How to Adjust Sidepull Caliper Brakes
Learn how to adjust brake pads, cable tension and centering on road-style caliper brakes.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Jim Langley: Brake Adjustment
- Park Tool: Sidepull Brake Service
- Sheldon Brown: Adjusting Sidepull Calipers
- Bicycle Torque Specifications
- Park Tool OBW-3 Offset Brake Wrench
- Park Tool HXS-1.2 Hex Wrench Set
- Park Tool Wrench Combo Set
- Tri-Flow Superior Lube
- Park Tool SK-3 Starter Mechanic Tool Kit
- Park Tool PK-3 Professional Tool Kit
Discuss this topic in the Bicycle Repairs and Mechanics Forums
Hi All, These are my current rims: Wheeltech TD26 by Alex Rims (can't find much info about these online). I need to replace the rear wheel as it is cracked (cracks on the rims around a few spokes) It's a 700C disc brake rim with quick releases. What do I need to consider other than the size of the wheel when choosing a replacement? I'll likely migrate over the cassette and rotor (if need be). ...Read more
shimano tourney.jpg (Size: 31.33 KB / Downloads: 11) After all these years I had never observed by commuter's chainrings and the interesting shapes they have. Do these holes and "bumps" help with the chain flow or what's the purpose?...Read more
I have a 10-year old Trek 7.3 FX with approximately 7,000 miles that is in need of a lot of repairs. I recently went to a repair shop and the mechanic thought the repairs would add up to the price of a new bike. It's true that almost everything but the frame and handle bar need to be replaced. It's also true that a large part of the repair cost comes down to the mechanic's labor. I am comfortabl...Read more
Hi All, I'm new to owning and maintaining my own bike and have been having an issue with my bike that is about 2 months old. More or less, I am stuck in the highest gear on my bike (7). I physically can't crank the twist handlebar shifter down. Did some research and troubleshooting, I physically "shifted" the derailleur itself left with my hand and was able to get the bike to shift into a lower...Read more
Hi, new here. Do not know much about maintenance, that is why I need an advice on chains. I have KMC chain on my hybrid and someone told me that I can use a bit of WD40 to keep it running, clean it from dust and whatsoever. He also is not very bright in terms of bike knowledge so I am doubting his claim. Probably WD40 is not good for lubing the chain or keeping it clean, right? There is need for s...Read more
I just received this chain tool by post. Could someone tell me what the hook is for and why the handle can move down a little bit and pull on this hook? Thanks tool.jpg (Size: 82.7 KB / Downloads: 31) ...Read more
I don't know much about bike repair, and I'm a cheapskate. I currently have two different non-usable 26" coaster brake cruisers. One, the Schwinn, has a good front wheel but the coaster brake no longer brakes. Considering the cost of the repair vs. the bike, not going to repair it. The other is a 26" La Jolla that has a bad front wheel (bearings, I think). I propose to switch out the good front ...Read more
Would there be any issues with one less tooth on the high gear as regards shifting or otherwise?...Read more
I can adjust it so that I can change from the middle ring to the small ring or middle ring to the large ring, but not so that I can change between all three. The high and low limit screws are not restricting movement of the deraileur. This only seems to be a problem since I replaced the middle ring with an oval one. If I squeezed the rails of the derailleur closer together would it help. Seems li...Read more
First, some context. I have two bikes, a 29" mountain bike (that I bought off craigslist and repaired) and a 26" cruiser bike (that I have had for about seven years now). I am 6'4" and the 29" bike fits me better, so I use it a lot more. That bike is in currently in need of repairs (the front crankset is bent, which I have no idea how that happened) and I decided to use the cruiser bike until I ...Read more
I am currently repairing an old Miyata road bike and I am in the process of removing the rust from it. 99% of the rust has come off without difficulty (it is looking pretty good at this point) but I noticed that some of the rust has eaten through the chrome. Is there a way to reapply chrome to a bike? If so, how would I go about doing that? Thanks in advance....Read more
IMG_971050.jpg (Size: 225.94 KB / Downloads: 5) IMG_971050.jpg (Size: 225.94 KB / Downloads: 5) IMG_971450.jpg (Size: 224.98 KB / Downloads: 4) A co-worker gave me an older Trek mountain bike for my twelve-year-old to use to ride to and from school. Since this will be his first time riding a bike to and from school, I didn't want to invest hundreds of ...Read more
Hi. I picked up a used older trek 3500 to convert to an ebike. I thought it had holes to mount disc brakes in the back, but when I went to put on the adapter, I found that it didn't fit. The holes are only 45 mm apart instead of the is standard 51 mm. Are these an older version before it was standardized to 51 mm? Something else? If they are an older version of disc mounts, anyone know where i can...Read more
Hi guys, have been surfing through the forum for repair tips and answers in the past, but never posted. Good, useful information here My 29" MTB has bent rear disc brake rotor, is Shimano 160 milimeters. It's a very slight bent, yet it really annoyz me during training rides (I'm getting ready for my very first 100km+ marathon, still a novice) and is touching the brake pads, makes bad sounds. Any ...Read more
Don't know if I have missed a discussion on this, but I have been looking at the frames made in China and most of the reviews have been good. A carbon frame and fork for $300 seems too good to be true. Does anyone know anything about the various frames on e-bay of different values ($300 - 500) and what is different about each of them. They all come in carbon black - does anyone have ...Read more