Step-by-Step: How to Adjust Bike Brakes Rubbing

Cycling is all fun and games until you realize that your bike’s brakes are faulty, stuck, or aren’t working properly. Every bike rider must have had this scare at least once in their riding experience. 

If your bike brakes are rubbing, you’ll need to adjust them. First, check the brake pads and make sure they’re not worn down too much. If they are, you’ll need to replace them. Next, check the brake calipers and make sure they’re not bent or damaged. If they are, you’ll need to replace them.

Finally, check the brake levers and make sure they’re not bent or damaged. If they are, you’ll need to replace them too.

Having a safe functioning bike brake system is important if you don’t want to get into dangerous situations. This means it’s equally important to know how to adjust the brakes by yourself before going out for a ride. 

But to properly adjust the brakes and stop them from rubbing, you need to have enough knowledge about the root cause of the issue and if it is normal for the bike brakes to rub. 

Is It Normal for Bike Brakes to Rub?

If the wheels spin several times before they stop, then there is no point being concerned about the bike brakes rubbing. It is normal for brakes to rub if they do not alter the speed or the resistance of a bike. 

The severity of the brake rub determines if it is normal for the bike brake to rub. There are several ways to determine the severity of the brake rub. Examine how much it is rubbing. 

If there is nothing over the top or something that makes you slow down to check if there’s anything wrong with your bike, then it is all normal.

» I have covered more on this subject in this blog post: (Average Cost): How Much Is a Bike Tune-Up? – Bicycle

How Much Should Brake Pads Rub?

Normally, the brake pads should contact the rim in the center, while simultaneously leaving enough space between the tire and the pads. There is approximately 1.5mm space on each side of the brake pad. 

Brake rubbing happens when the brake pads make contact with the tire.

Sometimes the bike brake pads are rubbing just enough to create noise but not to prevent the wheel from spinning, which is a common issue and it doesn’t pose a threat.

However, if the brake rub is severe, it will stop the wheel from spinning completely and cause resistance. This issue can be solved with adjustments to the calipers, and brake pads. 

What Happens if Your Bicycle Brakes are Rubbing?

A bike’s brake rubbing is a common issue that might not slow you down, but the squeaky noises can be annoying. Sometimes when your bike’s brakes are rubbing too aggressively, it can potentially slow you down, and cause premature wear on the bike’s disc brakes. 

The bike brakes rubbing can potentially pose a threat if they are causing the wheel to suddenly stop or cause the brakes to stop working. 

Why Are My New Bike Brakes Rubbing?

When a brand new bike’s brakes rub this means that either one or both of the brake pads are too close to the rim. To fix this, you need to adjust the brakes. Moreover, the brakes also rub when there is dirt caught up while riding. 

Sometimes bike riders notice their brand new bike’s brakes rubbing and get worried. However, it is completely normal for new bike brakes to rub sometimes because the brake pads are not properly aligned. 

On the other hand, it is said by many bikers that the rubbing stops once the brakes are ridden in.

If you have not ridden more than 300 km on your new bike, the brakes are going to continue to rub.

This means that the rubbing noises will go away after you ride the bike for longer distances. 

Brake Adjusting Tools

To adjust the brakes of your bike yourself, you might need a handful of tools for this project such as:

  • A pair of pliers
  • Ring spanner
  • Allen wrench
  • Allen keys

You might also need some other additional tools depending on the specifications of your bike’s fasteners. Several bike riders also recommend anti-seize grease to enhance the performance of threaded parts 

How to Adjust Caliper Brake Pads: Step By Step Guide 

To adjust the bike’s caliper and brake pads, follow this step-by-step guide:

#1 Examine the Brake Pads

Before making any adjustments make sure to examine the brake pads. This can help you make a diagnosis to locate what area of the brakes needs adjustment.

Check the bike’s brake cables and housing that runs from the lever down to the brake caliper. They sometimes escape their mounts or get kinked up with gunk or rust build-up.

» You can also read my post: How-To: Remove Rust from Bike Chain (Step-by-Step)

Also, inspect the brake lever on the handlebars to make sure that the cables are attached properly. The cables tend to pop out or get damaged, making pulling the lever a hard job.

Examine the brake pad’s wear line. if they are too worn beyond the wear line, you need to replace them immediately.

#2 Watch Where the Pads Hit the Rim

The next step is to look at how the brake pads contact the wheel rim. Check the pads by squeezing the brake lever. The pads should be able to make contact with the center of the rim, while simultaneously leaving a space between the pads and the tire. 

If the pads are too high, they will rub the tire and eventually create a hole through the rubber. If they are too low, they will wear unevenly since only some part of the pads is being put to use.

» Maybe this also could be of interest to you: How Much is a New Bike Tire — (Cost of Replacing Tires)

Also, check if your bike’s quick-release mechanism is loosening or damaged. If it is not tightened enough, the bike’s brake will not work. 

You can also prop your bike on a stand and try turning the front wheel to check if the front brake is rubbing. If the pads are rubbing the brakes without even applying the brakes, they are not in the center position or properly aligned. 

#3 Loosen the Pad’s Bolts and Center Them

Now use the Allen wrench to loosen the brake pad’s bolts which keep the bike brakes tight. Do not unscrew the bolts completely or the brake pads or else their tiny components will fall out of the caliper. 

Turn the Allen wrench counterclockwise slightly so the brake pads can move a little. Now adjust the brake pads by aligning them in the center of the rim. Check the space below and above the brake pads to ensure they are equal. 

Once you have centered them, hold them in place and tighten the bolt. After tightening the bolts, make sure to recheck the brake systems by squeezing the brake lever while turning the front wheel. 

