How to Adjust Kid’s Bicycle Brakes?

How to Adjust Kid's Bicycle Brakes?
How to Adjust Kid’s Bicycle Brakes?

A few days ago, at a local park, while having a conversation with a colleague, I saw a mother trying to adjust her kid’s bicycle brakes.

Then I thought about how simple a task it was but how difficult it was to do for the clueless mother.

After a few minutes of research, it turns out how simple or daunting a task could be with a few insights on the topic.

If you, too, don’t know how to adjust a kid’s bike, let’s learn about it together.

To adjust your kid’s bicycle brakes, you need follow these steps:

  1. Loosen the screw or the nut attached to the brakes on the bicycle’s fork with a spanner,
  2. Reposition the brake pads evenly on both sides of the wheel rim, leave a 2-3 mm gap between the rim and the pad,
  3. Tighten the screw or the nut when the brakes are positioned evenly,
  4. Repeat until the brakes work evenly and perfectly.

Though the fundamental of adjusting the brakes of a bicycle lies within the steps mentioned earlier, the process may vary depending upon the bicycle model, style, or types of brakes on a bike itself.

The adjustment process for drum brakes may not work on a coaster bike or a balance bike.

Adjustment of a Kid’s Bicycle Brakes

To adjust a kid’s bicycle brakes, first, you need to understand the components of a braking system in any bikes.

The major components involved in the adjustment of the brake system of any plain bicycle are:

  1. Brake lever (the lever you pull to stop or slow down the bike)
  2. Brake cables (cables that connect the lever with your rim or disc)
  3. Fork of the bicycle (a frame to attach the brakes with the tail end of the brake cable)
  4. The brakes themselves, be it the rims and brake pads or discs.
  5. Adjusting screws (screws attached to the fork and the brake cables at the wheel’s end)
  6. Barrel adjustments (located at the lever near the attachment with the brake cables)
Components of a Bike (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

For regular rim brakes and v-brakes, the priority of the adjustments should be provided to the adjusting screws, brake pads, and wheel rims.

The gap between the rims and the pads should be 2-3 mm on either side of the wheel.

The distance proportionality of the brake pads maintains the proficiency of the brakes. 

The steel or metal frame of the wheel covered by rubber tires is the rim of the wheel.

As mentioned previously, the fork is the bicycle structure that connects the wheel with the handlebar. 

The two rubber pads on either side of the rim near the fork are the brake pads.

Brake pads are connected to the fork with the use of two screws attached to it. These pads are connected to the brake cables near the wheel.

Similarly, the brake cable’s other end is connected to the brake levers through the lever adjustment. 

All these connections work in unison to create a functioning brake for the bicycle.

Workings of the Brake

To adjust the brake system correctly, one needs to grasp the workings of the braking components.

Let’s learn how the previously mentioned components work alongside each other, also how they could create problems if not adjusted correctly.

This video by SickBiker explains how the Hydraulic Brakes Work On A Bike in detail.

The brake pads and the cable are similar to a tong. Instead of your hand pressing the tongs, it’s the wires, and rather than grabbing random stuff, it holds the rims of the wheel, slowing it or stopping it.

When you pull the brake lever, it yanks the cables connected to it. Afterward, the cable tugs the brake pads towards the rim of the wheel. A fixed brake pad is attached to the fork.

Then you pull the cable by applying pressure to the lever. It creates a system where both the pads touch the rim like the tong touching the stuff you’d want to grab.

The function of the brakes depends upon the rider itself. The rider can choose whether to slow down the bike or bring it to a halt. It depends upon the force he applies to the lever. 

When the brake pads on both sides of the rim press the moving fringes simultaneously, the steady pads’ friction slows down the moving wheels. 

When pressed gently, the cables pull the brake pads close to the rims, slightly touching them.

The minor friction produced can only slow down the bike. When a rider presses the lever with a large pressure, the cable at the bottom end near the brake pads pulls back the pad further.

This lets the brake pad grip the rims harder. Then it stops the bicycle altogether.

Locating the Problems

When everything is working smoothly, the bicycle can feel the best there is. But a small displacement of a part of a simple adjustment error could annoy the rider to a great.

When your child feels uneasy while riding their bike, it’s your duty to locate the problem within the bike and restore their joy.  

This is another video by Howcast on how to adjust bike brakes.
Rim brakes are the most common braking system in bikes. But, if a brake pad touches the wheel rim unevenly, it could invite unwanted complications for the kid riding the bike.

If you’re able to locate these adjustment errors in a bike and fix it, you could be your child’s hero for an afternoon or possibly prevent an accident.

Let’s learn how a perfect-looking bicycle could have brake problems that you might need to acknowledge.

There are two major adjustments you need to fixate upon while locating the problem. Let’s discuss them briefly:

Brake Pad Adjustment

Is an essential process. Previously, while talking about the brakes’ workings, we discussed how the two brake pads need to clamp the rims at the same time to stop the bike.

A brake pad or both the pads could be rubbing up against the rim. It unwantedly slows down the cycle.

If one side of the brake pad is nearer to the rim than the other, when you pull the lever, the brake pad that’s closer to the rim touches the wheel but not the other one.

Due to this, the brake pads cannot tighten their grip on the rim, and the brake does not work.

One needs to locate this unevenness in order to move forward with the adjustment.

