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Cycling Made Easy: Brakes Maintenance

Posted by Matt Knight

cycling made easy, bike riderThere's no point cycling somewhere if you can't stop once you've arrived. In these cold winter months it is important to remain vigilant when maintaining your brakes. Follow our expert advice to ensure your brakes are kept in top condition and can be swapped out should you need to change them. 

Replacing Brake Pads

Release the brakes and remove the old brake pads with a 5-mm Allen key or, if you have cantilever brakes, you will also need an open 10-mm spanner. Fit the new brakes and align them to the wheel rim before tightening.

Replacing Brake Cables

There are two main parts to a brake cable: the inner wire and the outer housing. You can replace them independently of each other but this guide will deal with changing both together.

  1. Slacken the cable pinch bolt and draw the cable through after snipping off the end cap with wire cutters. If you have V-brakes, keep the metal tube (the noodle) and the rubber tube in a safe place as you will need to reuse them.

  2. Unscrew the adjustment barrel next to the brake levers by hand, and line up the slots in the barrel, the locking nut and the brake lever unit. The cable can now be lifted out. 

  3. Cut your new cable housing (not the inner wire) to the same length as the old one with cable cutters. Attach the metal ferrules (rings) to one end.

  4. Wipe some oil onto the inner wire and slide it into the cable housing.

  5. Hook the nipple into the end of the brake lever and fit the inner cable into the slots in the lever unit and the barrel adjuster.

  6. Feed the other end of the inner cable through its fittings and fit the housing to its relevant attachments on the frame and at its terminals.

  7. Pull the cable tight through the pinch nut then tighten.

  8. Make sure everything is in place and the brakes are centred and aligned. Make fine adjustments by turning the adjustment barrel by hand, then tighten the locking.

  9. Pull firmly on the brake lever several times to bed it in.

  10. When satisfied that all is in place and working properly, cut the free end of the inner wire, allowing some spare. Attach a cable end cap by pinching it over the cable with your pliers.


This post is based on an extract from our bestselling book, Cycling by David North (ISBN: 9780857750969) – where you can find more on the above and further help and advice on Cycling.


  • Check out these tips for wet-weather cycling here.

  • For more information on bike maintenance, plus choosing a bike, equipment and clothing and much more, take a look at our book Cycling by David North. For a limited time only we are offering a 30% discount from our website here.

  • To keep up-to-date on our latest posts and download a free Made Easy ebook click the link below and sign up.

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