How to Adjust Center Pull Bicycle Brakes

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Center pull is a design of bicycle brake once popular for use on off-road bikes. The brake's name derives from the position of its cable, which pulls the two arms of the brake from the center. Mere use of the brake causes the cable to stretch over time, consequently increasing the distance between the brake pads and the braking surface of the rim. Adjusting the center pull brake cable periodically eliminates excess slack in the cable and reverses sluggish braking.

Things You'll Need

  • 5 mm hex wrench
  • Phillips screwdriver (as needed)
  • Locate the barrel adjuster and nut, where the brake cable meets the brake lever. Turn the nut once counterclockwise. Then turn the barrel adjuster all the way into the nut. Turn the nut once clockwise to lock in the adjustment.

  • Follow the cable to the center pull brake. The cable is attached to both arms of the brake. Unlike the right arm, the left arm uses a hex-head bolt to secure the cable.

  • Loosen the hex-head bolt using a 5mm hex wrench. The cable will go slack, but do not detach it from beneath the bolt.

  • Grab the end of the cable just past the hex-head bolt. Using the thumb of the same hand, and, while pulling the cable taught, push the arm of the brake in toward the bicycle frame until it is standing perfectly perpendicular to the ground.

  • Maintain tension on the cable while using the 5mm hex wrench to tighten hex-head bolt back onto the cable. Release the cable once the bolt is secure atop it.

  • Check that each pad has equal clearance from the side of the rim. If one pad is closer than the other, locate the small screw near the bottom of the left brake arm.

  • Use a Phillips screwdriver to turn the small screw to center the brake. Turning the screw clockwise pulls the left pad away from the rim. Adjust until both pads have equal clearance from the side of the rim.

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