5 Common Bike Brake Problems and How to Fix Them

Bike brakes are one of the most frequently out of adjustment or breakdown components, especially when used heavily. Both shoe and disc brakes. And these breakdowns require priority repair due to the importance of the brakes in terms of safety for the cyclist and good bike handling.

Obviously none of us want to end up with our bones on the ground due to an accident due to a failure in the braking system when we are going down a mountain pass or rolling down a trail. Hence the convenience of carrying out a periodic review of your bicycle’s braking system .

In this article we collect the most important breakdowns that can appear in the brakes of your bicycle on a recurring basis. Likewise, we also tell you how to solve them quickly, or if, on the contrary, it is necessary to go to a mechanic due to its complexity.

1. The brake sounds a lot or squeaks

It is one of the most typical and frequent problems that brakes have, both disc and shoe. On the former you can hear small noises when turning the wheel without having activated the case. The most common cause is that the caliper is not properly installed or poorly tightened, which causes the small channel left by the disc to rub against one or both pads. This can lead to premature and uneven pad wear and uneven braking.

How to repair the fault

Once the source of the noise has been identified, it is time to loosen the bolts that hold the caliper to the frame (or to the fork in the case of the front one) and reposition it, moving it slightly to make sure that the disc and pad do not rub and retighten it later. In the case of shoe brakes, the brake caliper should be centered with the help of an Allen-type wrench to separate the shoes from the rim’s braking track and both brake in unison.

2. Annoying vibrations when braking

In both disc and shoe brakes, vibrations appear in most cases due to defects in the braking surface. In the former it is the disc (which could be bent, incorrectly installed or dirty), and in the latter the braking track of the rim (dirty or with deformations due to impacts or wear).

How to repair the fault

In the case of discs, its surface must be cleaned well using mild soap and water, as well as visually checking that when rotating it is not bent, examining the edge. If you see oscillations in it or cause friction with the pad, you should check the tightness of the screws to the wheel hub, because they may be loose.

In the case of bridge or shoe brakes, the same steps will have to be carried out, only with the rim’s braking track: cleaning and checking its condition. . If it is already very worn by use, presenting a concave profile instead of a straight one, it will be time to dispose of the rim and install a new one.

3. Lack of feeling in the brake lever

This is a common symptom of a breakdown or misadjustment in your brakes. You squeeze the lever hard, speeding up its entire travel, but the bike hardly brakes or does so after making a great effort with your fingers. The brakes are tactless and braking becomes uncomfortable or difficult.

How to repair the fault

The lack of feel of the brakes may be due to the entry of air into the fluid circuit, in the case of hydraulic discs. Also to some misalignment of the lever travel, which can be solved by tightening or loosening to obtain the right one for your needs. In conventional shoe brakes or mechanical disc brakes (not hydraulic), the loss of feel forces the cable tension to be checked.

But it can also be due to the caliper pistons being very sticky or dirty. From home you can try to remove the wheel and carry out this operation, before launching to purge the circuit:

  1. With the wheel removed, operate the levers several times until the pads stick.
  2. Insert the brake pad spacer between the brake pads.
  3. Reassemble the wheel and operate the lever several times to reposition and align the pads.

If the problem persists, the braking circuit is most likely airy and you will need to do a bleed operation. In this Globeros BTT video they explain how to do it from home and the tools you have to use.

4. Low stopping power

If the feel when applying the brake is good but it does not brake enough, it may have lost some of its original power. The loss of average brake power can lead to handling problems in technical sections and difficulties in bringing the bike to a complete stop, thus directly compromising the rider’s safety.

How to repair the fault

It is a priority repair failure due to its implications for the safety of the cyclist. The most common cause is the wear of the pads or poor condition of the brake fluid in the case of disc systems, and the wear of the brake shoes or brake track in the case of bridge (brake shoes). A check with bleeding the system and change of pads, as well as replacement of shoes, can solve the problem.

5. Brake overheating

Finally, it is quite common that when riding your mountain bike down a long and steep descent the brakes lose some power due to heating due to the friction between the pads and the disc. This also happens in road cycling when we go down a mountain pass and we have to apply the brake constantly.

How to solve it

The best way to avoid overheating is to learn to use the brake properly so as not to brake continuously, using it only to correct the line or slow down before the technical step. But if the brakes have still overheated and you are not getting the necessary stopping power, it is a good idea to stop and pause to cool down and regain their feel.

There are many cyclists who take advantage of the water in the drum or backpack to spray the disc and thus cool it quickly. This is not a highly recommended practice, as the difference in temperature between cold water and hot metal can end up damaging the disc and, in the long run, making the brakes worse. The most convenient thing in these cases is prevention: braking little and progressively, avoiding continuous use.

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