While our typical bicycle may seem pretty simple in design, with very few components, there are a number of small mechanisms that that average cyclist may not be familiar with. A nice how to fix a bicycle article I recently read was on the subject of bike brake barrel adjusters from Madegood.org. I learned that this simple adjuster screw is actually quite important.
Let’s get a better understanding of what the bike brake barrel adjuster is, where they are typically located and how to use them to adjust your bike brakes.
What is a Brake Barrel Adjuster and Where Are They Located?
A bike barrel adjuster is a small round screw type mechanism that is typically found either at the start of your bike brake cables (where they attach to your levers), or at the end of the cables where they attach to your brakes. The picture at the top of this article shows a typical barrel adjuster screw.
Ever noticed that over time, your brakes seem to require more lever action to get the same braking effect? Every time we use our brakes, we wear off a small amount of rubber from our brake pads. This minor amount of wear will eventually be noticeable in the area of more brake lever required (i.e. less rubber so more of a squeeze required at the brake levers).
To account for this wear we can do one of two things; we can adjust our brake cables (i.e. unscrew the cable fastener and pull the brake cable tighter and then re-tighten the brake cable screw) or we can turn our barrel adjusters.
Unscrewing and tightening our brake cables can be a bit of a pain because you need to get off your bike, get some tools and perform the adjustment. Those cyclists that have been working on their bikes for awhile have learned how to fix a bicycle properly and try to always do it quickly with the least amount of effort.
Let’s do this same adjustment while still riding our bikes and performing the adjustment in a matter of seconds.
Using the Barrel Adjuster
Most of the time you will see a brake barrel adjuster located right near your brake levers. Barrel adjuster screws work as follows. By turning the adjuster counter clockwise your brake cable will tighten whereas screwing the adjuster clockwise will loosen your cable. If you find that your brake levers need a bit too much off a squeeze, simply tighten your brake cable while you are riding.
While this process is very quick and easy, there are limitations to using the barrel adjusters. Their use is usually meant for minor adjustments or fine tuning. Large adjustments where your cable is either really loose or really tight will require that you adjust the cable using the unscrew method outlined above.
For a more detailed discussion of adjusting your bike brakes, see Adjusting Bicycle Brakes.
It Really Is As Simple As Turning a Screw
So as you can see, knowing how to fix a bicycle comes in handy because it saves you time and effort. Using the brake adjuster screws makes fine tuning your braking action as easy as a turn here and a turn there. Use this technique and notice how much easier it is to brake.