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 Forum
Hello, bike riders! Our community member Gabriel has shared his unpleasant experience with Deore T610 brake levers: "After 2 years of very limited use ... I'm still trying to understand why is there so many holes in such a critical place" Can anyone help by explaining the reasoning for such lever design and what might be the cause of the particular break (material quality, usage, design flaw)? ...Read more
Hello bike riders! Newbie here, happy to join. Visited fam during the holidays. Found my old Fuji mountain bike in the attic. Took it back home to use for weekend rides and occasional commuting. It has rigid fork. I prefer to swap it for suspension fork. I want it to be a DIY project. My first bike build in other words. Might get overwhelming at start. So where do I begin? Anyone here has done rig...Read more
I have just acquired a Cervelo Soloist 2006, has the Ultegra 6600 groupset. It was making a clickity grinding sound whenever I'm on the larger 2 or 3 sprockets (doesn't matter which chainring) when I'm pedalling hard and fast. Anyways, took my crank, chain rings, and bottom bracket off to clean, inspect, regrease and retorque. Greased my new pedals and torqued them on. Adjusted my front derailleu...Read more
Hi, I posted this on reddit and got the suggestion to come to the experts here instead so here I am I recently had my front wheel of my vintage Bianchi stolen. First I was looking to just replace the front wheel but since the rear wheel is pretty old as well I'm thinking I might just change them both and at the same time size up from 23mm to 25mm for a little extra confort Does anyone have an...Read more
Hello, My apologies for the simpleness of this question. I have a 1995 Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo that I need to replace the front axle on. How do I find what to buy to replace it? It is missing so I cannot look at the existing part for guidance. Thanks!...Read more
I have a brand new MTB and the rear disc break is already rubbing/squeaking. What are the easiest fixes? Thanks...Read more
Hi, bike riders! Can anyone recognize these Shimano hubs as seen on Schwinn Tune bicycle in NYC? Kudos to whoever gets this right! I'll post the answer by the end of the week. schwinn-hubs-1.jpg (Size: 125.11 KB / Downloads: 35) schwinn-hubs-2.jpg (Size: 124.7 KB / Downloads: 33) schwinn-hubs-3.jpg (Size: 167.41 KB / Downloads: 36) ...Read more
I ruined my expensive dynamo powered front headlamp. This is the kind that adjusts to motion and knows what time of day it is as well as having a built in ability to charge my phone and other electronics. I was ecstatic when I hooked it all up and went out on my first night ride with it through Forest Park in Portland, OR with four other buddies. I was over the moon in the early morning commutes t...Read more
I have a 2018 diamondback line 27.5” . I rode it a few times and the crankset makes a popping noise as i pedal most likely due to being 230lbs. Any recommendations on what i could replace the old ones with that would work better with my weight and handle my riding better....Read more
Hey everybody, New to world of cycling, recently my bike started to not shift as smoothly as it was before so I thought I would check to see if the cable was frayed. I detached the RD cable and inspected it, found no issues relubed it and re attached the cable. Since I have done this, my shifter will only click 7 times, and I have a 9 speed so it should click 8. I’ll walk you through what I d...Read more
Back disc break on my Orbea commuter got much weaker this week. Front break is strong as always. I dont think that smth special happened, like crash, that damaged the brake. Never worked much on disc brakes. I want to fix this myself but I dont know where to look first and dont want to mess smth up. Where should I start? I have Shimano mech disc brakes....Read more
A couple of years ago I bought a new front derailleur from my LBS. He said it will work for a triple chain ring. I didn't install it right away, and in the meanwhile I stopped dealing with him because of numerous botch jobs. When I put the derailleur on the bike, it won't work on a triple chain ring. I can make it work on the small and middle ring, or the middle and large ring. So I'm stuck with ...Read more
Disclaimer: I am not a professional bicycle mechanic! After reading many procedures/methods for chain cleaning, utilizing many solvents/lubricants and/or water; I have only found one method that actually does the job properly and effectively. I am not here to "poo-poo" other means of accomplishing this goal, just providing what I have found has worked for me without fail. First: "wiping off" a...Read more
What (if there is any) is the difference between 9, 10, 11 speed rear derailleurs?...Read more
LBS said 'eh you don't need it, pull off the one on the other side too'. So I did, but now when reinstalling the new cables/housing, there's no tension on the cables and the brake lever has no resistance. Only thing that's different is the removal of this barrel adjuster. IMG_0397.jpg (Size: 57.3 KB / Downloads: 49) ...Read more