Brake Maintenance

The common bicycle brake system consists of three main components:

  • A mechanism for applying rider force into the system. Typically brake levers or pedals.
  • A mechanism for transmitting that force including cables and hydraulic hoses.
  • A breaking mechanism such as a caliper.

The rider applies force into the breaking system, for example by pulling the brake lever. Then the force is transmitted through the system, for example via steel brake cables that connect the brake lever to the caliper. Ultimately the force is transmitted into the caliper where the caliper clamps the brake pads onto the braking surface. The two most common types of Bike brake repairs are rim and disc brakes.

The two most common types of braking systems found on bicycles today are rim brakes and disc brakes. Both effective, yet certain types of riding styles and environments can dictate which style of brake is better suited for the task. Rim brakes have certain advantages over disc brakes including lighter weight, improved heat dissipation, and lower stress on the bicycle frame, fork, and wheels. Disc brakes have advantages as well including being waterproof (working while wet) and being unaffected by rim dents or an out of true wheel. Disc brakes have a smaller area to work with and therefore dissipate heat less effectively, however many disc brake systems are designed to run hot. Both styles of brakes are operated by left and right hand levers, and can be found on both road and mountain style bicycles.

In addition to the rim and disc systems, another common type of brake is the classic “coaster brake”; found on kids bikes and beach cruisers. This brake system is located near the rear hub; the coaster brake locks up the freewheel when the rider applies backwards force on the pedals, causing the bike to stop. All three systems are effective means of stopping your bicycle when it counts, however choose a bicycle with proper brakes to fit your riding style and goals.

A little Bike brake repair on your part can ensure a longer life for your disc brake. Here’s how you can maintain the disc brakes on your bicycle:

  • Always keep your rotors free from contamination
  • If you contaminate the rotors, make sure to clean them
  • Use a disc brake cleaner to clean your rotors
  • If your pads are contaminated, replace them
  • If your pads are contaminated, replace them

Bicycles brake repair services have specific recommendations for the fluids to be used for their flawless functioning. These often include particular kinds of brake fluid mineral oils. But make sure not to use DOT fluid and mineral oil together. These two aren’t cross-compatible. Using them together can result in the swelling of seals and failure of the braking system.

If you can’t take up enough slack with the barrel adjuster, tighten the cable. First, dial the adjuster barrel all the way in, then back out one full revolution. Next, while holding the brake arms together so the pads contact the rims, loosen the anchor bolt on the brake arm and pull the cable through until it’s barely taut. Refasten the anchor bolt.

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