Easy fixes for sticking bike brakes

June 30, 2015

Brakes are the hardest working parts of a bicycle. They use friction to slow the wheels; this means they wear down in normal use and need to be replaced regularly.

Easy fixes for sticking bike brakes

My brakes are stuck

Lubricate the moving parts

Apply a light lubricant to ensure that the moving parts move freely.

  • Dribble lubricant over the hinge of the brake lever, then lubricate the opening where the brake cable enters the plastic housing. Do the same where the cable leaves the housing (you might need to tip your bike upside down to allow the lubricant to seep into the housing).
  • Lubricate the pivot bolt at the centre of the brake, from the front and back. Let the lubricant soak in, then pull the lever repeatedly to loosen things up.

My brakes have lost their stopping power

Deglaze your brake pads

Over time, and especially if you ride in wet conditions, rubber from your brake pads forms a gritty paste on the wheel rims. This substance sticks to the pads when braking, creating a hard, shiny glaze that can make the brakes slip rather than grab the wheel rim.

  • Remove the pad by using a wrench to unscrew the fixing nut at rear of the pad. Lightly sand the surface of the pad with sandpaper until it feels slightly rough. Clean the wheel rim with degreaser and then rinse it with water. Reinstall the pads and check the brakes.
  • If this doesn't help, adjust your brakes and cables.

Tools of the trade

Cleaning and lubrication

It's a common misconception that general-purpose oils are suitable for bicycles. For example, 3-in-One is too thick for bicycle chains and will attract grit, dust and dirt. Water-displacing sprays, such as WD-40, are useful for that purpose only, and will destroy the grease in bearings, so they should be avoided.

Specialist bicycle lubricants are essential for maintaining the health of your bike. Visit a bike shop and choose a "light" Teflon-based lubricant, which will be viscous enough to penetrate and lubricate without leaving a sticky coating that attracts dirt.

A degreaser solution is also useful — it will break down dirt from your chain, which you can then scrub clean with water.

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