Knowing how to adjust V brakes is essential for both performance and safety.
Though disc brakes may be the go-to for mountain bikes (and many road bikes) these days, the humble V brake is still very common on budget and older bikes. Many purists still love them for their simplicity, stopping power, and huge tire clearance.
If you’re not sure which type of brakes your bike is fitted with, check out our Complete Guide to Bike Brake Types here.
In this guide, we’ll be covering:
- What Are V Brakes?
- How Do You Know When V Brakes Need Adjusting?
- What Do You Need To Check Before Adjusting V Brakes?
- What Tools Are Required To Adjust V Brakes?
- How To Adjust V Brakes In 5 Steps
- Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Adjust V Brakes
Let’s dive into how to adjust V brakes!
What Are V Brakes?
V brakes – also known as linear-pull brakes – are a type of brake that creates friction by locking onto the side of a bicycle’s wheel rim.
It’s a very simple system of two arms with pads that are pulled together by a cable controlled by the brake lever.
V brakes are not as common on modern bikes as they used to be, but they are still seen on budget bikes and older, classic bikes. We now typically see caliper brakes or disc brakes.
V brakes are very reliable and offer great stopping power. They also come with a wide variety of other benefits, such as they are easy to maintain and, unlike some other rim brakes, can work well with larger tires.
- Want to know more? Check out V Brakes Vs Cantilever Brakes Explained here!
How Do You Know When V Brakes Need Adjusting?
You will come across many signs to tell you when it’s time to adjust your V brakes. Here’s what you need to look out for:
Poor Braking Performance
If you find that the braking performance on your bike isn’t what it used to be, more than likely, you’re ready for some adjustments. Things such as cable stretch and brake wear can cause them to come out of adjustment over time.
If you start to get noise from your brakes, then there’s a strong possibility that they have come out of adjustment. This noise comes from the pad hitting the rim, and unless you are pulling the brake, it shouldn’t be happening.
Spongy Or Loose Braking feel
If you notice that your brakes feel loose or there are points where there’s no tension, then you are going to need to get them adjusted. This generally means there’s a lot of slack in the cable, and that’s not what you want.
Uneven Pad Wear
If you notice that one pad is wearing down faster than another, there’s a strong chance that your brakes need adjusting. When checking pads, we highly recommend looking at both, not just one.
What To Check Before Adjusting V Brakes
To successfully adjust rim brakes, everything must be in working order. Here’s what we recommend you get checked before starting the task at hand.
- Cable Inners and Outers: Check the cable can run smoothly and hasn’t perished anywhere. Need help? Check out How To Replace A Bike Brake Cable here.
- Brake Pads: Check that the pads are not past the wear indicator and are tight enough. Here’s a guide on How To Replace A Rim Brake Pad if required.
- Noodle And Rubber: Check the noodle isn’t clogged with dirt or bent and that the rubber, if you have one, hasn’t perished.
- Brake Lever: Check the brake lever to make sure it works properly.
- Wheel: Check it is straight and true and also in the fork or frame properly.
Once you know all this is ok, then you’re fine to proceed forwards on to the guide. If anything is broken or too worn, it will need replacing before you start, or the brakes might not adjust properly.
What Tools Are Required To Adjust V Brakes?
When it comes to adjusting V brakes, allow yourself around 15 minutes. Here are the tools we recommend:
- Allen Key Set
- Small Screwdriver
- Bike Stand (Optional)
Having a bike stand will make the job much easier, but it’s not required and can be done easily without one.
How To Adjust V Brakes In 5 Steps
When it comes to adjusting V brakes, there are a lot of different methods bike mechanics use. This method is ours, and the one we find the easiest and most effective.
Step #1. Get Prepared
The first step is to get prepared. Find a place that is safe to work and then do the checks on the bike we spoke about above. If you find anything that needs replacing, we recommend doing this now.
As you’re working on brakes, we recommend double-checking everything to ensure that you get it perfect and nothing comes loose later.
An important step is to make sure that the wheel is seated properly to start with. If it isn’t, you will have to adjust the brakes again later.
Step #2. Adjust The Pad Position
Next, we need to adjust the position of the pads.
The key to getting the best braking is to have as much of the pad connected with the rim as possible. The more friction you can create, the quicker you will slow down.
Use the Allen keys on the rear of one of the pads to loosen them slightly. Then you will want to pull the brake lever lightly, and while holding it move the pad so it makes the best connection with the rim.
Hold the pad here, then tighten the brake as much as possible and secure the pad by screwing in the bolt again. You will then need to repeat the process on the other side. Once complete, double-check that they land in the correct place and are nice and tight.
Step #3. Correct The Tension
Now we are going to correct the cable tension.
First, release the cable tension bolt and then screw any adjusters in. You will more than likely find one at the brake lever or somewhere on the gear cable outer.
There’s a little trick we will teach you to get the perfect cable tension, and it only works with V brakes.
Remove the noodle and put it just outside its holder on the edge. Pull the pads onto the bike’s rim and hold them there, then pull the cable and tighten the pinch bolt back up.
The cable tension will be perfect when you put the noodle back where it should be in its holder. It’s worth just going to the brake lever and pulling it to ensure the cable has settled in the correct place.
If you find the pads are not in the correct place, as in one is closer than the other, don’t worry too much. We are going to be fixing this in the next step.
Step #4. Adjust The Arms
Next, it’s time to adjust the arms.
This is where we will get the pads the right distance away from the bike’s rim. The reason we do this is so that when the brake lever is pulled, they connect at the same time.
If you look on the side of each brake arm, you will find a small screw. Use this to adjust the arm forward and backward. You are looking for each arm to be roughly around 2 mm away from the rim’s braking surface.
Step #5. Test
Finally, you need to test the bike!
Although it might feel ok in the stand or when it’s still, you should test it properly while riding it somewhere safe and away from traffic.
You should have good braking power, and the pads shouldn’t have any contact with the rim until the lever is pulled.
Make any adjustments required, and when you are satisfied, make sure there are no loose bolts. With that, you should be good to go!
If you’d like to know more about adjusting other types, check out our Ultimate Guide To Adjusting Bike Brakes: The 4 Key Types here!
Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Adjust V Brakes
Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!