How to Adjust Bike Disc Brakes

Written by jason hilford
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Bicycle disc brakes provide a superior alternative to conventional caliper brakes. They take longer to wear out, and they allow your bike to stop on a dime--even in wet weather. To keep your body intact at the bottom of that treacherous hill that ends at a T intersection (or to prevent your brakes from rubbing and thus slowing you down), take the time to keep your mechanical disc brakes fine-tuned and working properly.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Hex (Allen) wrench set

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  1. 1

    Spin your bicycle wheel. If you can hear or feel the disc brake rubbing, you'll need to loosen it.

    Apply the brake lever that corresponds to the wheel you have spinning. If the brake does not stop the wheel from spinning, it needs tightened.

  2. 2

    Check the brake cable that goes to the brake you plan to adjust. It should sit in the set screw tightly with a small amount of tension, but not so much that applying the brake does not move it. (Raise the tension by pulling the cable farther through the set screw; lower the tension by allowing for more slack in the cable.) If necessary, loosen the set screw with the appropriately sized hex wrench and either tighten or loosen the tension on the cable. Tighten the set screw again.

  3. 3

    Adjust the brake pad. (While a mechanical disc brake has both an inner and outer pad, you'll only adjust the inner pad--that is, the pad closest to the wheel.) Apply your brake to centre the pads; if necessary, have a friend help you with this. While holding the brake down, insert your hex wrench between the wheel's spokes and into the hex-shaped hole in the inner brake-pad holder. Turn the hex wrench clockwise to tighten the pad and counterclockwise to loosen it, depending upon your needs. (Tip: A little turn goes a long way.) Your goal, essentially, is to get the brake pad as close to the disc as possible without touching it.

  4. 4

    Repeat Step 1. If your wheel spins freely and the brake stops it, you've completed your mission. If not, keep tightening or loosening the inner brake pad as necessary.

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