How to Install Brakes on a BMX

Written by jonathan d. septer
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How to Install Brakes on a BMX
Linear Pull Brake (V-brake, bycicle part close-up image by Radu Razvan from Fotolia.com)

Modern BMX rides use one of two rear brake designs: centre pull U-brakes or linear pull--sometimes called direct pull--cantilever brakes. Most BMX bikes use only a rear brake. U-brake frame mounts are roughly parallel to the rim brake surface on either the chain or seat stays, and cantilever mounts sit lower than the braking surface traditionally on the seat stay only. A brake is one of the last parts to install on a bicycle as the rear brake cannot be adjusted unless the rear wheel is installed with proper chain tension, the brake lever is installed on the handlebar and the brake cable is attached to the lever and runs to the rear brake mounting position using the brake cable stops welded to the frame and, on bikes with a gyro installed, attached to the gyro brake plates. According to bicycle authority Sheldon Brown, linear pull brake levers and U-brake levers differ in cable pull, and it is important to use the intended lever for the brake system to ensure proper adjustment and function.

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Things you need

  • 10mm box-end wrench
  • 5 and 6mm hex head wrenches

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Attach the lower brake arm to the proper brake mount by turning the 5mm hex wrench clockwise. The lower brake arm is the arm that rests closest to the frame, and the proper brake mount is the one that allows the lower arm to curve around the tire. There are many types of U-brakes: consult the manufacturer's instructions to determine which arm is the upper and which is the lower if this is not readily apparent.

  2. 2

    Attach the upper brake arm to the other brake mount by turning the 5mm hex wrench clockwise. The two arms should cross over each other and roughly make a "U" shape, cradling the tire.

  3. 3

    Adjust the brake pads. Loosen the brake pad fixing bolt, by turning it counterclockwise, then align the pad horizontally and vertically with the centre of the rim braking surface. Retighten the brake pad fixing bolt by turning it clockwise, with either the 5 or 6mm hex wrench required.

  4. 4

    Attach the straddle cable--a 3 to 4 inch section of cable with attachments on both ends that slide into the brake arm ends--to the brake arms.

  5. 5

    Attach the straddle cable hanger--a steel or aluminium cable carriage with a bolt through the centre that clamps down on the brake cable--by inserting the brake cable through the cable hanger centre bolt. Use the 10mm box-end wrench to lightly snug down the centre bolt.

  6. 6

    Insert the straddle cable into the straddle hanger cable carriage slot.

  7. 7

    Pull the brake cable through the straddle cable hanger until the brake arms are tensioned properly, with the brake pads set at the desired distance from the rim braking surface. Hold the cable in place snugly.

  8. 8

    Tighten the cable hanger centre bolt by turning it clockwise with the 10mm wrench until the cable is firmly clamped. Squeeze the brake lever hard to ensure all cable connections are secure.

  9. 9

    Trim any excess cable off--leaving two finger widths of cable past the brake cable fixing bolt--and dip the end in wax or attach a brake cable cap to prevent brake wire fraying.

  1. 1

    Install the right and left arms on the right and left brake mounts. There are many types of linear pull brakes: consult the manufacturer's instructions to determine which arm is left and which is right if this is not readily apparent. Typically, the left arm has a moving cage connected on a hinge at one end, and the right arm has a 5mm brake cable fixing bolt.

  2. 2

    Slide the brake noodle--a curved metal tube with one tubular end and one bullet-shaped end--over the brake cable end tube first until the cable housing end sits securely in the brake noodle tube.

  3. 3

    Insert the brake noodle bullet into the cage so the bullet tip sticks out of the cage end with the brake cable protruding through the tip toward the other brake arm.

  4. 4

    Slide the brake accordion--usually a ribbed black rubber boot--over the cable and snugly over the noodle bullet tip until it butts up against the cage. This is a cable seal to repel dirt and debris. The larger end is roughly the size of the noodle bullet, and the smaller end is roughly the size of a brake cable.

  5. 5

    Loosen the brake cable fixing bolt by turning it counterclockwise with a 5mm hex wrench, then slide the cable under the bolt and tighten it, turning the same wrench clockwise until the cable is secure.

  6. 6

    Depress the brake lever to check the cable attachment points.

  7. 7

    Trim any excess cable off--leaving two finger widths of cable past the brake cable fixing bolt--and dip the end in wax or attach a brake cable cap to prevent brake wire fraying.

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