How to Adjust Bike Brakes Rubbing? Beginners Guide

How to Adjust Bike Brakes Rubbing

If you’ve noticed your bike brakes rubbing against the wheel, don’t worry!

This comprehensive beginner’s guide will walk you through the step-by-step process to adjust bike brakes and get them working smoothly again.

Whether you’re a new cyclist or just need a refresher, this article provides detailed instructions in easy-to-understand language to help you resolve this common issue.

Why Are My Bike Brakes Rubbing?

Bike brakes may rub for a few reasons, including misalignment, cable tension, and worn brake pads.

Understanding these causes will help you troubleshoot and address the issue effectively.

1. Misalignment

Brake caliper misalignment is a common reason for rubbing brakes.

When the caliper is not centered properly, the brake pads can come into contact with the rim, causing friction and noise.

This misalignment can occur due to accidental bumps or incorrect installation.

To fix this, you’ll need to reposition the caliper.

2. Cable Tension

Incorrect cable tension will lead to brake pad rubbing.

When the tension is too loose, the brake pads may not fully retract after releasing the brake lever, resulting in continuous contact with the rim.

On the other hand, overly tight cable tension can cause the pads to engage with the rim even when the brake lever is not activated.

Adjusting the cable tension correctly will help eliminate rubbing.

3. Worn Brake Pads

Over time, brake pads wear down, causing them to be misaligned or unevenly positioned.

This can lead to rubbing when the pads come into contact with the rim.

Regular inspection and replacement of worn brake pads will help you maintain optimal braking performance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Both rim and disc brakes can experience rubbing issues.
  • Rim brakes may rub due to misalignment, worn brake pads, loose calipers, or wheel misalignment.
  • Disc brakes can rub if they are misaligned, have bent rotors, loose brake pads, contamination, or wheel misalignment.
  • To fix rubbing, adjust the alignment, replace worn or bent parts, ensure proper adjustments and cleanliness, and check wheel alignment.
  • Regular maintenance and seeking professional help, when needed, are important for good brake performance.

Why Are My Bike Disc Brakes Rubbing?

Rubbing can happen with disc brakes too, causing annoying friction and affecting your ride quality.

You should be aware of the common reasons behind this issue so you can fix it effectively.

Whether you’re a pro or a newbie to disc brakes, understanding these causes will help you tackle the problem head-on.

So, here’s a breakdown of the most common culprits in plain English:

1. Misalignment Of Brake Calipers

Sometimes, the brake calipers aren’t lined up properly with the disc rotor.

When they’re off-center, the brake pads can rub against the rotor, causing that annoying rubbing sensation.

Misalignment can occur due to incorrect installation, accidental bumps, or just regular wear and tear.

To fix this, you need to adjust the caliper, making sure it sits nicely on both sides of the rotor.

2. Bent Or Warped Rotor

If you’ve had a rough impact, like hitting a curb or a rock, your rotor might have gotten bent or warped.

A wonky rotor means uneven contact with the brake pads, resulting in rubbing.

To solve this, you may need to straighten the rotor using specialized tools or replace it if it’s too damaged.

3. Loose or Improperly Adjusted Brake Pads

When your brake pads are loose or not adjusted correctly, they can move around and touch the rotor even when you’re not braking.

This constant contact leads to rubbing.

Make sure your brake pads are securely fastened and aligned properly within the caliper to prevent this issue.

4. Contaminated Brake Pads or Rotor

Dirt, oil, or debris on your brake pads or rotor can mess with your braking performance and cause the pads to grab or drag on the rotor, resulting in that annoying rubbing.

Regularly cleaning your brake pads and rotor will keep them free from contamination and ensure smooth braking action.

5. Wheel misalignment or improper installation

Sometimes, the rubbing can be traced back to the wheel itself.

If your wheel isn’t seated properly in the frame or fork, it can throw off the alignment between the rotor and the caliper.

As a result, the brake pads may come into contact with the rotor, causing rubbing.

Make sure your wheel is aligned correctly and securely fastened to avoid this issue.

By understanding these common causes of rubbing in disc brakes, you can pinpoint the problem and take the necessary steps to fix it. Whether you need to adjust the caliper, replace a bent rotor, tweak the brake pads, clean contaminated parts, or check wheel alignment, resolving these issues will give you smoother, more reliable braking performance.

Why Do My Bike Brakes Rub When I Turn?

If your bike brakes rub when you turn, it is likely due to rotor or caliper misalignment.

When you lean into a turn, the rotor and caliper can shift slightly, causing contact between the brake pads and the rotor.

Adjusting the alignment as mentioned in the following section should resolve this issue.

How Do I Adjust My Bike Brakes?

Adjusting your bike brakes is easier than you might think.

To adjust your bike brakes, you will typically need the following tools:

  1. Allen wrench set
  2. Cable tension adjustment barrel tool
  3. Rotor truing tool (for disc brakes)
  4. Screwdriver (if necessary)

Here’s a straightforward guide to get your brakes working smoothly:

1. Check and Replace Brake Pads (If Needed)

Before adjusting your bike brakes, take a moment to inspect your brake pads.

Look for signs of wear, unevenness, or contamination.

If the brake pads are significantly worn down or contaminated, it’s time to replace them.

Make sure the new pads are positioned correctly within the brake caliper.

2. Center the Brake Caliper

To adjust the brake caliper and eliminate rubbing, follow these steps:

  1. Grab the necessary tools, such as an Allen wrench.
  2. Loosen the brake caliper mounting bolts slightly.
  3. Squeeze the brake lever to engage the brake pads against the rim or rotor.
  4. While holding the lever, visually check the alignment of the brake pads.
    They should make even contact with the braking surface on both sides.
  5. If the pads are not centered, gently wiggle the brake caliper until they align symmetrically.
  6. Once the pads are centered, tighten the caliper mounting bolts securely.

3. Adjust Cable Tension

Proper cable tension is crucial for smooth and effective braking.

To adjust the cable tension, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the cable tension adjustment barrel, which is typically found on the brake caliper or lever.
  2. Turn the adjustment barrel clockwise to increase tension or counterclockwise to decrease tension.
  3. Make small adjustments and test the brakes after each turn.
  4. Aim for a balance where the brake pads engage quickly when you squeeze the brake lever but do not rub excessively when released.

4. Check Rotor Alignment (For Disc Brakes)

If your bike has disc brakes, it’s essential to ensure proper rotor alignment.

Follow these steps to check the rotor alignment:

  1. Give the wheel a spin and observe the rotor as it passes between the brake pads.
  2. Look for any wobbling or uneven gaps between the rotor and the pads.
  3. If you notice misalignment, it’s recommended to seek professional assistance or use specialized tools to correct it.

In most cases, just by following these steps, you can successfully adjust your bike brakes to eliminate rubbing.

Regular maintenance and inspection of your braking system will help keep your brakes in optimal condition.

Don’t forget, if you’re unsure or uncomfortable making these adjustments yourself, don’t hesitate to consult a professional bike mechanic for help.


In conclusion, brake rubbing is typically caused by misaligned brake calipers, issues with the rotor like bending or warping, loose or improperly adjusted brake pads, contaminated brake pads or rotor, or wheel misalignment.

These common factors can result in friction, noise, and less effective braking.

The good news is that you can fix the issue by taking a few simple steps.

Adjusting the alignment of the brake caliper, replacing a bent rotor if needed, ensuring proper brake pad adjustment and cleanliness, and checking wheel alignment can all help eliminate the rubbing.

To avoid the same issue in the future, you should always perform regular maintenance to keep your brakes in good working condition.

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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