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Is there a way to adjust the front brakes on my Specialized bicycle so I don't have to deflate the tire to remove it?

The bike has a side-pull brake with a lever that provides extra space between the pads. However, when fully open (shown below), there is just barely enough room for a fully inflated 25c tire. (It is quite a struggle to get the wheel on and off.)

I'd like my next set of tires to be slightly wider; but, I have a fork-mount roof rack, and I don't want to have to deflate/re-inflate the tire every time I put the bike on the rack.

Front brake on my Specialized bicycle

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  • Can you show a picture from the other side of the caliper? and also top/bottom sides of the brake lever?
    – Caius Jard
    Nov 24, 2021 at 10:14

6 Answers 6

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Some caliper brakes for wider tires have this problem. If you adjust the brake to be able to clear the tire with the release lever open, but then the lever travel becomes too great, then no there is not anything more you can do short of using the barrel adjuster or in some cases the centering screw. (Unscrewing the centering screw will increase the gap on many brakes).

The Shimano SM-CB90 exists to solve this problem. It's an in-line quick release lever.

enter image description here

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On the picture, is this a lever to open the brake ? (left side). This lever should be turned to close the brake, in ride position. And to remove the brake, you turn it in the position you can see on the picture. So, you have to remove the cable, close the lever, clamp the cable again. Then with this lever you can open/close the brake.

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    Yes, I put it in the open position for the picture.
    – Zack
    Nov 23, 2021 at 14:01
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    Okay, then I am surprised this is not enough to remove the wheel.
    – rvil76
    Nov 23, 2021 at 14:03
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    I can get it in and out with effort; but, I want wider tires. I can't imagine being able to get 28c tires through that gap.
    – Zack
    Nov 23, 2021 at 14:27
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    @Zack I think what rvil is saying is that you want to close that lever, then adjust your brakes so that they operate normally. Then, when you open the lever, the caliper arms will retract enough to get the tire out. That quick release lever is used for that purpose; many people use it as a quick adjustment for their brakes, but then they run into problems like yours.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Nov 23, 2021 at 15:39
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    You're absolutely right - that's what thls lever is for. But in my experience opening it only adds a couple of millimetres at best. So while it is a help, it's also not a lot specially for wide tyres.
    – Criggie
    Nov 23, 2021 at 18:43
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Change the cable clamping so (in normal operation) the barrel adjuster is mostly screwed out. Then when you want to remove the wheel you screw in the barrel adjuster to give you more slack.

If that’s not enough you could add a second inline barrel adjuster. Or just use some force to squeeze the tyre through the brake pads (you can’t really break anything, unless your tyre sidewalls are very sensitive).

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For completeness sake, I'm going to add some answers that may not help your specific situation but generally are relevant.

  • If you are riding a Campagnolo group (or Tektro brake levers) there is a mechanism on the lever to release more cable, that in combination with the unbranded brake allows wider tyres to be installed or removed (A Campagnolo caliper doesn't have the QR lever as the function is built into the brake lever).

  • Using a wider rim for your wider tyre will probably help as the difference to be made up between the brake track and the tyre edge is often less in this case. Caveat: requires new wheels.

  • The brake centering adjustment that Nathan mentions also (slightly) modifies the leverage and, adjusted differently, may give you both the lever feel that you want and a little extra room to play with when the brake is open. It may not be quite enough but it's worth a try.

  • Your brake pads look like they are at the bottom of the slots so using the next caliper size up (long drop vs short drop) could also give you some extra clearance. If you have a brake off another bike to play with to test pad position and proof of concept; it is not an expensive upgrade if it works for you. (as an update - I've just serviced a bike with Tektro Quartz brakes that open up a HUGE amount, so it's worth exploring options here)

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Things that come to mind which just may work:

Some frame "holding nooks" for the cable sheaths have slits which allow you to take out the entire cable when it has sufficient slack — perhaps you can do that already before you can take out the wheel.

Similarly, some brake levers have such slits and allow you to slide out the cable, including the cylindrical head, sideways, after lining up the slit on the adjustment nut with the one on the caliper.

Both methods basically free the brake.

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There might be a slit in all of the brake components where the cable reaches the brake. You have two screw-type adjusters just above the long brake arm - they both have a slit, and if you align that slit you might be able to take the brake cable housing (outside cover) that ends with a metal perforated cap) away from the long brake arm. It works this way on V-Brake mountain bikes at least. So you end up with a brake cable that is still held against the short arm with the hex screw, but the cable housing end (with a metal cap) is free from the long brake lever (the one with a cylindrical and a conical screw).

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