I tried adjusting the tension. What adjustments should I try next?

I used to bike a lot as a teen but had friends and repair shops do all the major repairs. I only ever fixed flat tires. Now I'm older and getting into cycling again and I am trying to learn the finer details of bike repair.

I used to be able to slam the back brake and skid or stop the tire completely on my bike. After a crash, I got the brakes and derailleur adjusted and fixed. But now I notice its getting hard to stop using the back brake. I mostly focus on front braking as you should, but the rear won't really do anything anymore.

What I've tried: I cleaned and lubed the bike well. I also adjusted the tension into several positions. I still find the same issue with my rear brake not stopping me.

What should I try next? Can I adjust the brake pads? Do I need new ones? How do I know if the brake pads are bad or not?

Thanks first question and post! I look forward to learning at a high level.

Oh, I have a Cannondale 2020 Trail 8.

  • 5
    Disc brakes or rim brakes? And when was the last time the pads and or cables were changed?
    – Nate W
    Sep 1, 2022 at 23:22
  • 2
    Is this question about actual braking performance, or desire to do mad skidzzz? Sep 2, 2022 at 1:19
  • 1
    Sounds like whoever did the brake repair didn't get it completely fixed. Photos would help.
    – Criggie
    Sep 2, 2022 at 2:16

2 Answers 2


Trail 8 is circa 2020 on, stock with mechanical disks (I believe Tektro)

First thing is be certain you are adjusting the brakes correctly. Most mechanicals (including Tektro) the lever only moves the outer pad, with the inner pad needing adjustment as it wears. If you are not adjusting the inner pad, it may have worn to the point the outer is having to push the rotor too far, and have too much travel to work effectively. Because of the crash, check the caliper alignment is correct, and if it needs adjusting and has been a while since the crash, you may have worn the pads unevenly, best to replace them if they look uneven.

If its not adjustment, two main things will cause poor braking - pads contaminated or friction in the cables. If I was certain the pads are not contaminated, I would then tackle the cables first. To start I would remove the cable others from the stops and inspect as much of the inners as possible. If they showed signs of corrosion or dirt, or were not sliding well, I would replace the cables. I might lube the cables and see if it helps as a diagnostic - but I personally replace cables even if the lube help, you may decide the freshly cleaned and lubed cables are good enough.

If its not the cables, then it is likely the pads. Replacement is the only solution that has certainty of working. You could try removing and cleaning with a break cleaner and/or burning the pads, but in my experience its a lot less frustrating to just put new pads in (And clean the disk really well before doing so.

  • Would also add rotors to the list of things to clean/check. Common cause I find of pads being contaminated is contamination on the rotors. Maybe even give the rotors a rub with sand paper
    – Hursey
    Sep 2, 2022 at 5:03
  • 2
    I would stress that with mechanical the pad adjustment is a routine process that must be done relatively often as the pads wear out, better if by the user themselves, not just in a yearly checkup. That is also true for mechanicals where both pads can be adjusted. The pads must be tightened many times throughout their lifetime. Sep 2, 2022 at 8:29
  • Yes, I reckon you might get away with adjusting the fixed pad half as often as barrel adjuster (on BB5s and clones, where the that's how you adjust the moving pad) but no les than that. There's an interesting failure mode where the fixed pad wears until the rotor rubs against the brake housing, giving about half the braking force you should get. Stop immediately and sort it out if that happens. I always carry spare pads as well
    – Chris H
    Sep 2, 2022 at 11:37
  • this is all great stuff guys thank you. ill be here a lot. i work for juvinile probation and am repairing and fixing bikes for my kids and im getting a lot in from the local PD instead of destroying lost and stolen bikes they are giving them to me. my office has allowed me a budget to build a bike repair shop so im trying to get into the nitty gritty of it. ill be here for more advice. i checked the cables they are fine, i checked the tension it was good, ill check the pads next. Sep 2, 2022 at 17:59

Two clicks with an allan wrench on the brake pad in the rear did the trick. thanks guys.

  • Thank you for coming back and providing closure. Please remember to "accept" one answer for being the one you found most-useful in helping you get it resolved.
    – Criggie
    Sep 13, 2022 at 10:21

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