How to Check Your Bike’s Brakes?

Your brakes are undoubtedly one of the most important parts of your bicycle. Apart from keeping it clean, learning to check your brake if it is in good condition and properly adjusted before you take a ride.


After several bike rides and trails, the brakes will eventually get worn out and lose its effectiveness. You will then experience some problems with bike control, longer response time and ineffective braking.

As a biker, you must know that the disc brakes are assembled using two important parts: calipers which are mounted to the fork in front and frame at the back, and rotors or the discs mounted on the wheel hubs. 

So, when you squeeze the brake levers, the brake pads inside the calipers also squeeze the rotors to slow the turning speed of the wheel. Most modern mountain bikes are already equipped with disc brakes and these are being featured in road and commuter bikes.

When to Check Your Brake

How often should you be checking your bike’s brakes? The answer is before every bike ride. One thing to make certain of is that the brakes are properly positioned and they are in good working condition.

Aside from doing pre-ride overall check, make it also a habit to take your bike to an experienced mechanic for regular servicing. They are able to spot possible problems and repair them before the situation gets worse.


Occasional cyclists can take them for professional servicing every 6 months, but frequent bikers must have their bikes checked every so often.

Checking and Adjusting Brake Components

Brake components include the calipers and brake pads. There is always the tendency that these assemblies may be installed incorrectly or not properly positioned, sometimes as a result of hard or aggressive biking.

This increases the risk of possible accidents or bike crash. That is why all parts should be checked for proper mobility and positioning, and all bolts are tightly fastened.


To check for correct positioning of the brake assemblies, take a look at both the front and back calipers and ensure that the discs are in between the brake pads. When the brake is squeezed, each brake pad must be completely touching the rotor or disc.

In cases where the brakes are misaligned, it may result in poor braking control and unnecessary noise.

To readjust it, simply unfasten the bolts and slightly move the caliper from side to side until it is centered. Bolts on the discs and calipers must be tightly fastened to avoid noisy brake.

Checking and Cleaning Brake Pads

Disc brakes come with pads that also go through normal wear and tear after frequent use. Worn down pads can slow down braking power when you engage your brake, so these must be cleaned regularly.

To inspect the pads, take out the wheel and check the part where the discs spin. If the pads appear glazed, remove them from the brake calipers for cleaning.


Use sandpaper to lightly scuff them on a flat surface. If the pads appear to be less than 3mm thick, this means replacement with new ones.

Checking and Cleaning Brake Pads

Check the brake rotors for any accumulated dirt and debris. Clean it with rubbing alcohol and then scratch it lightly with sandpaper. The rotors must also be properly aligned, so make sure they don’t cause friction with the brake pads.


Checking the Brake Levers

To check if your brake levers are still in good condition, squeeze them and see if there is still a space of one inch between the lever and handlebar. The brake levers must be mounted firmly on the handlebar and must move smoothly without squeaking or jerking when squeezed.


Over time, the brake levers can gather dirt and grime. They can also get misaligned from the handlebar. If you notice that the brake levers are poorly performing, they might require some cleaning or repair.

To clean it, put a small amount of lubricated oil on a cotton swab or soft cloth and wipe it on the pivot areas while squeezing the levers.

Checking Brake Hoses, Cables and Housings

If your bicycle has hydraulic disc brakes, the presence of dirt may indicate sign of leak in the hydraulic hose or fittings because grime gathers where there is leak. Once you spot a leak, take your bike to your trusted mechanic for servicing.

The cables and housing of bikes with mechanical disc brakes should have good mobility. Most bike cables come with a cable adjuster on the brake itself, so you can adjust it by unscrewing the bolt and moving the brakes closer to the rim.

Brake hose

The cables may rust over time and the cable housings may break or corrode with frequent use. If you think it needs repair, take your bike to the shop for maintenance check.

Always make it regular habit to check test your brakes by squeezing the brake levers and making sure there is exactly one inch gap between the inside of the lever and the handlebar.

If it comes too close to the handlebar, you need to adjust the brakes immediately. The brakes should be in perfect condition because these can help you avoid possible bike crashes.

Final Words

Learning the mechanism of your bicycle and how to check your brakes help you ride your bike with confidence, knowing that your bike and its overall components are in good working condition

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