General maintenance and servicing of Road brakes

Here I was servicing a bicycle yesterday when I thought it would be  a great idea to share some knowledge through a blog on

Of particular interest yesterday was when servicing the brakes on a road bike, I cleaned and refaced the brake pads and lubed the cables.

When servicing ones brakes on a road bike there are a few things to look at. Pad wear and metal filings in the brake pads, cable inner wire condition and lubrication,  cable outer housing and end cap condition and general condition of brake caliper and lever function.

What I tend to do is remove the brake inner wire end caps first, then loosen the cable clamp bolts, remove the inner cables from the frame and leave the cables hanging at the front of the bike. Note: do not remove the cables completely unless you are installing new cables as the inner wire can fray when trying to reinsert through the gear/brake lever and outer casing at the bars.

Then I check the brake pads for wear and any metal filings or contaminants caught in the pads, eg aluminium filings from the wheel rims. If you notice metal filings you should remove these with a metal pick or a blade or similar. If the pads seem uneven or rough on the surface you can now reface them with a flat file, file gently and evenly to get a nice clean and even surface.  Note: See those three lines/grooves on the brake pads? well they do two things, they help remove grit and grime from the wheel/rim and the grooves are also there as a wear indicator. That’s right once you get close to the end of these lines with pad wear then it is time to replace the old for some nice new ones :)






Next I clean the calipers, this is easiest if the calipers are removed but can be done effectively when still on the bike. I tend to use a basic furniture polish sprayed either on the brake or sprayed on a rag and then applied. This tends to get most grit and grime off the brake caliper.  Water will also work as will light oils applied to a cloth.

Next I lubricate the brake caliper pivot points, these are the points where the brake moves. I also lube the springs and the quick release ratchet points and fixing bolts.






Then I move to the cables, hanging at the front of the bike. Firstly I pull the front cable through the lever unit(but not right through) until I can clean it and apply some light oil or grease to the cable, then reinsert the cable to the brake caliper. I do the same with the rear brake cable by doing the same as above, remembering to lube the short section of cable at the rear of the frame before inserting to the brake caliper.

Finally I tension the brake cables and squeeze the brake levers to check the brakes feel even, as in both front and rear have the same amount of feel at the lever, and add some new cable crimps to the ends of the cables so the cables do not fray.

Hope this helps with your brake servicing and setup :)


Shane of SR Bike Works.


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  • I agree completely with lubing cables at installation as I do this with nearly all new bike builds. You are spot on regarding the top end cables as some come with special liners etc and do not need or recommend lubrication before installation.

  • greencannondale

    We grease cables upon installation or assembly on most bikes. I am on the coast, my county is 60% salt water and there is salt in the air. The exceptions are high end cable sets.