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BRAKES? What are those things? Even though a number of BMX riders are brakeless these days, there are still a number of you out there that run brakes, or wish they knew how to properly install BMX brakes. In fact, one of the most common reasons we hear from people as to why they ditched their brakes is because they don’t know how to maintain them or how to properly set them up in the first place.
Although BMX brakes can seem (and actually be) a little bit complicated, it’s not as hard as it may seem. Colony dropped this quick how to video showing you how to install front brakes, which is the same as the back.
The video shows you how the arms are designed to go with one specifically on the bottom and one on the top. After that, you need to make sure you have the right spring on the right side and the left spring on the left side. This is important because if you put the springs on backwards, you will just cause the spring to stretch and push the brake pad into the rim, versus pull it away from the rim. This tension is needed to ensure the arms will spring back away from the rim when you let go of the lever.
After the springs are properly in place, you will want to adjust each arm until they’re balanced with the same amount of tension and pull. One misconception is that you have to crank the springs tight, but in all actuality, you really don’t need much more than a quarter of a turn at most usually. This is also preference, as well. Some like a firm smooth pull, and some like a little softer pull, so you’ll want to play with the adjustment a little to find your perfect spot.
Once you have your brakes in place and tensioned properly, you can use the barrel adjuster on the cable or at your lever to help adjust the arms in and out to the perfect spot. Once again, this is personal preference. Some like little play and some prefer to have a little more room to allow them to feather the brakes for manuals for example. If your brake pads are far away from the rim and you pull the lever and there’s little brake pad contact or not much pressure on the rim, you can adjust your barrel adjuster all the way in, then loosen the grub screw holding the cable in place at the bridge. For example from this video the side without the barrel adjuster, you can see the cable hanging out a bit… Just loosen that and pull a little more of the cable through. Usually you don’t have to pull the cable too much so try and pull it a few millimeters then tighten it down and test, repeat if necessary until you get your arms closer to the rim, allowing for proper contact and pressure to lock the wheel up.
Colony didn’t cover adjusting the brake pads in this video, which is a very key part to installing brakes. The brake pads are designed to curve with the rim, so make sure the pads are on properly, then you will want to make sure all of the pad is on the rim and not touching the tire. The trick to adjusting brake pads are to slightly “toe in” the pad so that one end of the brake pad makes contact before the other end. This allows you to feather the brakes, it also can help prevent some of the squawking that can happen, especially on chrome rims with soft rubber pads (clear pads for example).
Once you have the brakes installed, the springs properly installed and tensioned, the cable and barrel adjuster set to your personal preference and the pads adjusted, you should be good to go. Fufanus, abubaca’s and nose picks will be in your future.
It can seem a lot more complicated than it is, but once you know what you’re doing it’s a lot easier. If that still doesn’t make sense, you could always take your bike to your local bike shop and a properly trained mechanic can dial you in as well.
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