How to Fix Back Brakes on Bike: Rim Brakes

How to Fix Back Brakes

Typically, rim brakes are designed to provide impressive stopping power, but over time the pads tend to wear out and the cables can stretch. Additionally, the brake can get knocked off center, which causes the pad to drag along the rim.  Learning how to fix back brakes on bike is important because your safety will depend on optimum stopping power.

How to fix rear bike brakes isn’t as complicated as it may seem. We’ve included some guidelines to use that will teach you how to fix bike brakes sticking, and a number of other common issues that can cause faulty brake performance. These adjustments are relatively easy, even for cyclists with no prior experience and will ensure that your brake system is in perfect working order, in time for your next ride.

How to Fix Your Bike Brakes: Tightening and Other Adjustments

For hybrid bikes that feature upright handlebars, take a look at the brake levers for a device known as an adjusting barrel. For easy gripping, the barrel will have a knurled edge, so it will be simple to make brake adjustments without the use of tools.

After you’ve logged in a ton of miles, the adjusting barrel can be just the thing that can make your brakes feel almost new again, especially if your pads are worn down. It can also be used during a ride if the brakes feel sluggish or weak, which can happen in wet conditions.

To use an adjusting barrel, turn it counterclockwise and squeeze the levers to check the setting. The barrel adjusters should be locked into position once the brakes feel right.

Another common brake issue is a dragging pad. The pad tends to remain pressed against the rim, even after the brake has been released. A misaligned wheel is often to blame. This issue occurs when a wheel is reinstalled after removing it to fix a flat tire or to place a bike on a roof rack for transport.  Failure to place the wheel exactly centered in the fork or frame causes the brakes to work improperly because it’s pressed against the frame too tightly and poorly aligned. To fix this issue, you can easily center the wheel in the frame or fork. This is a quick fix that requires you to check and make sure the wheel is fully inserted and tightened properly.

Centering the Brakes

If the wheels are correctly centered but the brake is still dragging, then the brake itself may have been knocked out of place. Begin your inspection by checking the position of the wheel and brake pads, if you haven’t already.

When it comes to centering side pull brakes, you’ll want to loosen the bolt behind the brake bridge or fork crown until the brake is totally loose. Next, try squeezing the lever in order to hold the pads against the rim as you tighten the bolt. If the brakes still feel as though they could use an adjustment, check for a small screw located on the top of the brake. Once located, turn the screw clockwise in order to move the shoe found on the side of the screw away from the bike’s rim.

Centering pull brakes is also pretty easy. Search for a small screw located on the side of the brake arm. Turn the screw clockwise to move the pad away from the rim.


A bike’s brakes should work smoothly, with the pads snapping away from the rims when the lever is released. If they fail to do so, the cables or brake pivots may be dry, resulting in binding. In order to free the pivots, try lubricating the brakes. To efficiently lube them, try squeezing the levers several times.  If this doesn’t solve the problem, then the cables may need to be lubricated as well. This will usually only be required for brakes with split housing.

Take a look at the stops on the frame to determine where the housing sections enter. If they’re split, then you can take off the housing to remove the majority of the cable. You’ll need to raise the bike and allow gravity to pull the lube into the housing, if the stops aren’t split. Then, you’ll add a few drops of lube to the cables, squeezing the rear brake in order to pull the lube into the housing.

For split housing stops, you can open the quick release on side pull brakes. On linear pull brakes, you can unhook the noodle. This will provide the right amount of slack to allow you to gently pull the housing sections away from the stops on the frame. For additional slack, you can squeeze the brake shut.

Once the housing is released, the rear housing section can slide along the cable, allowing for lubrication.

When to Replace Your Brake Pads

Brake Pads

Learning how to properly care for your brakes is just as important as learning how to fix rear brakes. Often, proper maintenance can also prevent a number of brake issues.

Before you take your bike out, especially if it’s for a longer ride, make sure you inspect the rims and brake pads for damage or signs of wear. Brake pads must be replaced from time to time, especially during the colder months of the year when they tend to pick up a ton of grime from muddy trails and wet roads.

If you ride the best hybrid bike at least a few times a year, then the pads will need to be replaced once every six months or so.

Rim brakes should be replaced when the grooves or teeth in the rubber, have worn down. New pads will have grooves or teeth or a type of pattern in the pad. If your brakes don’t feel very sharp, but the pads aren’t worn down, then they may simply need lubrication, an adjustment, or tightening.

Keeping an eye on the condition of your brake pads and paying attention to your bike’s stopping power are both great ways to ensure you stay safe during your next ride.


For more tips on how to care for your hybrid and other important information, you can read our article titled “what are hybrids used for?”. You can also find more information for hybrid bike maintenance in our article titled “Do Hybrids have Suspension?“.