How to Align Brakes on a Bike

By: Alex Bristol

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Bicycle brakes usually get less effective over a passage of time. The pads can wear out. If they are too low or high on the rim, it can be a safety hazard. The cables can also stretch which makes it harder to brake. All of this begs the question; how to align brakes on a bike?

You need to act quickly if you are able to squeeze the lever completely without the brake engaging. To adjust the bike’s brake system, there are two things you can do: adjust the brake pads or the brake cable. Both these methods are given below in simple steps.

Aligning brakes by adjusting brake pads:

  • Check the brake pads before making adjustments:

If the brake pads are worn down past the line labeled ‘wear line’, replace them before making adjustments. Unlabeled wear lines are marked by grooves on the side of the pads.

  • Squeeze the brake lever to see where the pads hit the rim:

Pads that hit the rim too high or too low could make contact with the rubber portion of the tire or the bike’s spokes.

  • Loosen the bolts holding the brake pads in place using an allen wrench counterclockwise:

Make sure not to loosen the bolts all the way.

  • Move the brake pads along its holder:

Low rim pads should be moved up while pads that are high on the rim should be moved down till they are centered.

  • Re-tighten the brake pad bolts:

Use an allen wrench in a clockwise motion. Make sure that the bolts are completely tight, and the brake pads centered.

Aligning brakes by tightening brake cables:

  • Test the cable’s tightness

Pull the brake levers; if they hit the handlebars, then the brake cables are too loose.

  • Loosen the barrel adjusters for minor brake cable adjustments:

Loosen the barrel adjuster joined to the loose brake cable by turning it counterclockwise. This will tighten the brake cable.

  • Unscrew the bolt holding the brake cable on the caliper using an allen wrench in a counterclockwise motion:

Do not unscrew the bolt all the way.

  • Pull the brake cable outward to tighten it:

Hold the brake cable with your fingers once you’ve pulled it taut. The brake pads on the rim of the front tire should tighten as you pull the cable.

  • Tighten the bolt holding the brake cable on the caliper using an allen wrench in a clockwise motion:

Once the bolt is tightened, the cable would be secure in place.

  • Tighten the barrel adjusters on the handlebars:

The brake pads attached to the front tire will loosen when the barrel adjusters are tightened, and the brake cables would be all set.


In order to make sure that your bike is at its best performance, you need to align its brakes on a routinely basis. This is the only way you can ensure you are riding safely. To align the brakes, you can either adjust the brake pads or tighten the brake cables.

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