After installing and adjusting, there is this test, where you pull the front brake and try to push the bike forward, it should offer enough resistance to lift the rear wheel.

Then you test the rear brake, by pulling the lever and pushing... backwards? If I push backwards, it does offer enough resistance to lift the front wheel, but if I push forward, the bike will easily slide on the floor.

Is this correct? This seriously confuses me.

Test riding during rain or dry weather, the rear brake leaves a lot to be desired, it slows down, but seems like it takes ages to stop the bike. This isn't a question about braking technique, it's more about braking adjusting.

Is there any adjusting needed to be made in order for the rear brake to contribute for more stopping power, to make it behave like the front brake?

  • 2
    The rear brake has less stopping power than the front brake in general.
    – Batman
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 6:21

5 Answers 5


There are two tests for each brake. With the bike stationary, squeeze the levers hard to make sue that nothing is on the verge of breaking or has been mis-assembled. That test may seem silly but it reliably detects cables that are frayed to the point where they're dangerous, and also cheap shitty brakes (which will fail when you do this).

You can't effectively test braking power without having someone on the bike. The force required far exceeds most people's arm strength (could you catch someone thrown at you at 30kph?). So, jump on the bike and grab one brake then the other, rocking backwards and forwards while you do so. That tells you whether the brakes work at all. If they do, start riding, then tap the brakes as soon as you're moving enough to do that without falling off. Make sure you're riding somewhere that a: you can fall off safely and b: you can stop safely without using the brakes. The whole point of these tests is that they might fail. If you're confident the brakes work reasonably well, find a quiet street or carpark and do more of those tests, speeding up slightly each time.

A good bike shop will have someone other than the mechanic that worked on the bike do this test (and a bunch of other tests) after they service every bike. Once you've done it a few times it becomes fast and almost second nature. Swing a leg over the bike while holding the brakes firmly, rock it a little, tap the brake as soon as you're rolling. That helps avoid nasty surprises.

If you have a front disk brake and not a through axle, that first tap will also tell you whether the front wheel is seated firmly in the fork. It will do that by lifting out of the fork, so it pays to keep that in mind (yes, disk brake mounts were designed for through axles on motorbikes, then the design was copied straight to bicycles with no thought whatsoever. My bikes normally have the calliper on the right hand form blade, in front of the fork, so this can't happen)

Adjusting the brake depends on what sort of brake it is. Do a little research to find that out, then use the search box on the top right to find instructions for your brake (most likely it will be a V brake, but disk, calliper and cantilever brakes are all common too). Poor performance in the wet is normally a consequence of cheap brake pads, poor adjustment, or poor brake design (in that order, but you can suffer from all of those at once)

  • 1
    A quick brake test is something you should do automatically at the start of every ride. Before you get 20 meters you should have checked both brakes are working.
    – mattnz
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 19:08

It's just like you wrote: When you testing rear brakes, you should test it backwards. If you will push bike forward while there is no load on the rear wheel, it will slide, and, the same will be if you test front brakes and pushing the bike backwards - the tire will slide on the ground.
That is also caused when you are riding, that's why when braking with rear brakes you should seat and move your weight backwards to put more load on the wheel and prevent sliding.
And remember not to apply to much force to the brakes when stoping, because if your tire will slide too hard, it will wear on this place and can even create a hole in the tire.

  • 1
    Slipping tires are never good, but I wouldn’t discourage hard braking (especially with the front brake) where necessary ;)
    – Michael
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 18:03
  • @Michael I'm not speaking of dried tires. I mean a normal and even new tire, but when the brakes hold the wheel and the bike yet continue skidding forward, it damages the tire.
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:41
  • 1
    You would have to be sliding down Mt Everest to wear a hole in a tire. Yes skidding removes rubber but not to the effect that after one skid it will roll wonky. The likelihood of skidding in the exact same spot is also pretty low. I lock up my rear tire quite often off road and have done it plenty on pavement too. Hipster fixie kids love to skid
    – Nate W
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 17:12
  • If the wheel isn't turning at all, you will easily finish the tire at the place that touching the ground to it's end. I know some extremist people, that wore down a pretty new tire and blown the tube.
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 21:22

When you hold the front brake and push forward, the weight of the bike is shifted forward onto the front wheel. On solid pavement you should be able to cause the rear wheel to lift from the ground before the brake slips.

If you hold the rear brake and push forward, the weight of the bike is lifted off the rear wheel, to a degree, and so the tire will slip on the ground. By pushing the bike backwards to test the rear brake you are using the same technique used to test the front brake -- all the weight of the bike is on the rear wheel.

On most bikes the front and rear brakes have essentially the same amount of braking power, in terms of their ability to "grab" the wheel and stop it from turning. But the effect of "locking up" the two wheels is different. If, while actually riding the bike, you totally stop the front wheel from turning the result is a (very quick and dangerous) "head-over" crash (because all the bike and rider weight is transferred to the front wheel, and hence friction between tire and pavement is maximized). (This is one big reason why it's ill-advised to brake only with front brakes.) If you totally stop the rear wheel from turning, however, the rear wheel simply skids, since the weight is transferred off the wheel and thus there is less friction between wheel and ground.


Let's not use the term stopping power as front wheel has more stopping power as during braking weight is transferred to the front wheel.

Going to assume rim brakes.

From your question is appears the rear brake has less grab (friction from pad to rim). Front and rear should have the same amount of grab. Locking up the front wheel is not something you should do. On the rear once you have enough grab to lock up the wheel then more grab is not going to make any difference. Locking up the rear is not a good practice but on a good dry brake you should be able to lock up the rear wheel.

Things to examine

  • Lube the cables - are you getting significant friction

  • Are the cable in good shape

  • Pads - new soft pad will have better braking

  • Rim - clean the rims - dirty oily rim will not have much friction
    The rear is more likely be oily as you oil the chain
    how to clean aluminum rim

  • As a 5th point to your list: Clean the pads. (A wire-brush like the ones used for suede leather is quite practical.)
    – Carel
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 19:53
  • @Carel I left that off as the question is after installing so I assumed new pads. But still a good practice.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 19:55
  • @ Frisbee: New pads are often like glazed over and shiny. Some rubbing with a wire brush or a short wipe with sand paper might increase the braking power.
    – Carel
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 8:03

There are really only a few things that affect braking power and performance. I see a lot of these answers cover most of the things that can go wrong, I'd like to add two more things to check that may have bearing on your braking performance. Check that the rim is true(if rim brakes) or the rotor is straight(if disc brakes). Also, on rim brakes pad orientation and angle can make a big difference. Generally you want them to contact the rim flat to toed-in just a hair.

  • Welcome to the site! Your answer contains some good advice but I don't think it really does anything to answer the question at the top of the page. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 23:29
  • I would just like to rebut that a bit, his question was if there was any adjustment he can make to get his rear brake acting harder like his front one, and I believe the advice I gave would help with that brake's action. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 14:08

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