How to Adjust V Brakes on a Mountain Bike

Last Updated on December 13, 2021

Brakes are an important part of mountain bikes.

Not only does this make your bike stop. But this also helps you maneuver through tight trail sections and gain more control.

V-brakes are also slowly becoming obsolete in mountain biking. But they’re still very popular, especially among beginners!

So, if you are a newbie, then you’ve just found the perfect place to be in.

Here, we’ll be discussing the best way on how to adjust v brakes on a mountain bike. This keeps you safe, fast and helps you control your bike better.

Things You Need to Prepare

  • 5 mm Allen key
  • Cable puller
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Sandpaper

Related: What Mountain Bike Tools Do I Need

Step #1: Check your cable and rim condition

The first thing to do is to check the condition of your brake cables. Make sure that the brake housing doesn’t have signs of wear and tear such as scratches. If it has, then that’s a good sign you need to replace it. Then look for the brake cables which are usually rubber-coated.

See if the cable has frays, kinks, or rust. Change if it has any of these. Then check if the cables can move along the housing smoothly.

There should be no resistance. Finally, spin the wheel and check if the rims are round and straight. It also shouldn’t touch the brake pads while rotating.

V brake rims also have a wear indicator that’s in the form of a dot. It’s time to replace your rim if its wear goes beyond the dot.

Related: How to Install Brake Cables on a Mountain Bike

Step #2: Align the brake lever

It’s now time to align the brakes once you’ve checked the parts. The first thing to set up the levers. Start by loosening its clamp and aligning it to your arms’ preferred angle position when riding. Tighten the clamp.

Step #3: Remove brake pads

Slacken the position of the cable. Then tighten the barrel adjuster of the lever while pulling the back of the protective rubber. Slowly disconnect the quick-release mechanism of the cables. You can then remove the pads.

But be careful when removing them. You don’t want to interchange the position of the two washer sets, because this will surely confuse you later.

This is also the time when you can check if your pads went beyond the indicator line. Replace them if they went beyond it. But you can just use sandpaper to resurface them if they look fine.

Step #4: Adjust arm tension

Check the arm tension of your brakes. They should have enough spring tension so you can properly release the levers when braking.

Adjust it if there’s not much tension. Do this by slightly undoing the bolts. But don’t go all the way and remove them! You just want to loosen it up for adjustment. You’ll then see a small metal that pokes out of the brake’s backside.

This is the spring that slides through your frame’s holes. Gently move the spring to the upper hole to increase tension. Go the opposite way to decrease tension. Tighten the brake bolts once you’ve found the right adjustment.

Step #5: Install the brake pads

Make sure that the pad’s front and back touch the rim simultaneously. This is why you’ll sometimes hear squeaks. But don’t worry because this is normal and will be gone when you ride your bike more. This happens because of the resurfaced pads.

Make sure you align the brake pad with the rim’s surface. They also shouldn’t touch the tire or hang off the bottom.

Step #6: Align the brake arms

Check the position of the brake arms once you’ve installed the pads. They should both face straight up and down when they touch the rims. Readjust them if they’re too far or too close with each other.

Bring the smallest washer set nearer to the pads if they’re too far apart. Bring the largest washer set nearer to the pad if they’re too close.

Step #7: Adjust the cable tension

Reconnect the cable to the brake arms. Then adjust the tension and tighten it based on your preferences through the pinch bolt. Most mountain bikers prefer their pads to hit the rim once they pull the levers around 25% of the way.

Step #8: Center the brake arms

Make sure both pads have the same clearance and touch the rim simultaneously. You can adjust it again by tightening or loosening the screws if they’re still not properly set.


V brakes are still very popular among mountain bikes, even if they are already dated. This is because they’re cheaper and don’t require too much maintenance. But the downside is that they need to be adjusted every once in a while.

Hopefully, this article helped you learn how to adjust v brakes on a mountain bike. This way, you don’t have to hassle yourself up and go to the bike shop just to get it dialed.

Learning how to adjust v brakes on a mountain bike is simple. That’s if you know the right way and have the right tools.

Just follow the steps mentioned and always make it a habit to check your bike before riding.

Remember, it’s all a matter of safety and enjoyment.