How to adjust bike brake pads

Written by wade shaddy
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How to adjust bike brake pads
Adjust the pad at the caliper and by using barrel adjusters. (radsport image by JanUFotO from

There are two ways to adjust bike brake pads. You can adjust them using your barrel adjusters to tighten the cable, or you can adjust the pad in relation to the rim at the caliper. It's best to first adjust your cable, then the pad. Bike brakes are made to adjust easily. You only need one 5mm hex wrench to adjust almost any brake pad.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 5mm hex wrench

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  1. 1

    Sit on the bike. On the brake handle on the right side of the handlebars there is a serrated knob. The brake cable passes directly through the centre of the knob.

  2. 2

    Turn the knob counterclockwise until it gets hard to turn. If you come to the end of the threads before it gets tight, stop turning before the knob comes off.

  3. 3

    Get off the bike. Pick up the bike by the seat with one hand. Spin the back tire with the other hand. If the tire won't spin or scrapes the pads as it spins, turn the serrated knob clockwise one complete turn. Spin the tire again and check for pad scraping. If it continues, turn the knob clockwise one turn at a time and test until the scraping stops.

  1. 1

    Turn the 5mm hex screw on the back of the pad counterclockwise two turns. The pad forms a "T" shape, with the top of the "T" being the pad and the tail of the "T" being the shaft of the pad. The bottom tail of the "T" is where the hex screw is located. Do the left and right brake pad.

  2. 2

    Grab the pad with your fingers when begins to loosen. Move the pad up or down inside a slot to centre it on the rim. Tilt the pad up or down to align it parallel to the rim. Tighten the hex screw as much as you can with your fingers to hold the pad in place. Do both sides.

  3. 3

    Spin the tire with your hands to check for rubbing. Check for correct pad-to-rim alignment and make further adjustments if needed. When everything is in alignment, tighten the hex screws securely on both sides.

Tips and warnings

  • This example is for the back tire. Use the left side brake handle to adjust the front tire brake. The procedure is exactly the same.

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