The brake pads must contact the rim in the center. This will fix the brake pads’ rubbing problem.

#4 Test the Bike’s Brake Cables

Sometimes, only adjusting the brake pads does not solve the brake rubbing issue. This is why it’s essential to examine if the cables need adjustments too. Test the brake cable’s tightness by squeezing the brake lever and checking how far it goes relative to the handlebar.

If the spaces between the brake lower lever and the bike handlebar’s top surface have a space of no less than 1.5 inches, there is no issue with your bike’s cable tension.

If the brake lever almost touches the handlebar then you have to adjust the cable tension.

If the lever is too difficult to pull back and doesn’t engage the caliper, there might be too much friction in the cable housing. To fix that, detach the cable and add some lubricant to the housing to lessen built-up dirt or rust.

#5 Readjust the Brake Cables

To adjust the cable tension, locate the barrel adjuster near the cable and the lever. Turn the barrel adjuster to the right to increase the cable tension. Turn it to the left to loosen the tension between the cables.

By following these small steps, you will be able to readjust your brake cables.

#6 Examine the Brake Calipers

A bike’s brake calipers tend to move each time the brake lever is squeezed. Check if only one of the brake calipers is moving towards the rim, then it may need to be repositioned. 

The brake calipers have a spring-like device that makes the two opposite ends move towards the rim. Check to see if it is in the correct position. The rough riding tends to dislodge the spring from its place. 

#7 Adjust the Brake Calipers

To adjust the brake caliper, loosen the caliper bolts by turning them with the help of an Allen wrench. Turn the bolts enough to loosen them, and make sure not to displace them from their original position.  

Now pull the brake cable outwards and use your hand to keep it in place. This will tighten the caliper and brake pads against the bike’s rim.

Tighten the bolts after getting the desired cable tension and the suitable caliper position that you want.

#8 Test the Bike’s Brake System

Lastly, check the bike’s brake systems by testing them out to ensure that the brakes are not rubbing.

You can either get someone to apply the brakes on your signals, squeeze the lever to inspect the caliper, cables, and pads, or even take the bike out for a little test drive. 

» Read my blog post: How Many Miles to Bike a Day?

How To Fix Disc Brakes: Step By Step Guide

Sometimes when the disc brakes are rubbing, it is most likely caused by a wrongly aligned brake caliper or a wheel positioned incorrectly. Here’s how to adjust disc brakes to stop the brakes from rubbing.

#1 Examine the Bike’s Wheel

Before you make any adjustments to the brake, make sure to disengage the quick-release skewer first. Now inspect the bike’s wheel by putting your bike on a bike stand or flipping it over. Check if the bike’s wheels are perfectly aligned.

#2 Undo the Quick Release Skewer

If the wheel is not sitting straight in the dropouts, you may have to reposition the quick-release skewer. In most cases, this should stop the brake rubbing issues. But if it doesn’t then the disc brake caliper is the culprit.

#3 Loosen the Bolts On the Brake Calipers

To adjust the disc brake caliper, loosen both bolts of the caliper.

Make sure you do not undo the bolts completely or remove them, loosen them just enough for the caliper to move around slightly so it can be adjusted or centered properly. 

Bikes with disc brakes also have calipers, these are located near the bike’s fork or a brake adapter. If you can not find it, it is best to check the bike’s manual. 

#4 Realign the Brake Calipers Properly

Realign the brake calipers by pressing the brake lever while simultaneously wriggling the disc brake caliper. Make sure to maintain the firm squeeze on the lever while tightening the disc brake caliper’s bolts. 

The wheel should be able to spin freely now that there’s no contact with the disc brake. If it still makes contact, repeat the process until you get the correct caliper position. 

One can also try to adjust the caliper by eye. Realign the caliper with one hand, make sure that the space is equal on both sides of the caliper, and then tighten the bolts with the other hand. 

How Do I Know My Bike Brakes Need Adjusting?

It’s essential to inspect and examine the brakes every once in a while to see for any issues. People who have a normal knowledge and understanding of a bike’s components and their performance can simply pinpoint any issue by one ride. 

To help you better understand, here are some clues that indicate that your bike brakes have issues and it’s time to adjust them:

  • If you’re squeezing your bike brake lever but it still doesn’t slow down the bike. This is a frequent and popular issue that arises suddenly and can pose a big safety hazard sometimes. 
  • Since your bike brakes are unresponsive, your bike brakes need adjusting and the brake cables may need to be tightened.
  • Another indication that your bike brakes give is when they make a squeaking sound. Even though the brakes will work perfectly fine, their noise will cause one to get alarmed and ruin the riding experience. 
  • If your bike brakes are squeaking, it is a sign that you’ll need to adjust your brake pads.
  • Lastly, if your bike brakes are stuck and are hard to apply, it can also be because of the build-up of dirt and rust.

Why Do I Hear a Rubbing Noise In My Bicycle When I Press the Brake?

The rubbing noise you hear when you apply the brakes while riding is due to two reasons. It can be due to the vibrations of the brake pads hitting the rim. Or else, it can be due to the dry dirt and grit that makes the brakes grabby and noisy. 

» This could also be something for you: How to Easily Change a Road Bike Tire?

Conclusion

Bike brakes often end up rubbing due to several reasons and they can potentially end up creating a dangerous situation like a brake failure. Thankfully, you can easily stop the bike brakes from rubbing by fixing them at home. 

Plus, bike brakes need regular checkups to perform at their best. I would recommend regularly cleaning and inspecting the bike brakes to keep them in peak condition. I hope this guide helped you fix the issue with your brakes. 

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