How to Install & Adjust Side Pull Bicycle Brakes

Updated November 21, 2016

The side pull brake is a design of brake most commonly found on road bikes. The brake comprises two separate calipers that pivot in and out. A cable attached to the side of the brake causes the calipers to pivot when the brake lever is pulled or released. Attaching a side pull brake also involves installing the brake cable. The brake is then adjusted for proper operation.

Rub bicycle grease onto the threads of the side pull brake mounting post, on the back of the brake. Threads are located at the tip of the mounting post. If there is a nut on the end of the mounting post, remove the nut to expose the threads.

Fit the mounting post end of the brake through the brake mounting hole, on the bicycle frame directly above the wheel.

Hold the front of the brake so that is centred above the wheel. Place the nut on the threads at the end of the mounting post, and tighten the nut with a 5mm hex key.

Pull the brake lever toward the handlebar. Pass the brake cable through the hole at the top of the brake lever.

Pull the cable tight to cause the metal fitting at the end of the cable to seat itself inside the lever.

Use an adjustable wrench to loosen the cable pinch bolt on the side pull brake. The cable pinch bolt is located toward the bottom of one side of the brake. Just above the pinch bolt, on the upper part of the brake, is a hollow nut through which the cable passes.

Pass the cable through the hollow nut and beneath the pinch bolt.

Turn the hollow nut all the way in until it touches the brake.

Pull the cable tight. While maintaining tension on the cable, use the adjustable wrench to secure the pinch bolt onto the cable.

Turn the hollow nut away from the brake to set brake pad clearance. Set the pads approximately 4mm from the side of the rim.

Check that each brake pad is even with the rim. If not, loosen the brake pad fixing bolt. Depending on the model of brake, the bolt will require either an adjustable wrench or a 5mm hex key. Position the pad properly, and tighten the fixing bolt.

Check that the side pull brake is centred over the tire. If not, use the 5mm hex key to slightly loosen the side pull brake mounting nut. Attach a 14mm flat wrench on the front part of the brake closest to the bicycle frame. Rotate the 14mm flat wrench until the brake is centred, and tighten the mounting nut.

Cut the end of the brake cable 2 inches from the end of the pinch bolt, using bicycle cable cutters. Push a brake cable end cap onto the end of the cable. Mash the sides of the cap with pliers to keep the cap in place.

Things You'll Need

  • Bicycle grease
  • Adjustable wrench
  • 5mm hex key
  • 14mm flat wrench (as needed)
  • Bicycle cable cutters
  • Brake cable end cap
  • Pliers
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