indications that it is necessary to adjust your MTB disc brakes. Adjust them by following these steps:

  1. Check the tension: Tighten the lever and if you notice that it has too much travel without making hardly any force then it is necessary to tighten the cable.
  2. Tighten the cable from the brake caliper: With the Allen key loosen the screw and tighten it again with the new tension of the cable.
  3. Check the position of the clamp in relation to the disc: Loosen the screws a little. (screws that hold the caliper to the brake bracket and move the caliper until the caliper and the disc is perfectly centered).
  4. Adjust the inner clamp position.

What to avoid

To avoid danger and make sure you don’t have any problems after adjusting your disc brakes you must avoid falling into any of these errors:

  • Touch the rotor brake surface.
  • Use of incorrect tools or fluids.
  • Making contact between the rotor or brake pads with brake fluid.
  • Forget to check the thickness of the disc brake pad.

Adjusting cantilever brakes

The Cantilever has two pivots, one on each side of the wheel. There are two types of brakes. Cantilever, Central Shooting Brakes and Direct Shooting (V-Brakes). Loss of power, crystallized brake pads or air in the circuit are indications that it is necessary to adjust the V-Brakes. So you need to do the following:

  1. Sanding shoes: The first thing is to check your shoes to look at their wear and sand them just a little. You will have to use the Allen key nº5.
  2. Clean the rim: Use a cloth or cotton with a little alcohol or water.
  3. The whips and the linings: Oil the brake.
  4. Level of the shoes: With the Allen wrench, tighten slightly and start to adjust the height and position of the shoes.
  5. The cables: The idea is that when the levers are actuated they move half way between your normal position and the handlebar grip. They should never touch the fists.
  6. The screws: Actuate the brake levers and check. You are going to make one more adjustment to the opening of the brake pads using the screws that are on the lower part of the legs.

What to avoid

When adjusting cantilever brakes you must be careful:

  • Do not fully understand the function of your bike’s brake system.
  • Apply the front brake too hard.
  • Do not check the brake cable for corrosion.
  • Dirt on the brake pads with oil or grease.


Bike brakes As we have just seen there are many types of brakes for bicycles and each one of them have a way of adjusting them in the right way, but there are also things that shouldn’t be done with brakes. You must be very aware of these errors at the time of adjusting the brakes on your bike, as the slightest mistake can lead to you suffering an avoidable accident or injury. Adjusting the brakes of an old bicycle is even more important than adjusting the brakes of a new bicycle, as the wear of the old bicycle makes the adjustment more difficult, urgent and a priority. The next time your bike’s brakes have any symptoms of failure, you’ll know that you need to make an adjustment, as well as not having to consult any source, because thanks to this guide you will know how to make these adjustments you need. On our mountain bikes, our brakes are arguably one of the most important parts and need to be kept well maintained for a safe, fun ride. Brakes come in lots of sizes and styles but for today we’ll be talking about Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. Hydraulic disc brakes are the standard today for most cyclists and are easy to tune to your liking with the right knowledge. This post might contain affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. Learn more.

Brake Pads

mountain-bike-disk-brake-min The first step to servicing your brakes is to make sure that your pads still have good wear on them. Firstly, you want to remove your wheel (being extra careful not to compress your brakes when there’s nothing between the pads.) With the wheel off, you then need to remove the split pin, by compressing the ends together and sliding it out. You can then drop your pads out and take a look. If they still have a good layer of pad left, then they’re good to go but if you can see metal through them (or if they are really thin) then you should get new pads. When buying new pads, there are different sizes, so visit a bike shop with your old pads if you aren’t sure what they are.


