Setting Up Rim Brakes #BeBrakeReady

Setting Up Rim Brakes #BeBrakeReady

Part 3 in our #BeBrakeReady series. So far we’ve covered how check whether your pads need replacing, how to replace them, and now finally in part 3, how to set them up.


You’ll remember from last weeks blog that the brake pads have a series of concave and convex washers on the stud. These now come into play when setting up the brakes for optimal efficiency and squeal-free operation.

These washers allow the pad to alter alignment so that it can sit nice and square to the rim and ideally with some ‘toe’. What’s ‘toe’? we’ll get to that in a moment but first lets look at where the pad meets the rim.

The brake pad should meet the rim towards the top, but no so close as to have the potential the rub the tyre. The pad needs to be towards the top because as the pad wears down over time it will tend to travel further down the surface of the rim (it’s to do with angles!).

Toeing…. this is where the front part of the pad hits the rim first. This is a good squeal reducer… we’ve all been there right? An easy way to setup a little bit of toe on your pads is to use a shim at the back of the pad to help you. For example, an elastic band attached around the back of the pad is a good guide.

With the pad nut loosed, push the caliper so that the pads touch the rim. You’ll find that with some mild pressure applied as you tighten the bolt, the washers will take up the orientations they need to be in order to align the pad to the rim with some toe. Once tightened remove the band and there you have your toe and hopefully a squeal-free future!


With the bolt which secures the cable at the top of the caliper arm loosened and the noodle in place, as it would normally be, press the caliper arms towards each other so that the pads touch the rim. Pull the cable tight, then let about 5mm of cable back out (so you can release the noodle from the noodle holder to release the brakes when removing the tyre) and then tighten the bolt.

Pull your brake lever with force to test the cable in the bolt does not slip. It’s very important that it’s very secure, but not over tight so it damages the cable. You can set the clearance of the pad to the rim at the brake lever. See that barrel adjustment where the cable comes into the brake lever? That tights or slackens the cable which moves the pads towards or further away from the rim.


Make sure that the pad on each side is the same distance from the rim. If it isn’t you can adjust this with the little screws towards the base of the caliper. Adjustments can be made either side.


The main difference here is how to set the pads orientation to the rim. The pads are bolted onto the calipers in a slot which enables you to move the whole pad up and down. Unlike the V-Brakes, the pads rise up the rim as they wear so set the pad height to near the bottom of the braking surface on the rim and make sure that the pad is nice and square to the rim while you are tightening up the bolt.

For setting the toe, first see in the brakes squeal (they are not as prone to squealing as V Brakes). If they don’t, leave it as it is! If they do, and there is no washer system (see V-Brakes above), then the only way to toe in the pads is to bend the calliper arm itself. Not necessarily recommended and can permanently damage the arm so it would be worth upgrading to adjustable cartridge pads.

To centre the brakes to the rim, most calipers come with an adjuster screw to move the caliper from left to right, use this to centre the pads to the braking surface (some Campagnolo brakes have the adjuster screw pushing against the return spring). If not, the large pivot stud which attached the brake unit to the frame is where you need to look. Loosen this and the whole unit will be able to be adjusted from side to side.

Once the pads are nicely aligned you need to set the bite point using the barrel adjuster. The pads should have just over 1mm clearance from the braking surface.

As always, if you don’t feel confident or get stuck half way through, give us a call and we’ll come to the rescue.

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