Adjust V brakes for Your Mountain Bike

For efficient braking one must consider more than just replacing the brake blocks on his/her mountain bike. There are many detail aspects which will lead to better braking:
  • softness of rubber in brake blocks - soft rubber (more latex) wears off faster but gives a better friction, thus a more efficient brake; it's the same thing with climbing shoes sole
  • correct placing of washers
  • adding a brake booster (horseshoe)
  • changing the cable sheaths with ones that have the plastic reinforced with steel wire - this will keep them always open and perfectly cylindrical
  • oiling the the inner steel cable (runs through the cable sheaths) which pulls the V brakes
From my experience, I've seen that not all bike mechanics (ones who work in bike service shops) fully understand the physics behind the V brake system of a mountain bike. For instance, the most common mistake is placing the thicker washer on the outer part of the brake arm. This will lower your leverage as you pull the brakes. See picture below for correct placement of washers.

Original pictures taken from here and here

Another piece that improves your V brakes is the Horseshoe Brake Booster. I adopted this for my bike and even though I cannot feel a real difference, my frame doesn't expand anymore.

Horseshoe on my bike

Other resources for brake performance and brake kits can be found here, here and here.

Be safe!

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