Now that you have checked your pads, it’s a good idea to bleed your brakes. It’s good practice to insert a block between the pistons so that they don’t compress while you bleed. In your bleed kit, there will be a syringe and a reservoir. You also need the correct kind of oil for your brakes and for Shimano this usually means their mineral oil, but other brands may use DOT fluid. On the caliper of your brakes, there is a small bolt with a rubber cap for the syringe to go onto. Remove the rubber cap and after filling your syringe with oil, push the hose on. At the lever, there will be a flat bolt, likely on top of your main lever body. Angle the lever so that the bolt is flat and then remove it and replace it with the reservoir (adding some oil here doesn’t hurt!) Now, back at the caliper, loosen the bolt until you can push oil into the system. You should start to see air bubbles and old, black oil coming out into the reservoir. It’s a good idea to flick and shake the cables, just to release any bubble trapped in pockets or kinks. You can also tap and pull the lever to get any bubbles out that could be trapped there too. Once you are satisfied that no more air is coming out, you can stop and tighten the bolt once again. You can now remove the syringe and replace the rubber cap. At the lever, you can push in the bung and unscrew the reservoir, being careful not to spill oil or let any air back in and then tighten down the bolt again. Now that the brakes are bled, clean any excess oil off the bike, especially on the calipers as any oil that gets on the brakes can lubricate them and cause them to squeal or become ineffective. If you’re using old pads, it’s a good idea to clean both them and the rotor with brake cleaner and a shop towel or cloth. If you’re using new pads, clean the rotor thoroughly and then replace the pads and re-attach your wheels.

Bedding in new pads

Now that you have a set of fresh pads, you need to bed them in. I find this easiest to do on a slight hill. When you bed in your brakes, you want to be very gentle as over-use before bedding them in can cause them to glaze, which will mean they no longer work as well. I like to repeat this for around 5-10 minutes as I find that this guarantees that the brakes are bedded nicely.

Lever adjustment

Ok, so you have fresh oil, and you’ve bedded in your brakes to perfection, ready to hit the trails right? Not so fast, a lot of performance can be gained by adjusting your levers to your preference.
brake levers
The first step to adjusting your levers is to loosen them and slide them in, away from your grips. Get into a comfortable riding position and slide them back until your single index finger can sit comfortably on the lever. You shouldn’t have to pull with more than one finger as this can reduce your grip on the bars. Now, you need to angle your levers. Still loosened, tip them back and forth until you find a comfortable position for your hands and wrists to sit in. I like to have my levers straight out in front of my bars, parallel to the ground as I find this transfers weight off my hands and more through my wrists, which helps with arm-pump as well as making it easier to keep your hands on the bars over rougher terrain. I recommend that you choose a position that is comfortable for you however, since everyone’s hands work differently. The final step is to adjust how far out your lever sits from the bar, which is usually adjustable by a small screw on the lever or sticking out of the end of the lever. The further away your lever sits, the more leverage you can get and the harder you can break, but if you’re hands aren’t as big, it can be useful to reduce this gap, so that your finger is in a position where it isn’t strained and is comfortable.

Ready to ride!

Now you have fresh oil, fresh pads, and perfectly placed levers to get the maximum efficiency and comfort out of your brakes, so it’s time to hit the trails and enjoy them. Just be careful as now that you have new brakes, they might stop a bit harder than your old ones! Photos: Pixabay, Depositphotos tim Tim Hunt is an amateur mountain biker from the Surrey Hills area of England. He has been riding and building for many years in and around the Surrey Hills and loves fast and techy descents! How To Adjust Hydraulic Disc Brakes on a Bike Like a Pro Adjusting a bike’s hydraulic disc brake may come off difficult, especially for beginners. Some individuals even turn a blind eye to it without considering the things they miss out on when not having a properly adjusted disc brake. Lift your comfort up to a whole new level and cycle faster, even when you hit the road or terrain for hours. This article will show you how to adjust hydraulic disc brakes on a bike like a pro.

What Do You Need

How-do-you-adjust-Avid-hydraulic-disc-brakes To start off, you will need to know some important parts of a Hydraulic disc brake. This will help you go through the adjustment process smoothly.

  • Caliper – this portion of your bike’s brake efficiently locks the pads down on the disc, specifically when you use your finger.
  • Plunger or Piston – made out of metal, clay, or composite pipes pulled and pushed by the fluid’s pressure in your bike’s brake mechanism. They drive the pads to the rotor in return.
  • Disc/rotor – It is the circular metal plate installed to a hub that slows your bike’s speed.

In addition to the information above, here are some things you should have:

  • A bike stand and good lighting: A bike stand will keep your bike in one place and help you work more easily. It’s also important to ensure your working area has good lighting. Otherwise, you will struggle to see and adjust the bike’s components.
  • A caliper alignment tool: This can be helpful for users who aren’t comfortable with using their hands and need help tightening the bolts or preventing friction between the rotor and the braking pads.
  • A rotor truing fork: A tool like this can straighten the rotor and make the caliper easier to center.

