How to Install Road Bike Brakes

Written by contributing writer
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Installing new road bike brakes, along with the cables and housing, can be tricky and time-consuming--but, if done too hastily or improperly, can be dangerous. Because brakes are usually made of metal, you won't have to install another set of brake calipers until they break or become worn out, but you must replace the brake pads, cables and housing regularly, depending on your riding conditions, to ensure that they do not become overly worn.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Road bike
  • Road bike brakes
  • Brake cables
  • Brake housing
  • 5mm Allen wrench
  • Cable cutters
  • Pliers

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  1. 1

    Attach the front brake to the fork, using your 5mm Allen wrench. You can identify the front brake by its shorter bolt. Making sure that both wheels are removed from the bike, unscrew the bolt from the back of the brake and slide it through the small hole in the rear of the fork. Holding the front brake so it matches the small hole on the front of the fork, reattach the bolt with your Allen wrench so it's tight.

  2. 2

    Slide the bolt through the small hole found on the seat stays, after unscrewing the bolt from the rear brake. These are the two pieces that extend down from the seat and form a triangle with the chainstays. Make sure the rear brake is aligned with the small hole and reattach the bolt into the back of the brake using the 5mm Allen wrench.

  3. 3

    Make sure that the quick releases are switched up on both brakes, after installing both brakes. These are usually in the shape of little hooks located off-centre of the brakes and can be flipped up and down, releasing or putting tension on the cables.

  4. 4

    Squeeze the right (which corresponds to the rear) brake lever on your bike so that it is fully depressed and slide the brake cable through the small hole in the cylinder inside the lever. The handlebars cannot be taped at this point because the new cables must run under the handlebar tape. Continue feeding the cable through until it comes out of the shifter/brake lever near the handlebars.

  5. 5

    Slide the brake cable through your cable housing and cut the housing so that it can reach from the handlebars to the left side of the top tube, leaving a little extra slack. Run the uncovered brake cable along the underside of the top tube, making sure to feed it into the two holders located at the front and back of the top tube. After the cable is put through the cable holder at the rear of the top tube, feed it again through a new piece of your housing and use the cable cutters to cut the housing so that it reaches the rear brake, again leaving a little slack.

  6. 6

    Slide the cable and housing into the top of the rear brake, on the left side if you're looking at the bike from the back. After the cable is fed through the barrel adjuster and tightened in place behind the Allen bolt, cut the cable, leaving about an inch and a half. Either solder the end of the cable so it does not fray, or clamp a cable ferrule on the end of it with some pliers. Replace the rear wheel and close the quick release. Adjust tension by either using the barrel adjuster, or loosening the Allen bolt found on the brake arm, pulling the tension from the cable, and then retightening the bolt.

  7. 7

    Depress the left brake lever, which corresponds to the front brake, and feed the cable through the small hole in the cylinder inside the lever. Feed the cable through until it extends out of the lever towards the handlebars. Feed it through some of your new housing and cut the housing so it is able to easily reach the front brake, leaving a little slack. The housing should be about a foot and a half long. Slide the cable and housing into the barrel adjuster located on the right side of the brake. After tightening the cable under the Allen bolt located on the brake arm, cut the cable so there is about an inch and a half remaining. Either solder the end of the cable so it does not fray, or clamp a cable ferrule on the end of it using pliers. After replacing the front wheel, adjust the front brake just like the rear brake, using either the barrel adjuster, or adjusting the cable tension.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure the brake pad is at least 1mm down from the top of your rim, but still rubbing on the brake surface when the brake is depressed.

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