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Brakes & Brake Adjustments

V-Brake Maintenance

Brake pads should be aligned to grab the rim equally from both sides. If installing new pads, do so now. Make sure the washers on the pad posts are oriented in same fashion as the ones you are removing. Leave the nut on the post slightly loose and hand align the pads on the rim. Pull the brake lever so the brake pads are tight against the rim. Now tighten the nuts on the brake pad post securing the pads in place. You must now set the cable. On the brake lever is a dial called the barrel adjuster. It is located where the cable housing enters the lever body. Make sure it is dialed not quite fully back in and the lock nut is tight. Loosen the cable clamp bolt on the right brake arm and pull it tight. Back it off a little bit so the pads release from the rim surface. Tighten the cable clamp bolt. Test the brake to ensure the lever throw is proper (Pads engage once lever is pulled in about 1cm or slightly less). The surfaces of your rims and brake pads become glazed with extended use and the grooves of the pads become clogged, requiring regular maintenance.

First, your brake pads. The pad’s braking surface should feel resilient when pushed with your fingernail – if they don’t, then it’s time to fix them, or replace them if they’re too worn. If they don’t need to be changed, take some fine grit sandpaper and lightly sand away the glaze on each brake pad – front and rear. Using a small screwdriver, clean any accumulated grit out of the grooves in the pads. Spring tensions and brake pad adjustment should also be done at this time.

Next is the rim – using either emery paper or a fine grit sandpaper, sand the sides of the rims evenly to take off the glaze and rubber residue. You should also check for any cracks or dents in your rims at this time.

Disk Brake Set-up

Note: This guide will only cover minor adjustments of disc brakes as any major repairs such as installing lines, bleeding or rebuilding require specific tools and a professional technician.

Cable Disc Brakes

Cable disc brakes operate using a standard brake cable and housing. If your brakes feel soft or pull to the bar follow these instructions.

At your brake there is a dial called a barrel adjuster located where the cable and housing enters the lever. Dial this adjuster back in to the lever almost all the way then lock it in place with the locking collar.

Remove your wheel and inspect your brake pads for wear. Replace your pads if required. Each manufacturer’s pads remove and install differently. Refer to your manual for instructions or ask for advice at Cyclepath. You may have to reset your pad wear adjuster on the inside edge of the caliper. It will either be a dial or an allen wrench type dial. This will move your pads further apart to allow room to install the new pads. Put the wheel back on the bike now. Your caliper can be adjusted side to side to align the caliper and rotor. Loosen the bolts holding the caliper to the mount bracket and center the caliper. Some calipers mount directly to the frame and require shims to align them. Once aligned, use your pad wear adjuster on the inside edge of the caliper to move the inside pad close to the rotor. Leave only a sliver of space between the two. Undo the cable at the fixing bolt and re-set the cable tension. Now test the brake. It should engage firmly and not have to be pulled to far in before engaging. Look in the caliper to ensure the rotor is hitting the pads when the brake is engaged and not the caliper body itself.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Hydraulic disc brakes are far more technical to service and to diagnose so only attempt minor repairs if you are unfamiliar with these systems.

Changing pads

Remove the wheel from the bike. DO NOT PULL YOUR BRAKE LEVER WITH WHEEL REMOVED! (The pistons will push out of the caliper). You must reset your pistons prior to installing new pads. Place a wide blade flat screwdriver between the old pads. Twist the screwdriver sideways while cycling the lever. You will feel the pistons push back into the caliper (re-set). Remove your pads. Each manufacturer has their own method of securing the pads into the caliper so refer to your brake systems specific manual (or website) for removal instructions. Some are secured to a post on the piston some are held in with springs and others are bolted in. Install the new pads. Re-install your wheels. Check to see if the caliper looks aligned with the rotor. You can re-align it by loosening the fixing bolts that hold the caliper to the adaptor and hand aligning the caliper. Some calipers mount directly to the frame and require shims to align them. Pull your brake lever a couple times now, and then spin the wheel. If you hear some rotor rub loosen the caliper and re-align it by hand or by placing a business card between the rotor and the pads on each side. Pull the brake lever tight then secure the caliper. You’re done!

Diagnosing Common Problems

Symptom: Lever pulls to the bar
Problem: Lost hydraulic pressure due to a hole in the line or master cylinder failure
Repair: New brake line – see shop, or master cylinder internals

Symptom: Lever to far from the bar
Problem: Not adjusting properly
Repair: Using a small metric allen key adjust the lever throw pin out located behind the lever in the brake body

Symptom: Brake squeal or weak brakes
Problem: Dirty pads / contaminated pads
Repair: Remove your pads and check for oily substances. Clean your pads and rotor with 150 isopropyl alcohol then give a quick “burn off” with a torch. Badly contaminated pads need to be replaced.

Symptom: Brake rotor rub
Problem: Bent rotor, misaligned caliper
Repair: Gently flex the bent section of the rotor until straight or repair rotor. Re-align caliper – see pad changing instructions.

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