Learn How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes on Your Bike

Learn How to Adjust Cantilever Brakes on Your Bike

Use this guide to learn how to adjust your city bike's brake levers, center cantilever style brakes, resurface brake pads and set your cable tension.


In today's guide, City Bicycle Co. will instruct you on the best way to adjust your cantilever brakes easily.

What You'll Need

  • Cable puller (optional)
  • 5 mm allen key
  • Sandpaper (strip of it)
  • 10 mm open-end wrench

How to Adjust Levers

You will first need to adjust and set up your fixie bikes brake levers.

  1. Loosen the clamp on the brakes.
  2. Align the levers so they match your arms when you're riding the bike.
  3. Set and tighten the clamp snuggly.

How to Check Your Wheel Center

Next, you will need to check the wheel center of your fixie.

  1. Check the pick to make sure the wheel is centered in the frame.
  2. Inspect the axle and make sure it is fastened to the dropouts fully.
  3. Begin wheel truing if the wheel is off center still.

How to Set Up Your Brake Pads

Now it is time to set up the brake pads for resurfacing or replacement.

  1. Loosen the bolt on your fixies brake arm.
  2. Tighten the barrel adjuster on the lever fully.
  3. Pull on the brake pads to loosen them, using minimal force to prevent injury.
  4. Remove the brake pads from their mounting posts.
  5. Inspect the brake pads surface and look for any sign of excessive wearing. If you see metal on the surface, you will need to replace the pads completely.
  6. Resurface the brake pads using a strip of sandpaper.
  7. Adjust the brake cable. Ensure both of your fixies brake arms are parallel and straight up and down.
  8. Tighten the brake pad.
  9. Reinstall the brake pads onto their mounting posts, laying them flat against the rim.
  10. Tighten the bolt on the brake pads so it is snug enough so the pad doesn't move around.
  11. Check if the pad is in line with the surface of the rim's brake.
  12. Ensure the front pad touches the rim shortly before the back rim to prevent it from squealing.

How to Properly Adjust Cable Tensions

Next, it's time to adjust the cable tension. Certain fixed gear bikes and mountain bikes have a straddled wire position set by a link union, so keep that in mind here.

  1. Tighten the carrier-styled bikes with a pinch bolt as tight as possible.
  2. Pull the cable through the pinch bolt and tighten it to adjust the cable tension.
  3. Keep adjusting until it feels right and make sure the pads are not rubbing against the rim.

How to Center Your Bike

Lastly, you will center the bike.

  1. Use the screw on the left brake arm to set the tension from the spring to one side.
  2. Tighten the screw clockwise to help pull your brake pad away from the rim.
  3. Tighten the screw counter-clockwise to pull the pads closer to the rim.
That's all you need to know to learn how to adjust your cantilever brakes on your bike. Easy and simple solutions brought to you by City Bicycle Co. – a Premiere Fixed Bike Gear Bra