The term bike brakes refer to both the braking mechanism that prevents the wheels from turning and the levers located on the bars. How to fix bike brakes on a hybrid bike will depend on the style and type of brakes your new bike comes equipped with. There are a variety of styles available including disc brakes, caliper brakes, V-brakes, and cantilever, each of which has their own pros and cons.
Key Takeaway: Like other types of brakes, the hybrid bikes come equipped with a few different options. Adjusting, fixing, and maintaining these brakes can be a cinch once you learn how to handle some of the basic issues that can arise with each type. However, if you don’t have much experience working on bikes, you may want to leave major repairs to the pros.
Common Bike Brake Issues
How responsive your brakes are, the way they sound, and how they feel can be major indicators regarding what’s really going on. There are a few common issues that you’ll run into with brakes, including the following:
A Spongy Feel
You may be riding along and notice that one of your brakes isn’t working as well as the other. The brakes may not feel as though they’re applying a consistent level of pressure. Cyclists usually refer to this as spongy brakes. While there are several reasons why your brakes don’t feel very responsive, the most common is that the wheel has buckled. When the wheel buckles it affects the surface of the brake pad. If the brake pads have not been aligned correctly it will also cause this type of spongy feel. Another option involves poorly set up caliper arms.
If the brakes strike the rim but won’t release or you pull the brake lever and nothing happens your first step should be to check the cable housing. If the cable housing is rusty or split then the cable cannot move around freely. This type of bike brake fix is pretty simple, all you’ll have to do is replace the housing.
Seized or dirty calipers can also cause the brakes to stick. Typically, the brakes will also feel very loose if this is the underlying cause.
When you apply pressure to the brakes and there’s little to no response the cables may need to be adjusted. This is a simple fix, you will just need to adjust the cables and make sure the cable is tensioned properly. Another reason for slackness in the brakes can be attributed to the cable slipping through the bolt on the caliper arm. To fix, simply just tighten the bolt.
If you’re dealing with squeaky brakes clean the brake surface areas with a degreaser. This will include the pads and rim.
As we mentioned, just like a mountain bike or a city bike, the hybrid will have a few different styles of brakes. In this section, we’ll go over the basic styles and some of the common problems you’re bound to come across, and what you can do to fix them.
These days, most hybrid bikes are equipped with disc brakes, but V-brakes still provide plenty of braking power. These brakes feature a couple of long arms which are what provide much-needed leverage when the brake cable is pulled. Fixing, installing, and adjusting these brakes is pretty straightforward. However, you need to make sure that the brake levers on your hybrid are compatible. If you have road bike levers or cantilever levers, V-brakes won’t work well. The majority of V-brakes will come equipped with cartridge style brake pads, which is what makes these brakes so easy to install and maintain. All you have to do to swap out the pads is remove a bolt, pull out the old brake pad and slide the new one in.
Many hybrid bikes use brakes made by Shimano. The Shimano brand V-brakes are powerful and reliable and a good fit if you’re using your hybrid for commuting or training.
If you’re having issues with stiff brakes or your brakes don’t offer the same type of stopping power, they may need to be adjusted or cleaned.
To start, you’ll need to squeeze the calipers in order to remove the cable. Next, you must remove the brake caliper and the caliper bolt. Check the brake pads and search for signs of wear and tear. If the pads look very worn they will need to be swapped out. Before you reattach the caliper arms lubricate the components if needed. The caliper arms should then be bolted back into place and the brake cables reattached.
With a similar mounting style as V-brakes, unlike the V-brakes the cantilever brakes have a cable placed between them. The cable is pulled in a vertical direction in order to operate them. Fixing and adjusting cantilever brakes can be somewhat more difficult compared to V-brakes but they offer a better all-around performance compared to V-brakes. They also feature cartridge style pads, which makes swapping out the worn brake pads simple and fast.
Many hybrid bikes that have a design that leans more towards a road bike will often have caliper brakes. This type of brake provides reliable, powerful stopping power regardless of terrain type. The majority of caliper brakes are attached to the bike’s frame or on the fork with a bolt. Other styles of caliper brakes are designed as a single unit. Newer models may even come with direct mount style brakes. The direct mount caliper brakes feature a type of brake pivoting mechanism and a two bolt design. The bolts attach directly to the bike via a couple of mounting points.
If you decide to upgrade and buy new brakes for your hybrid, make sure that the fork or frame is compatible. Yet again, Shimano makes very versatile caliper brakes which will work for most hybrids.
There are a couple of types of disc brakes to choose from. Mechanical and hydraulic. The mechanical brakes are often priced more affordable and feature a basic lever connected to the brake caliper via a cable. However, the mechanical disc brake isn’t quite as powerful as a hydraulic disc brake. Additionally, they will need to be adjusted frequently and assessed for brake pad wear. So, what makes the hydraulic brakes more powerful than the mechanical version? The hydraulic disc brakes are equipped with a lever that’s connected to a caliper with a hose that contains incompressible fluid.
Disc brakes come with many advantages including impressive stopping power regardless of terrain type. They’re often found on a wide range of bike styles, not just the hybrid, including cyclocross and road bikes.
To learn more about the other differences and similarities of the hybrids and road bikes, click here to read our article on the hybrid bike vs. road bike.
These brakes are also able to automatically compensate for pad wear, which means you won’t have to deal with swapping out worn brake pads quite as frequently. The only maintenance these brakes really need is a new set of pads every six months and braking fluid. The fluid works to reduce the heat that’s caused by friction when braking, which is what makes these brakes so reliable and predictable.
The brake’s rotors also have a major impact on braking power. It’s important to ensure you choose the right rotor to fit your hubs if you decide to upgrade or replace your disc brakes. While larger rotors offer more stopping power, they can also add too much heft to your bike.
What is Brake Binding?
Your bike’s brakes should feel smooth and easy, with the pads snapping away from the rims once you release the lever. If this doesn’t happen, the brake cables or pivots may be dry, which is what causes brake binding. In order to free the pivots, you’ll need to squeeze the levers and apply lubrication in order to lube the pivot points. Keep in mind, it’s crucial that you avoid getting any of the lubrication on the rim or brake pads.
If lubing the brakes doesn’t seem to help, then you may need to lube up the cable as well. Typically, only the rear cables with split housing will need this.