Information for the new or leisure cyclist Information for the racing or touring cyclist Cycling initiatives, routes etc.
Basic maintenance
Brake checks
Brake care
Brake adjustment
Bottom bracket
Chain care
Chainset care
Front derailleur
Rear derailleur
Types of gears
Hubs and bearings
Wheels and tyres
Advanced checks
General checks
Gears and chain
Fork and frame
Wheels and tyres
After a crash
Care and inspection of Cantilever brakes
Installing Brake Pads

You need to do this job when the brake pads are worn past the wear line. Unhook the straddle wire from the brake arm after loosening the cable adjustment at the lever. Then undo the back of the shoe anchor bolt. Prevent it from moving with an Allen key in the front of the bolt. Pull out the pad holder and check its condition. Check for ridges at the top or bottom and if they are present do not misalign the new pad in the same way. If you need new pads, slip the pad holder into the shoe anchor bolt and allow 1mm clearance at the top of the rim. Tighten the shoe anchor.

Disassemble and Adjust

You will need to do this job if the brakes feel stiff or jerky when you pull the brake lever or rust or mud gets into the pivots To reduce tension on the brake cable, screw in the cable adjuster. Unhook one end of the straddle wire (if there is one) and lift it out of the yoke. If it is a link-wire type of brake, use an Allen key to remove the anchor bolt and pull the cable out. Remove the pivot bolt. To keep the springs and wires from being thrown in all directions, hold them in place while removing them. After cleaning and greasing the pivots, replace the pivot bolt. Turn the adjuster until each pad is 2mm from the rim and lock by tightening the pivot bolt again. There might be a small screw in the side of the cantilever arm that controls pad position. To adjust turn the screw clockwise to move pad away from the rim and vice versa. Try to equally space the pads from the rim.

New Cables for Cantilevers

You need to do this when brakes grab or lock the wheel, the cable is frayed or broken or it takes a lot of effort to emergency stop

Link Wire Cantilevers: Pull out the old cable. Make sure that the new nipple fits, grease it and insert it into the hole. Slide the housing over the inner cable. Then slide both into the adjuster, Unhook the link wire from the brake arm. Then feed the new brake cable into the cable carrier and slide the flexible hose over the end of the cable. The flexible hose should be able to touch both the cable carrier and the brake arm. Hook the link wire back into the other brake arm and adjust the spring tension. The cable carrier should sit directly below the cable hanger with at least 20mm of free cable above it. Move the brake cable into the narrow slot in the cable carrier. Make sure the pads are close enough to the rim.

Straddle Wire Cantilevers: Put the brake cable into the anchor bolt on the cable carrier and tighten carefully. See if you can lift the straddle cable into the channel on the back of the cable carrier by squeezing the brake pads against the rims. If it's tight, slightly lengthen the main brake cable. Do the opposite if it is too loose. When the brakes are off, the pads should be 2mm from the rim. The straddle wire should form a right angle for best control. Loosen the brake arm and adjust the length of the straddle wire if it doesn't. Make sure that there is enough free cable above the cable carrier so the brake comes on fully.

Care and inspection of Side pull brakes

Installing Brake Pads

Screw in the cable adjuster, operating the quick release so there is some give in the cable. Undo the brake and squeeze the pad out between the brake and rim. Slip the pad into the slot and tighten lightly. Pull the brake lever a few times. While pulling the brake lever, notice where the pad hits the rim. Go for clearance at the top of the rim, but make sure there is no overlap at the bottom. Tighten the bolt securely and test it out.

Brake adjustments

You will need to do this job when you installed a new cable or the braking feels rough.

Pull off the cable end cap and undo the anchor bolt. Being careful, try to remove the inner cable without it fraying. The nipple should drop out of the cable anchor and into the brake lever. On some forks there is a self-locking nut or an Allen head sleeve bolt. Make sure you check how the brake is attached to the forks. Take off the brake from the forks and remove the adjuster nut that is holding everything in place on the pivot bolt. Disengage the spring and then take the brake arms off. Now clean and reassemble everything. Make sure you put anti-seize on all points where friction occurs.
If you notice that one of the pads touches the rim, centre the brake. This may take a couple of tries.

New Cables for Side pull brakes

You need to do this job if your brake cable is frayed and/or lubing a cable doesn't free it.

Remove the cable. You may have to cut it out, as frayed cables are hard to pull out through the anchor bolt. It is easier to pull the nipple end out of the brake lever if you slide the housing off first. You may have to peel back the rubber hood and pry out a plastic cover to get at the nipple. Undo the handlebar tape (if the cable runs underneath it) as it will make it easier to install the cable later. From the brake end of the housing try to push out the inner cable. The nipple should pop out and then you can pull out the cable with pliers. You might have to remove the nipple with pliers if it won't come out. If the old plastic housing is kinked, cut a new piece, using the old as a guide for its length.

Spray lube into the housing until it comes out the other end. Then thread the inner cable into the housing. If the cable comes out the top of the brake lever, the housing sits in a separate ferrule that fits into the lever. Next thread the inner cable into the housing and turn the cable anchor until it's in the right position, then put the nipple into place. Fix the cable into place on the side of the brake lever. Keep the inner cable under slight tension so that it doesn't slip out. Pass it through the cable adjuster, then the anchor bolt and pull it tight. Check that the adjuster is screwed in and fit the anchor bolt. Pull the cable tight with one hand while pulling the brake pads with the other. Then tighten the anchor bolt and check the adjustment. Tighten the anchor bolt slightly and then tension the brake cable and pull the brake pads to the rim. Fully tighten the anchor bolt and you're finished.

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