Pro Tips to Help You Adjust Your Brakes

How-do-I-make-my-hydraulic-disc-brakes-sharper As your disc brakes wear over time, the pistons naturally front up to keep the pads’ friction surface the same distance from either side of the rotor. When this happens, the pads and the rotor will be rubbing against each other, preventing the rotor from spinning within the caliper. This is why it’s often necessary to re-center your rotor’s brake caliper to ensure that the wheel and rotor spin freely. As a recreational biker, it is best to adjust your hydraulic disc brake as it helps track your rotor’s condition, such as ensuring it isn’t bent. Follow the steps below to do so.

  • Position your Bike Properly and Ensure it is Well-lit

Proper bike placement will make your work easier. It allows you to work on your bike’s brakes easily, like spinning the wheels freely. Before you can efficiently align your disc brake, you will need a good line of sight down through the caliper, which is achievable by putting your bike in the stand. However, if you don’t have a stand, a more tedious way of overturning your bike also works. The next thing to note is to ensure that your bike receives a good amount of lighting. This will allow you to see things with no worries and accurately adjust your disc brake.

  • Loosen the Brake Caliper Bolts with One Full Turn

It is about time to mount your brake calipers and align them properly. The first thing to do is to turn the caliper to the bottom and back it up in one full turn. By doing so, you can easily tighten the caliper bolts after you have the caliper in the right spot. Also, take note that you use the caliper bolts with a washer on the head as a caliper with no washer tends to go to the bolt’s turning direction during tightening.

  • Tighten the Brake Lever to Align the Caliper

By now, the brake caliper bolts are loosened slightly. This allows you to control the caliper manually to ensure that it is not getting stuck or hung up on something. The next step is to squeeze the brake lever tightly so you can center the caliper. However, only moderately tighten the caliper bolts. The excessive squeezing of caliper bolts will be unnecessary. The next thing is to spin your bike’s wheel to test if the rotor is causing friction with the brake’s pads. You have to carefully observe how each piston moves to determine whether you need to realign your calipers. Calipers usually require a bit more finesse after this step. But centering the caliper this way is a good start.

  • Use a Caliper Placement Tool

This next step is completely optional and can only come in handy for those uncomfortable working with their hands. I have a keen caliper alignment tool in my toolbox, a Hayes alignment tool to be specific. I usually like to align the caliper by hand, but this is a handy tool when adjusting gets challenging. Bikers can use this tool if your rotor keeps on rubbing badly with the brake’s pads. If this happens, do not worry about re-doing your work over again. Also, you can check out this guide for more on how to adjust bike brakes rubbing here. Loosen the caliper bolts and try the previously-stated steps. But this time, we are going to place this caliper alignment tool in the middle of each rotor and caliper side, leaving just the right spacing on the rotor’s sides. Afterward, you can squeeze down the caliper bolts using the caliper alignment tool attached to them. After that, you can remove the tool to see if the rotor is still rubbing or not.

  • Align the Caliper using your hand

When it comes down to proper adjusting, a lot of bikers usually prefer this method. Aligning your bike’s caliper is more convenient by using your hand. You first have to ensure a good line of sight through the caliper and try to focus the latter on the middle to prevent the rotor from rubbing on the pads. When it’s time to squeeze each of the caliper bolts, it would be best to tighten each caliper bolt slowly. Do it one step at a time. Torquing a caliper bolt all the way below while the other caliper is still loose causes it to move to one side, which will force you to start all over again. When you are almost finished, you can also work with just one caliper bolt at a time. In that way, you won’t be starting from scratch whenever the pads and rotors rub together.

  • Bend the Rotor Straight

There are times when the rotor can be slightly bent, which makes caliper centering almost impossible. In this situation, you will need to straighten the rotor first. I suggest using a rotor truing fork to make this process easier. It is important to note that when you are spinning the rotor through the wheel, listen and observe where the rotor contacts the disc brakes. You can then spin the wheel to get the bent portion away from the caliper.


