It’s now time to start learning how to repair used road bikes! In this first lesson we will focus on the brakes. Used road bikes, or really any used bike, typically has brakes that hardly work, if at all. This is mighty important if you plan on riding it! Unlike most tutorials and guides online, I’m going to keep it as simple as possible with as few words as possible. Then there will be supplemental info at the end if you have any problems. With no further ado, lets get to work!
A. Crescent Wrench – to loosen hex nuts.
B. Cable Cutter – to cut wire with.
C. Allen Wrench(es) – if you are changing brake pads (mine was a 5mm).
Out with the old!
6. Pull the cable out through all the cable guides until it is completely free from the bike.
A Fresh New Start
9. While you have the jacket removed, cut the JACKET ONLY to the proper length using the wire cutters. (we’ll cut the actual cable later)
13. Pull the wire tight and double check to make sure the jacket is seated in all the grommets.
I’m also going to discuss changing the brake pads. If you are NOT changing brake pads, skip on down to the “Finishing Up” section. If you ARE installing new brake pads, lets proceed.
As you can see, there is a big difference in the newer pads. Not only are they larger, but they will align with the rim much better due to the curved washers that come with them. I got my pads awhile back so the exact ones are probably not still available but there are plenty of great ones to choose from here. Just make sure you get the threaded ones (assuming your bike has the caliper style brake, which most do).
16. Check that you have the appropriate pad on the correct side (they should be marked in some way, if not then it does not matter). Slide the washers on just as they come (there should be two on each side of the brake arm), then thread the nut on finger tight.
19. This part is a little tricky as well. Make sure everything is still seated well. Then, with one hand, squeeze the brake pads to the rim and hold it there. With the other hand pull the wire tight, then torque down the compression nut. Another set of hands is useful here if you have a friend that can help, but it’s not necessary.
20. At this point, check the brakes and see if they work. If you held the pads tightly they should be locked on the rim. Adjust the barrel adjuster back in as you squeeze and test the brakes. It will come to a point where the brakes are just slightly off the rim and allow it to move, but when you barely squeeze the brake they lock up. It up to personal preference how you want the lever adjusted. Just keep playing with the barrel adjuster until you get it how you like it. Once you’ve got them how you like go ahead and cut the wire.
That’s all there is to it! If you are keeping/changing the other set of brakes as well, just follow the same procedures.
Below are a few supplemental photos and other tips.
When buying the new cable, make sure it has the same end as your current brake cable. You can also get a great variety of brake cables here.
Some bike have cable guides that are set up for stripping some of the housing and running bare wire. Personally, I prefer to leave the entire wire in the housing and just zip tie the cable to the bike frame, as opposed to running it through the guides.
Using sharp cutters is very important. It’s vital that the end of the cable does not get frayed, otherwise it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to feed it through the compression bolt.
If you are having a really hard time removing the old cable you can simply cut it off. Of course, this is assuming you are going to dispose of it. The way explained above just helps familiarize you with how the brake cable fits into the lever and caliper, thus making it easier to understand when installing the new cable.
Go for a ride afterward to test them out and take pride in a job well done!