How to Fix Brakes on a Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes rely heavily on braking power.

We need these to slow us down from our tracks, as well as to fully stop our bikes. But little do people know that brakes also play a crucial part in helping us go faster by providing us with traction and momentum.

This is just one of the many reasons why we need to learn how to fix our brakes on our own if ever something happens to them.

Sure, we can just go to the local bike shop and have a mechanic fix it for us. But what if we are too far off from the trail and there’s no way that we can bring it to the shop. Or maybe we’re just on our riding solo and no one can help us?

In times like these, we must learn how to fix the bike’s brakes.

In this article, we are going to show you the right way on fixing the brakes on your mountain bike most simply and effectively possible, while discussing different scenarios.

How to fix squeaky brakes?

If you hear squealy noises or pinging sounds coming from your bike while riding on the trails, then that’s a good sign of squeaky brakes.

These usually happen at regular intervals. Whenever things like this happen, there is a good chance that your calipers have been misaligned. It is also possible that your rotors are bent which causes your brake pads to rub with each other when you ride.

You can check this by first checking your wheels. Lift your wheels off the ground and turn them in whichever direction you want. If the wheels stop to spin and there’s some kind of force that stops it from freely spinning, then you surely have an issue with your brakes rubbing due to misalignment.

The first thing to do in situations like this is to make sure that your wheels are properly connected to your rims and fork. The chainstay and fork dropout should also be in line with each other. This is a bit harder to do if you have quick-release skewers because they don’t easily thread directly into your frame.

Also, make sure that your axles are installed properly as these can misalign the rotors and the wheels. Then check if your caliper is aligned correctly with the brakes. You can loosen them up a bit and wiggle the caliper bolts and the caliper itself slowly. Hold the brake lever as you are doing this.

Holding the brake lever down will reposition the caliper and put it on the center of the rotors, which will then help with setting up your brake pads.

Then tighten the brake lever along with the caliper bolts. Do this evenly so that no bolt will be left behind. Slowly spin the wheel. If you see that the wheel turns awkwardly and it still rubs, then you can repeat the step. Note that it can take multiple tries before you perfectly align the caliper.

If despite all these and that your brakes still rub with each other, then you may have a bent brake rotor.

If this is the case, you can check it first by looking at the caliper and spinning the wheel. You’ll see that the brake pads touch and contact the rotors on the area where it is bent.

You can use a rotor truing fork to bend the rotor back to its original shape and position and make it aligned to the brake levers, brake cables, and the entirety of the mechanical disc brakes. It might be a bit hard, but it’s worth it once you’ve pulled it off correctly.

How to clean contaminated brakes?

If you are experiencing loud and consistent squeaking noise whenever you pull your brakes, then you might have contaminated brakes, specifically on your rotors, calipers, or brake pads.

Brake pads are like a sponge because they share the same porous characteristic where they can soak up grease, dirt, and oils from their surface. This then causes the brake pads to give out loud and squeaky noises.

The usual things that can contaminate your brakes are chain lube, degreaser, and bike polish. There are also times when brake fluid is accidentally poured onto your brake rotors and pads.

It might seem like too much, but that’s how it goes. Even a small amount of any of these contaminants can lead to loud squeaky noises.

Good thing that it is not that hard to fix this because you simply just have to clean them off thoroughly using cleaning alcohol and a clean cloth or rag.

You can also go even further if even this still fails to get rid of the noise. You can remove the contaminated brake pads and use sandpaper to sand the outer layer down. Make sure that you do this lightly so that you won’t overdo it. And then test it out by squeezing your rear brake pads and bike disc brakes using your brake levers connected to the brake cable.

How to fix glazed brake pads?

Mountain bike brakes are just like any other object or shoes. They need to be broken in correctly so that they will function properly.

The same goes for a new brake pad or rotor that is installed on your bike. They need to be broken in because they still have a thin layer of additional material on their surface, which is made by the manufacturer.

If you have a new bike with a new brake set that includes the rotors, brake pad, brake levers, and calipers, then there’s a good chance you’ll have this glazing situation alongside your brake cable and disc brakes. This happens when you go down a steep trail using your new brakes.

Your rotor then heats up too much and will lead your disc brake pads to glaze. This then lowers down its performance level and reduces its ability to slow you down in an effective manner, which then creates a loud squeaky sound especially if you have rim brakes with a brake arm.

To avoid this, you can correctly break in your brakes by first pedaling on flat paved roads. Squeeze your brakes lightly as you are pedaling, just enough for your bike to move around.

You need to do this before you head to the trail because this gets rid of the additional layer found on the new brake pads’ surface.

Once you have done this correctly on your brake pad and you’re done breaking it in, then you’ll have an easier time modulating your brakes when shredding down steep downhill sections.

Just make sure that as you’re doing this, you don’t just feather the brakes. Feathering it means that you just squeeze it for a few seconds and then you let it go.

Instead of doing this, just lightly squeeze on the brakes and maintain that squeezing motion. The main goal here is for you to transfer some of the material found on the brake pads evenly onto the brake rotors.

After that, you can then use sandpaper to sand down lightly the pad’s surface. Repeat the process until you get that strong and modulated braking power you want.

Conclusion

With all this being said, fixing the mountain brakes of a mountain bike isn’t that hard.

You just need to know what is causing your brakes to malfunction, as well as know the right steps and methods to solve that problem.

When you do, then you’ll surely become a better mountain biker. You don’t just know how to ride your bike, but you also know how to fix it correctly.

Related posts:

How to Bed in Mountain Bike Brakes

How to Tighten Brakes on a Mountain Bike

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