Hydraulic disc brakes provide consistently strong stopping power for mountain bikes, no matter what type of weather you are riding in. They are also getting cheaper to make, and therefore more commonly seen on entry-level mountain bikes (MTB). Compared with v-brakes, their predecessor for mountain bikes, hydraulic disc brakes typically require less set-up and less maintenance. Still, things do occasionally go wrong with this braking system, but nothing that can't be easily prevented with some basic tools and an eye for detail.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 5mm Allen wrench
- Clean rag
Apply acetone to your clean rag, without getting any on your hands. Wipe the rag along the disc brake rotor, which is the circular disc attached to the wheel. This will get any oils or contaminants off the rotor and may improve stopping power.
Loosen the bolts that attach the caliper, which holds the brake pads over the rotor, to the fork or frame, depending on whether you're working on the front or rear brakes. Pick up the bike and spin the wheel with the loose caliper. Let the wheelspin about two rotations, then squeeze the brake. Place the bike on the ground and, while holding the brake, tighten the caliper bolts until snug.
Spin the wheel without engaging the brake. Look into the space the rotor passes through and see if it touches the pads while spinning. If it does touch the pads, redo step two. If this does not work, loosen the caliper bolts and manually centre the loosened caliper over the rotor by pushing it side-to-side using your hands. Then retighten the bolts.
Look at the amount of material left on the brake pads. If the pads appear slim, or, on systems that use a clip to hold the pads together, the material recedes below the clip, then it is time to buy new brake pads.
Tips and warnings
- If you use your hydraulic disc brakes and feel a sudden loss of stopping power, your brakes may need to be bled. Take your bike to your local bike shop for a diagnosis.
- Keep an eye on your pad wear. Worn-out brake pads can cause you to lose stopping power, and can also damage your rotors and calipers.
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