How To Adjust Mountain Bike Disc Brakes

It’s a big thing when you get your first bike with disc brakes. Improved modulation, better brake feedback, and better stopping power are all noticeable differences. There are no cumbersome calipers to obstruct your rack, no brake dust to cover your clothing, and no brake pads to inspect at stoplights and think, “I should switch those when I get into work today.” It looks different.

Re-learning some riding techniques, like adjusting your brake pads, is part of the novelty. This week, we’ll show you how to adjust your disc brake pads so that you may ride and stop without fear. Jump right in!

Here are 4 steps To Adjust Disc Brakes on a Mountain Bike

1. Inspect the caliper

Prevent wheel wobble in the frame/fork by checking the axles first. Then, pull the brakes while looking down at the pads. They should both move the same amount. If only one pad moves, remove the wheel and reinstall the pistons using a flat screwdriver, tyre lever, or special piston tool.

2. Check the rotor


If the brake works fine, inspect the rotor for wobble as it passes between the pads. If it needs straightening, use a rotor straightening tool or a clean adjustable spanner. But be careful not to over bend the rotor in the incorrect direction. Position the bike against a light background to observe the rotor between the pads. A simple white sheet on the floor will do. Assemble the rotor securely to the hub to avoid rubbing.

3. Centre the calliper

In most cases, the problem is caused by a brake shift or changing wheels with a changed disc location. To re-align the brakes, just loosen the fastening nuts and slide the caliper sideways. Post-mount brakes are caliper-bolted. Flat-mount brakes are fastened to the frame’s underside and sometimes the fork’s far side.

Pulling the lever to clamp the caliper onto the rotor can recenter the brake. Then you carefully tighten each bolt alternately, and your brake should be perfectly centered and ready to ride. Sadly, this doesn’t work as well as most ‘how to’ manuals claim, so be prepared to manually align items.

4. Manually centre the caliper

To manually align the brake, simply shift the caliper sideways until there is a consistent clear gap between the pad and the rotor as the wheel is spun.

Again, having the bolts tight enough to move them will make fine adjustments easier. A light background also aids in determining a balanced braking position. Expect to make numerous modest repositioning and tightening changes to get the rotor functioning clean.

Looking down the brake from the front or back, make sure the caliper is perpendicular to the rotor. As long as the frame and fork are aligned, flat-mount brakes shouldn’t be an issue. Some post-mount brakes feature concave and convex washers that can shift sideways. Again, slight modifications are required to get the rotor clean through the brake.

5. Tighten the caliper

After adjusting the caliper, tighten the fixing bolts in tiny, alternating revolutions to avoid pulling the caliper out of alignment. Now squeezing the brakes hard and spinning the wheel to ensure everything functions smoothly, you’re ready to ride. If it doesn’t, loosen, tinker, and retighten.

In wet and/or sandy conditions, even a minor scuff can be very annoying when riding.

Power and performance tuning


If you ride more aggressively or travel to places with steeper tracks, you may desire extra power from your brakes. The following adjustments can sometimes improve a perfectly adjusted brake.

Heal it (again) A thorough brake bleed can occasionally remove the final traces of air in the system, improving performance. Replacing the brake fluid once or twice a year keeps the seals happy and healthy.

Rotors A bigger rotor gives your brake more leverage to slow the wheel down. Pie plate rotors also dissipate heat better on long descents, keeping the system working smoothly. Finally, rotors with steel surfaces and alloy centers cool faster and weigh less than all-steel rotors. The classic saying “steel is real” doesn’t hold true here. On the manufacturer’s website, certain frames and forks include rotor size limits.

Various pads The market for “better brake pads” is flooded with competitors. Some make pads for DH and e-bikes. Trying out different pads and compounds can help you get the desired braking feel and responsiveness.

More cyls Many manufacturers now provide 4-piston (or four pot) brake calipers for gravity riding. If your present caliper only has two pistons and you desire additional bite, you should upgrade to a 4-piston caliper. They are indeed more powerful. Here’s a look at a cheap Shimano model.

More tire grip If you’ve done everything right but still need extra stopping force, your brakes may not be the problem. Around 70% of your bike’s braking force comes from the front wheel, so choose a tire with a gripping tread that’s appropriate for the trails you ride or race. More grip means stronger braking. Examine your rear tire’s tread blocks. Your rear tire should have long brake bars running down the center of the tread if you enjoy strong braking. To demonstrate this, take a look at the Maxxis DHR II tire. Maybe an E*thirteen SS tire is more your taste.

Here’s a video on how to boost braking power. There are more complex ways to boost braking power, but let’s start with these.

This list is far from complete. Your brake tips and techniques are welcome below.

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