How To Adjust Bike Brakes

Adjusting bike brakes can be a difficult task at first, but once you know the ins and outs of what type of brakes you have and how they work, adjusting them comes naturally. In this detailed review we're gonna talk about how to adjust your front bike brakes. Before anything else, it's important to know what types of brakes you have.

Types of Brakes

On a Tower electric bike, our version 1 bikes have mechanical disc brakes, whereas the version 2 Beach Bum and Beach Babe, have hydraulic brakes. A mechanical brake requires a little bit more adjustment when compared to the hydraulic brakes that we put on the version 2. It’s important to know the difference and what you need to do to keep those mechanical brakes in tip-top condition.

An easy way to tell the difference between mechanical and hydraulic brakes is mechanical brakes have a cabling coming off of the brake caliper located by the disc on each wheel. Hydraulic brakes lack this brake cable and instead contain a reservoir of mineral oil or fluid located near the brake levers on the bike.

Basics of Front Brake Adjustments

First things first, lets identify a few of the components of the brakes. You've got the brake lever up on the handlebar. You've got the brake cable running through it for the mechanical disc brakes, and you've got the brake caliper which is the device that actually squeezes the brake rotor which is the disc that's mounted to the wheel.

To keep your mechanical disc brakes working in tip-top condition, you need to make sure that (1) your inner pad is dialed right up against the inside of the rotor, and (2) your cable stretch adjustment is dialed to a minimum to where the brake is immediately activated when you pull the lever. Your lever shouldn’t have a lot of play or deflection in the rotor. By deflection, we are referring to the rotor moving back and forth, and the play would just be the lever play or how much cable adjustment that was dialed in or out.

Basic Adjustment Technique/Knowledge

When you let go of the lever, both pads back out the same distance away from the brake rotor and the brake rotor can move freely between the pads and the caliper without dragging. This would be your basic adjustment technique. Eyeball and see which pad seems slightly more close or far away from the rotor. You will then need to adjust to make sure the brake pads are sitting properly, even distanced away from the rotor.

DIY Brake Adjustment for Mechanical Disc Brakes

Now, if you're going to do the brake adjustment yourself on a mechanical disc brake, you're going to need a five-millimeter wrench and some basic understanding of how the mechanical brake system works. It requires a combination of inner pad adjustments and adjusting the slack on the cable wire.

You're going to need to dial in that inner pad adjustment as seen here.

and tune out your cable slack by gripping and pulling the wire further out while simultaneously moving your caliper upright and tightening the slack adjustment located here:

Check that all your nuts and bolts are tight and torque the spec.

Then just operate the lever to make sure that your brakes are functioning properly, meaning tight on touch.

DIY Brake Adjustment for Hydraulic Disc Brakes

If you've got hydraulic disc brakes, it's a lot simpler. There really is no brake adjustment required. You can just center your brake if it's dragging, which is basically loosening the caliper on its mounting point on the frame with a five-millimeter wrench, then squeezing the lever. And while gently holding that lever closed, you snug up in a kind of a crisscross pattern where you do a little bit on one bolt, a little bit on the other, and then slowly bring up tension, working back and forth on the two mounting bolts for the caliper so it doesn't move around a bunch. Doing this should be able to center the caliper.

Recommended Frequency of Brake Adjustments

Now, how often should you adjust your bike brakes? That's sort of subjective. You want to make sure that you do this regularly, but it kind of depends on how often you use your bike. If you commute every day, you're probably going to be checking your brakes at least once a week. If you commute lightly, then maybe a couple of times per month. But, if you don't ride your bike that often, then you may not need to do it quite as often. We recommend three times a year tune-up to cover your brake adjustments.

Now if you have an electric bike you're likely going to need to adjust your brakes at least 2-3 times a month. Due to the speeds electric bikes are able to reach, the stress on the brakes is more immense than typical geared bikes. This results in brake pads wearing down faster on ebikes due to more stops and starts at higher speeds

Other Issues and Parts to Consider When Adjusting Brakes

Now, if you've gone through these steps and you still have issues with your brakes dragging, your rotor could be bent, or your wheel could be situated incorrectly. It’s very important to make sure that your wheel is in straight before you dive into brake adjustment. You might want to loosen your front axle nuts, put a little bit of downward pressure at the stem of the bike, and then tighten those front axle nuts up real tight, and then go back to the rear of the bike, do the same thing.This is all done with the bike held vertically, the weight of the bike down on the axles so that the axles are squared into the dropouts of the frame and fork. This process can be seen here:

Once you know that the wheels are straight, then you can move forward with your brake adjustment, which generally is an issue with brakes dragging. If the brakes are still dragging, it's likely that your rotor's bent, you can have that trued or true it yourself with the park tool, rotor truing tool, or take it to your local mechanic.

If you need your eBike repaired/ tuned or maintained, our Tower eBike Repair Shop in San Diego, California can help you get your bike dialed. We even have an eBike showroom located at our repair shop at 3300 Kurtz Street, San Diego, CA, 92110.