Brake Lever Adjustment

This is also an important component of the braking system. The lever must be close enough to the handlebar that the kid can reach it but far enough so that they can hit the brakes properly.

If the lever is too close to the handlebar, the rider might not press brakes as the handle would block the lever fully. 

Fixing the Bike’s Brakes

Adjusting the brake pads or the lever of a kid’s bicycle brake is as easy as it gets if you understand the basics of how the brake works.

After recognizing what sorts of components are involved, how the brakes work, and locating the problems, the rest of the work is a piece of cake. 

Adjusting the brake of a kid’s bike requires a spanner. Initially, you need to unscrew the nut connected to the fork using the spanner just loose enough to move the brake pads.

After locating the side with an uneven setting of a brake pad, adjust both the pads at the same distance using your hand. Afterward, screw back the nut back in its proper place.

This process works even if the brake pads are far apart from the rims or they’re rubbing against the rims.

Check after screwing the nut back to the fork of the bicycle.

If the pads feel uneven, you might need to repeat the previous process until both the pads can work in sync.

Both of the pads need to touch the bike’s rim to stop the wheels at their place. Try the brakes until you feel satisfied.

The process is the same for the front brake, and the rear brake through the brake cables’ length does differ. 

Adjusting the Lever

It is an important function in keeping the brakes in a usable manner.

As mentioned previously, when the brake lever is too close to the handlebar, your kid can’t use the lever according to their requirement.

An adjustment barrel and an adjustment screw are attached to the lever near the point connecting the brake cables’ lever.

If you slightly unscrew the adjustment barrel using your hands, you’d be able to place the lever at a suitable distance from the handlebar.

The manner you screw the barrel increases or decreases the brake wire’s tension depending on how you do it. This tension keeps the lever level in a certain place.

While adjusting the lever, make sure to place it at a distance not too far from the handlebar either. Your kid might not be able to reach the lever if you set it further away from the handlebar.

Precautions while Adjusting Brakes

With the excitement of fixing your kid’s bicycle brakes and seeing your kid feel the joy of riding without any care in the world, you should be aware of the potential problem the brake might endure. 

While adjusting the brake pads, you should tighten the screw and the pads to their full capacity.

A loose grip of the brake pad on the fork might cause it to break down when the bike encounters a sturdy bump on its path.

Do not forget to put back every screw or bolt you take out.

Make sure to test the brakes yourself before giving them out to your child.

Various other Bikes and their Brakes

Rim brakes are the most popular of their kind. Though, some parents want their kids to experience something different. If you are one of these parents, feel free to dive into the following discussion.

Break Pads tend to damage quickly if not taken care of. Here I have covered How to make Brake Pads last longer.

Bike Brakes Adjustments
Rim Bike Brakes (Source: Pexels.com)

It is about various other types of brakes in bicycles and how to, if you can, adjust these brakes.

Balance Bike Brakes Adjustment

Balance bikes look like any plain bicycle, but the main thing is that they do not consist of any pedals. The rider drags the bike forward with their feet.

Despite this dissimilarity in the cycles, the braking system is almost the same in these bikes. Most of the balance bikes consist of a brake in the rear wheel.

You can adjust the brake pads and the balance bike’s lever the same way we learned how you could adapt the rim brakes.

Disk Brakes Adjustment

A disc brake in a bike has a disc at the center of the wheel, enabling the wheel to stop. Unlike the rim brake system, these bikes do not consist of brake pads.

The brake cable connects to the metal disc. These discs press the central frame of the wheel.

Unlike the rim brake, you do not need to adjust the disc. The disc is almost permanently attached to the wheel.

You will instead need to connect the cable to the disc properly so that the disc pads can grab the disc to apply the brake.

The major adjustment required in the disc brake bike is the lever adjustment. Similar to the rim brake system that we learned a few moments ago, the process of adjusting the lever is the same.

Only this time, you might need to look towards the wheel in order to accommodate the lever.

An Allen wrench bolt connects the disc, brake cable to the wheel’s center frame. When you loosen this bolt, you’ll be able to pull the cable accordingly.

After pulling enough of the cable so that the lever is where it’s supposed to be, you should tighten it and check if you completed the work accurately.

Coaster Brakes Adjustment

Coaster Bikes are of a different kind than the bicycles as mentioned above. They do not have the traditional brake that stops the bike. Their brake is attached to the pedal.

When you stop pedaling this bike or reverse pedal, this bike stops. Therefore, these brakes do not require the adjustments like the other bikes. 

Although, you might want to consult a bike maintenance professional if the brake parts look really out of place. 

Here is another article on Coaster Brake Bikes. You can learn a variety of things about why do kids have coaster brakes from this article.

To Conclude

Brakes are the essential parts of a bike, whether it’s a kids’ bike or an adult bike. Since it is directly related to the rider’s safety, brakes should always be in a functioning state.

Children don’t take care of things more responsibly. Thus parents need to check for them and their things. The same applies to your kid’s bicycle brakes too.

Learning the way to adjust your kid’s bicycle brakes will make your job easy and ensure your kids safety.

After considering the steps and processes provided above, it seems as if any regular working parents can help their little ones if they face a break adjustment-related obstacle.

After reading this article, I hope you can provide a bundle of joy for your kid with the knowledge that you gained here today.

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