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How To Setup Hydraulic Rim Brakes

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This can be a difficult one for lots of people despite being pretty straightforward and simple to do.

Having a well setup rim brake can also be the difference between a smooth move and a trip to casualty so is well worth investing the time to do, especially when you've just bled your brakes or if you've purchased a bike 2nd hand.

The following is how I personally setup my brakes, it is not set in stone as the correct way but it works for me and lots of other people, also I use brake clamps that do not require washers (eg. Echo TR, TNN, etc...) to hold my brakes square though the method is no different.

Tools Required

4mm allen key (unless your clamps have been drilled out to accept an M6 bolt in which case you'll need a 5mm)

Optional - 2p coin (or something of similar thickness)


  • To start make sure your wheel is centred and the TPA adjuster is fully undone so the pistons are set back in the cylinders.
  • Slide the clamps up and down until the pads are central to the rim, too close to the tyre and you risk the pad wearing through the sidewall, too close to the inside edge and you risk the pad pushing into the wheel under heavy braking.
  • Lightly tighten each pair of clamps turning the screws equally to avoid undue stress and possible stripped threads to the point where you can just about move the cylinders with a bit of force.
  • Now hold a 2p coin/spacer on the rim where your pads will touch and push the cylinder up to the wheel so it clamps the coin in place. (Note - This is to give the lever a nice bite position when pulled. If you like the lever pulled in more when the brake bites just use a thicker spacer though not too thick or the pads won't hold enough!)
  • Adjust the angle of the cylinder so that all of the pad is in line to touch the rim surface.
  • Tighten the clamps fully up then remove the 2p coin/spacer.
  • Repeat for the other side and the job is done, all that is left is to adjust the lever and blade to a comfortable position.

Occasionally you may find with some washerless clamps or when using the old plastic washers that the first time you use the brake heavily the cylinder moves in the clamp. This can be easily over come by wrapping some electrical tape around the cylinder before fitting the clamps though you only need to go round maybe 2 times at the most or the clamps won't fit!

Also, especially with 2nd hand bikes, if the wheel is slightly buckled you may find the brake will be perfectly setup at one point of the rim but rub on another point. The only solution here is to get the wheel as true as possible.

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