Dealing with brake rub on a road bike

There is nothing more annoying than hearing the steady throb of brakes rubbing on your wheel rim. Not only is the noise a pain, the knowledge that you’re losing power and speed because of it is even more so. Fortunately, addressing brake rub is quick, easy and can be done while out on a ride if necessary.

Before doing anything, check that it’s the brake that is at fault here and not your wheel. Make sure your wheel is true as much as you can by lifting it off the ground and giving it a spin. Assuming the wheel is true, simple brake adjustments come next.

Centre the rim brake calliper

A quick and easy to way deal with brake rub is to centre the brake calliper. Undo the bolt holding the calliper to the fork or frame until it moves freely. Pull the brake tight at the lever and then tighten the bolt again. This should centre the calliper. Once tight, retest the brake and the rub should be gone.

If the wheel is slightly out of true, that’s a job for when you get home. Use a spoke key, identify where the rim is out of true and tighten the pull on the opposing spoke or loosen the pull on the same side. Tiny increments, ¼ turn each time until the wheel is true once more. Check spoke tension is even, pull them slightly to release any stored tension and you’re ready to ride.

Disc brake rub

For disc brakes, the process is very similar. Simply loosen the bolts holding the calliper onto the frame, pull the brake and tighten the bolts. Let go of the brake and test.

Occasionally, the disc rotor can get bent out of shape, causing the rub. This isn’t something you can fix out on a ride unless you have an adjustable in your pocket. Brake manufactures are happy to sell you a disc truing tool but you don’t need one. Simply use a clean adjustable spanner and tighten it until it fits the disc snugly.

Find the bend, bend it back and retest. When bending the disc, it should go without saying to be gentle and to bend only slightly until it is straight. Then wipe down the disc to remove any contaminants.

Aero brakes

Dealing with brake rub becomes more complicated if you have aero brakes like my rear on the BMC TimeMachine. The rear brakes are centre pull and are underneath the chainstays. It’s the only aspect of the bike I don’t like as the brakes have a tendency to rub under pressure regardless of how centred they are.

Here you have to loosen them a bit to allow a couple of mm for frame flex under tension. If they need to be centred, there is a small Allen bolt on each brake arm that can be adjusted in or out to centre the pull. Adjust until both brake arms are equal distance from the rim and pull at the exact centre.

Brake rub is an annoyance, but one that should take only 10 minutes to fix. If only everything on a road bike was so easy!


Leave a Reply