Bike Brakes Not Gripping? Here's How to Fix Them

Bike breaks not working

One of the most frustrating parts about cycling is when your brakes are not gripping correctly. This may result in delayed stoppage or jerks. This is frustrating and dangerous as it can cause an accident. This issue should be handled with utmost care and should not be neglected. In this blog, we will discuss why your bike brakes are not gripping correctly and how you can fix them. Also, we will discuss whether or not professional help is required for these issues. Bikes come with a variety of breaks so the first step is to identify the types of breaks in your cycles.

Understanding the Issue

Causes of Poor Brake Performance

One of the most frustrating parts about cycling is when your brakes are not gripping correctly. This may result in delayed stoppage or jerks. This is frustrating and dangerous as it can cause an accident. This issue should be handled with utmost care and should not be neglected. In this blog, we will discuss why your bike brakes are not gripping correctly and how you can fix them. Also, we will discuss whether or not professional help is required for these issues. Poor braking performance and grip while cycling can be attributed to a variety of factors, including equipment issues, environmental conditions, and rider technique. Here are some common causes

Worn Brake Pads: Over time, brake pads can wear down, reducing their ability to grip the wheel rims or disc rotors effectively. Check the condition of your brake pads regularly and replace them when they become too thin.

Contaminated Brake Pads/Rims: Oil, dirt, and debris can accumulate on the brake pads and rims, reducing friction and braking power. Clean the pads and rims regularly with isopropyl alcohol or a dedicated brake cleaning solution.

Brake Cable Tension: Incorrect cable tension can lead to poor braking. If the cables are too loose, the brakes won’t engage properly, while overly tight cables can prevent the brakes from releasing fully. Adjust the cable tension according to your bike’s specifications.

Brake Caliper Alignment: Misaligned brake calipers can result in uneven braking and decreased grip. Ensure that your brake calipers are properly aligned with the wheel rims or disc rotors.

Tire Condition: Worn or underinflated tires can significantly affect grip and braking performance. Check your tire tread for wear and maintain the recommended tire pressure.

Brake Type: Different types of brakes (e.g., rim brakes, disc brakes, hydraulic disc brakes) have varying levels of stopping power. If your brakes are not suited to your riding style or terrain, consider upgrading to a more appropriate brake system.

Weather Conditions: Wet or slippery road surfaces can reduce braking performance. Adjust your riding style, increase following distance, and use caution in adverse weather conditions.

Brake Pad Material: Different brake pad materials (e.g., organic, metallic, resin) offer varying levels of grip and performance. Select brake pads that are suitable for your riding conditions and preferences.

Rim Quality: For rim brake systems, the quality and condition of the wheel rims can impact braking. High-quality, properly maintained rims will provide better braking performance.

Rider Technique: Braking technique plays a significant role in braking performance and grip. Avoid slamming the brakes; instead, apply gradual and progressive pressure to modulate your speed. Use both front and rear brakes as appropriate, with more emphasis on the front brake for better stopping power.

Weight Distribution: Proper weight distribution on the bike is essential for effective braking. Shift your weight slightly to the rear when braking to prevent going over the handlebars.

Suspension Setup: If you have a suspension fork or rear shock, ensure that they are set up correctly. Suspension that is too soft or too stiff can affect handling and braking.

Bike Maintenance: Regularly maintain your bike by cleaning and lubricating components, checking for loose bolts, and ensuring that all parts are in good working order.

Diagnosing the Problem

How to Identify Brake Issues

Brake Pad Wear Inspection:

Step 1: Begin by examining the brake pads. These are typically located on the sides of the wheel rims for rim brake systems or inside the brake calipers for disc brake systems.

Step 2: Look for signs of wear on the brake pads. Brake pads have a wear indicator groove or line. If the pad material is close to or below this line, it’s time to replace the pads.

Step 3: Ensure that the brake pads are wearing evenly on both sides. Uneven wear could indicate a misalignment issue that needs to be addressed.

Fixing Bike Brakes Not Gripping

DIY Brake Repair

Replacing Brake Pads:

Step 1: Begin by locating the brake pads. For rim brakes, they are typically found on the sides of the wheel rims. For disc brakes, they are inside the brake caliper.

Step 2: Loosen the bolt or pin that secures the brake pad to the brake caliper. This may require using an Allen wrench or a specific tool, depending on your brake system.

Step 3: Carefully slide out the old brake pad from the brake shoe or caliper. Pay attention to how it’s positioned.

Step 4: Insert the new brake pad into the brake shoe or caliper in the same orientation as the old one.

Step 5: Tighten the bolt or pin to secure the new brake pad in place. Make sure it’s snug but not overly tight to allow for proper movement.

Cleaning Brake Surfaces:

Step 1: To clean the brake surfaces, start by removing the wheel from the bike.

Step 2: Use a mild degreaser or isopropyl alcohol and a clean cloth to clean the brake track on the wheel rim (for rim brakes) or the disc rotor (for disc brakes). Scrub gently to remove any dirt, grime, or residue.

Step 3: Check the brake pads for contamination. If they are dirty or have oil or grease on them, gently sand the brake pad surface with fine-grit sandpaper until it’s clean and smooth.

