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Stills taken from our Brake maintenance and set up instructional DVD which is available for £3.97 from our ebay store


Having your brakes adjusted correctly and running smoothly is not only important from a safety point of view but will also make for more enjoyable riding. Cable replacement, maintenance and adjustment are all relatively straightforward and inexpensive procedures so you should have no excuses in keeping your stoppers in tiptop condition.


Before you do anything make sure you are happy with the way the existing brake cables are routed -make sure that there are no sharp bends in the cable routing and that the steering can move freely without any binding or pulling. If you are happy with the routing then you can use the existing cable housings as a template for the new ones (so don't throw them away!).

If your brake cables are routed underneath the bar tape then remove this first by cutting the insulation tape on the stem side and unwrapping the tape. If you are planning on using the same bar tape then be careful you don’t damage it, then remove the tape securing the cable to the bars. If you have a quick release system on your brake callipers release this first and then snip off the cable end crimp at the brake calliper with your cable cutters.

Next, disconnect the cable at the brake calliper – which is usually secured by an Allen bolt, and this will then release all the tension in the cable and allow you to pull the old cable from the lever. It can be made easier if you squeeze the lever first and then release it back -this should reveal the cable end which you can then grab to pull the cable out. Then it's just a case of removing the plastic housing  - being careful to make a note of which section goes where as you will need the old sections as a guide for cutting the new ones (i always label them as i remove them – this might seem like overkill but they are easy to get mixed up once they are off the bike).

Repeat the whole process for the front brake as well.


To cut the housing its best to use a specialised cycle cable cutter (park do a good one). If you were happy with the routing of your old cables then you can just cut the new cable housing to the same length as the old ones. If you are unsure then cut the housing longer than you need and trim down as necessary. After you have cut the new housings it's likely that the inner liner will be a little squashed so open it out by poking in a small nail or something similar, and make sure the end is nice and round by using the indent in the cable cutters which is designed specifically for this job. As a final check make sure the cable runs freely through the end you have cut, then place a ferrule on each end of the cable housings.


First, make sure the cable adjuster barrel on the brake calliper is screwed down fully, then unscrew back about 1-2 turns. Next, thread the cable through the hole in the lever and then out of the cable exit hole – and make sure the end nipple sits nice and snug. Then thread the housing onto the cable (for the back brake make sure that the right section of cable housing goes on in the right order). Thread the cable end through the cable adjuster barrel and cable clamp and then push the pads against the rim with your hands whilst pulling the cable tight - making sure that all the cable housings are seated properly. Release the pads off the rim a little and then tighten the cable clamp up with an allen key. Finally, snip off the end of the cable leaving about 2-3 inches pasts the cable clamp and squash a crimp on the end of the cable to stop it fraying.

Repeat the exact same procedure for the front brake then replace the handlebar tape if necessary.


To increase the tension in the cable unscrew the cable adjuster barrel anti-clockwise and this will have the effect of bringing the pads closer to the rim - thus reducing the amount of movement needed in the lever before the brake is applied. Adjust the cable tension to suit your own preference. As your pads wear down you may find that you run out of adjustment on the adjuster barrel – if this happens, just screw the adjuster barrel nearly all the way, undo the cable clamp, and pull more cable through (whilst holding the pads close to the rim), Tighten up the cable clamp then fine tune to your own preference with the adjuster barrel.


If you have fitted new cables and housings then there is no need to lubricate them because new cables now come pre-lubed. It's only as dirt and grit starts to find its way inside your cables you will need to lubricate them periodically with a some light cycle oil. Don’t use dry lubes or wax based lubricants as these will quickly turn into a sticky paste which will restrict the cable operation

To lubricate thoroughly first snip off the end cap, then undo the cable clamp bolt on the brake callipers and free the cable. Remove the cable housing from the cable and wipe the cable down with a clean cloth. Squirt some spray lube down inside of the cable housing to blow any dirt out, then drip some light oil down the housing. You can also rub some light oil onto the bare cable as well if you like. Replace the cable housing and cable then adjust the cable tension as described previously. If the cable still feels sticky after lubing then i’m afraid you have no choice but to replace both the cable and housing. 


Replacing and adjusting brake pads can be a fiddly and frustrating job but getting it right results in efficient braking, getting the most wear out of your pads, AND you shouldn’t get any annoying squealing! Most pads come with grooves in them and as a rule you should replacement them when these grooves have disappeared rather than waiting for metal to start grinding against your rim. When removing the old pads make a note of where the various washers and spacers go by placing them in order as you remove them.

When fitting the new pads it's a good idea to put a drop of oil on the fittings and washers to aid adjustment when it's on the calliper (make sure your don't get any on your pads though). Brake pads come in a number of different guises so when fitting the new pads follow the instructions that came with them or refer to your old pad to make sure you get the spacers and washers in the right place and the right way round. To make life easier nip up the pad clamp bolt slightly so it holds the pad in place but so it can still be moved easily, then adjust the pad post so it is clamped in the middle. Adjust the height and rotation so the pad contacts flush with the centre of rim. You also need to make sure the pad follows the angle of the rim and is not twisted at all. Tighten up the pad clamp bolt and go out for a ride to see how they feel.

If you find that your new pads are suffering from the dreaded squealing – don’t despair, you’ll just need to toe the pads in slightly. To do this you will need to angle the pad so the rear of the pad is about 1mm away from the rim when the leading edge is touching the rim. A good trick to getting this is to put a piece of thin cardboard between the rear of the pad and the rim, then push the pad against the rim and tighten up the pad clamp bolt - and with any luck you should be squeal free.

I hope you found this guide useful. If you did, please take a couple of seconds to vote below. thanks!

You can also see exactly how it's done in close-up detail with our easy to follow step by step DVD which is available from our ebay store - just click on the link below.

ebay store

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