Do you find this tutorial useful and entertaining? I find this tutorial handy when I have to adjust my disc brakes all by myself. As a working mom, I have little to no time to fix things. Knowing how to adjust hydraulic disc brakes on a bike, I could have more time hitting the road and keeping my bike in top shape. Write down in the comments your thoughts. Take notice of these steps and tell your friends about this tutorial as this will also help them a lot. Together, we can make disc brake adjustments a piece of cake. Henry-Speciale-author “Bike commuting should be the trend for the next few years, and it is a convenient and eco-friendly way for us to travel. And we are here to make it a bit less troublesome for people who want to maintain their vehicle for a long time. So, the content I expect to put out here is offering help for bikers who are facing issues with parts of their bikes once in a while. Let’s have fun and protect the environment together!”

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How to adjust a disk brake (Image credit: Graham Cottingham) If everything is set up correctly on even the best mountain bike brakes, a well-tuned set of brakes should not make any noise. However, one of the most common noises that might come from your brakes is a metallic scraping sound. That’s the sound of a disc brake rotor rubbing against the pads. You can tell that the rotor is rubbing if you spin the wheel and it slows down drastically without you engaging the brake lever. You may be able to actually feel the brake rub when you ride, depending on how severe it is.

Diagnosing the noise

Adjusting the postion of your disc brake is a simple process, but let’s first review how your bike’s hydraulic disc brake system works. The brake lever configuration on the handlebars has a reservoir for the hydraulic brake fluid that travels through the brake lines. When you engage the lever, the fluid pushes through the lines to the caliper. The caliper houses pistons and brake pads. The fluid pushes the pistons, which in turn pushes the brake pads together. The pads squeeze the rotor, which is how you slow down. Firstly you need to determine what is causing your rotor to rub on the pads. Spin the wheel and look at the gap inside the brake caliper between pad and rotor. If you can see the rotor is constantly rubbing, then you will need to realign the caliper. If the disk has a distinctive bend or wobble that catches as the wheel spins, then you’ll need to straighten the disk. A view of a mountain bike brake caliper and brake pads The gap between the rotor and disc is small so any misalignment can cause rubbing (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Realign the caliper

To realign the caliper and stop the brake from rubbing, loosen the two caliper mounting bolts, then firmly pull the brake lever. Since the bolts are loose, this will center the caliper. While holding the lever in tight, re-tighten the mounting bolts. Give the wheel a spin to see if the brake still rubs. If it is, repeat the loosen-retighten process again, or you can fine-tune the caliper alignment by loosening one bolt at a time. Spin the wheel and gently adjust the caliper by hand (push the caliper in the direction that will eliminate rubbing), and retighten the bolt. If there is still rubbing after completing this process, there may be a bigger issue. Make sure the rotor’s mounting bolts are properly tightened and that there is no play in the wheel’s hub. If either of these is loose, that may contribute to rubbing. A mountain bike brake caliper being adjusted Tighten the caliper mounting bolts while keeping the brake lever compressed (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Straightening a rotor

Disk rotors are designed to be very strong in a vertical plane, however even light impacts horizontally can bend a rotor enough to rub. Crashing is often the primary cause although impacts from trail debris or a simply bump when the bike is leaned outside a cafe or in a bike rack will do it. A rotor truing tool will make the job a lot easier, an adjustable spanner works well too and if you are in a squeeze a rotor can be carefully bent back by hand. Whether you use a tool or not, the most important thing to remember when dealing with a rotors is that whatever touches the braking surface should be as clean as possible. Truing a rotor is simple case of locating the point that rubs and determining the direction it needs to be trued to stop it rubbing. Once identified, gently bend the rotor back. Repeat this process until the rotor no longer rubs. Repeated gentle bends should stop you bending the rotor too far in the opposite direction and creating more problems. If it proves impossible to true your rotor or you’ve completely spangled bit in a crash, you’ll need a buy a replacement. If it’s a more basic version, have a look at our guide to the best mountain bike disc rotors and consider upgrading to a more efficient model. And if you’re having problems with your gears, you might wish to take a look at our guide to adjusting mountain bike shifting. Ryan Simonovich has been riding and racing for nearly a decade. He got his start as a cross-country mountain bike racer in California, where he cultivated his love for riding all types of bikes. Ryan eventually gravitated toward enduro and downhill racing but has also been found in the occasional road and cyclo-cross events. Today, he regularly rides the trails of Durango, Colorado, and is aiming to make a career out of chronicling the sport of cycling. Rides: Santa Cruz Hightower, Specialized Tarmac SL4

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