Bike brake lever

How To Adjust Brakes On A Bicycle In 8 Simple Steps

Brakes are one of the most important safety parts of a bicycle, and you could have noticed that I have mentioned brakes quite a lot when doing a bike maintenance.

It’s important to check your brakes before every ride, and it’s also very important to have them adjusted in order to work properly.

That’s why in this post I will tell you how to adjust brakes on a bicycle without spending a lot of time thinking about it. Because, once you understand how things works, with some tools you will be able to do bike maintenance and repairs yourself.

Checking and adjusting bike brakes isn’t a complicated process, and it’s very simple once you know how to do it.
By following these steps, you will be able to do it yourself in no matter of time.

Fellow friends from Cycling Weekly have made this great video tutorial, which will feature all the steps below.

Make Sure The Wheel Sits In Properly

Bike wheel

We are here to adjust brakes, but if your wheel isn’t placed properly, it might cause problems to the brakes.

Because brakes are adjusted once the wheel is in properly, and if it’s not – your brakes might not brake against the rim but tire instead for example.

So make sure your wheel sits in properly so you can proceed to the next step.

Check The Cable

Bike brake cable

Brake cable plays an important role.

If it’s old, rusty, or worn, it might not work properly and it could fail.
You don’t want to adjust your bike brakes with a cable which is in a bad shape because they might fail once you are riding and it will cause a lot of bigger problem.

So make sure your cable is in a good condition and isn’t worn out.
If you are not sure, or if your cable is in a bad shape, simply replace it. They aren’t expensive and it’s better to replace them than have a risk of them failing during a ride.

Undo The Cable

Brake cable boltIf the cable is fine, proceed and undo it.

It’s the bolt on the side of the brakes, which clamps the cable. Undoing the cable will let us adjust the caliper in the next step, but it will also help us adjust the brakes once again.
Also, my advice would be not to undo it completely, but only until the cable is able to move freely.

That way you won’t lose the bolt and it will be a lot easier to adjust it once again later.

Centre The Caliper

Brake caliper

If you did the last step, you are ready to loosen the retaining bolt.

It’s the bolt that attached the brake caliper to the frame and it’s located behind the fork for the front brake, and somewhere between the seat stays for a rear brake.

Once you have loosened the retaining bolt, grab the brake caliper with your hand, so that the brake pads are grabbing the rim.
While holding the brake caliper with one hand, simply tighten the retaining bolt with the other hand.

Make sure it is secured, and that way you have centred the brake caliper.

Time To Set Up The Cable

Brake caliper barrel adjust

It’s time to set up the cable you have previously loosened.

To do this, find the barrel adjuster at the top of the caliper.
Wind it all the way back, and then simply back it out a turn and a half only.

After you did that, you need to grab the brake caliper once again and make sure that the brake pads are grabbing the rim.
Then check if the cable is set properly through the cable clamp and simply tighten it.

Adjust The Pads

Bike brake pads

We are almost finished but we still need to do a few little checks.

If you brakes aren’t at the proper height, your braking won’t be as effective as usual.

Make sure your brake pads aren’t too high because that way they will rub against the tire, but also make sure they aren’t too low because then they will rub against the lower part of the rim where which isn’t effective at all.

To adjust brake pads, simply unscrew the bolt which is holding them, adjust them in the way they will grab the rim, and then tighten the bolt again.

My advice would be to adjust them as low as possible because when braking, the brake pads will naturally go up. So you will save yourself some time there, as you won’t need to adjust them too often.

Almost There

Bike brake adjustingAfter you centred the caliper in one of the previous steps, it’s time to check the braking centre.

You want your brakes to brake equally, in order to achieve the best efficiency possible.

At the back of the brake caliper, you will find a key bolt that will allow you to adjust the distance between the pads and the rim.

After this step, there is only one more and you are done, so stay tuned.

Tune The Cable Tensions

Bike brake lever

After you have adjusted everything, it’s the right time to fine-tune the braking cable.

Especially if you have installed the new cable, it will need some bedding in.

To make sure your cable is set properly and it is secured, pull your brake lever hard for about 20 times. Check the cable and the bedding to make sure cable sits properly and there is no chance of a failure.

If there is still some slack, you can use the barrel adjuster to adjust it.
Tightening the barrel adjuster will move the brake pads closer to the rim, and loosening it will move brake pads away from the rim, so you can get the tension you need for your brake lever.

The barrel adjuster is designed to make quick changes to the cable tension in the future, even if you are on a go.

After you have adjusted everything, make sure you test your brakes and squeeze them hard for a while in order to make sure everything is secured.


Adjusting bike brakes isn’t complicated at all and if you follow the simple process, it’s even easier.

There are only 8 steps and it’s all done by using the allen bolts.

If you want to learn more, check out the best training course ever made on bike maintenance and repair.

Are you having any problems?

Leave a comment below!

Good luck with the process, and enjoy your bike ride! 🙂

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