Step 4: Reinstall the cleaned wheel back onto the bike.

Adjusting Cable Tension on Bike Brakes:

Step 1: Locate the barrel adjuster on the brake lever or the brake caliper. It’s a threaded component that can be turned to adjust cable tension.

Step 2: Turn the barrel adjuster clockwise to tighten the cable (increasing tension) or counterclockwise to loosen it (decreasing tension).

Step 3: Squeeze the brake lever to test the tension. Adjust the barrel adjuster until you achieve the desired feel and stopping power.

Step 4: If further adjustment is needed, you may need to adjust the cable tension at the brake caliper using the cable pinch bolt. Loosen the pinch bolt, adjust cable tension, and retighten the pinch bolt.

Step 5: After making adjustments, ensure that the brake pads engage the wheel rim or rotor properly and release fully when the brake lever is released.

Remember to take your time when performing these tasks, and if you’re unsure about any aspect of brake maintenance, consult your bike’s user manual or consider seeking help from a professional bike mechanic. Properly functioning brakes are essential for your safety while cycling.

Maintenance and Prevention

Regular Brake Maintenance

Routine maintenance is crucial for preventing future brake problems and ensuring the safety and performance of your bicycle. Properly maintained brakes not only enhance your riding experience but also reduce the risk of accidents and extend the lifespan of your bike’s braking components. Here’s why routine brake maintenance is important:

Safety: Brakes are one of the most critical safety components on your bicycle. Regular maintenance ensures that your brakes work effectively when you need to slow down or stop, reducing the risk of accidents, especially in emergency situations.

Performance: Well-maintained brakes provide consistent and reliable stopping power. This allows you to have better control over your bike, navigate challenging terrain, and ride with confidence.

Longevity: Routine maintenance helps prolong the life of your brake components, such as brake pads, cables, and calipers. By addressing issues early, you can prevent excessive wear and damage, ultimately saving you money on replacements.

Cost-Effective: Ignoring brake maintenance can lead to more significant problems down the road, requiring costly repairs or part replacements. Regular maintenance is a cost-effective way to avoid these expenses.

Preventative Maintenance: Routine brake checks can identify and address minor issues before they escalate into major problems. For example, catching a worn brake pad early can prevent damage to the wheel rim or rotor, which would be a more expensive repair.

Consistency: Consistent brake performance is essential for predictable riding. When your brakes work consistently, you can develop better braking technique and muscle memory, making you a safer and more efficient cyclist.

Environmental Factors: Exposure to the elements, such as moisture and dirt, can impact brake performance over time. Routine maintenance, including cleaning and lubrication, helps mitigate the effects of environmental factors.

Peace of Mind: Knowing that your brakes are in good condition provides peace of mind while cycling. You can focus on enjoying your ride without worrying about sudden brake failures.

To maintain your bike’s brakes effectively, consider establishing a regular maintenance schedule that includes:

Visual Inspections: Regularly inspect brake pads, cables, calipers, and rotors for signs of wear, damage, or contamination.

Cleaning: Clean the brake surfaces, calipers, and pads to remove dirt, debris, and contaminants that can affect performance.

Lubrication: Apply appropriate lubricants to pivot points and moving parts of the brake system to ensure smooth operation.

Tension Adjustment: Regularly check and adjust cable tension as needed to maintain proper brake engagement and lever feel.

Pad Replacement: Replace brake pads when they become worn or damaged, and use high-quality pads suitable for your riding conditions.

Professional Inspection: Periodically, have your bike inspected by a professional bike mechanic to address any advanced maintenance or repair needs.

By making routine brake maintenance a part of your cycling routine, you can enjoy safer, more efficient, and worry-free rides while extending the lifespan of your bike’s braking components.


Safe and well-functioning brakes are absolutely crucial for a cyclist’s safety and overall riding experience. Routine brake maintenance is essential to prevent future brake problems, enhance performance, and extend the life of your bike’s braking components. Regularly inspect and clean your brakes, adjust cable tension, and replace brake pads as needed.Properly maintained brakes offer reliable stopping power, cost savings, and peace of mind while riding.

It’s important to remember that this information is for educational purposes only. Consult a professional bike mechanic for advanced maintenance or if you’re unsure about any aspect of brake care. Safe and effective brakes are the lifeline of your bike. They keep you out of harm’s way and ensure a smooth, enjoyable ride. Neglecting brake maintenance can lead to accidents, costly repairs, and a compromised cycling experience.

Don’t wait until you encounter a problem. Take action now by incorporating regular brake maintenance into your cycling routine. Simple tasks like cleaning, lubrication, and pad replacement can make a world of difference in your safety and enjoyment on the road or trail.

Important Warning: While this blog provides valuable information on brake maintenance, it’s important to understand that it’s for informational purposes only. We do not take responsibility for any DIY maintenance or repairs you perform on your bike. If you encounter complex issues, are unsure about any aspect of maintenance, or need advanced repairs, please consult a qualified bike mechanic. Your safety is paramount, and a professional can ensure your brakes are in top-notch condition.