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How to Fix Squeaking and Noisy Bicycle Brakes

Updated on June 5, 2012
CyclingFitness profile image

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist as well as being a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

A guide to solving bicycle brake noise problems

When you're out for a ride it can be an extremely annoying sound to hear your bicycle brakes squealing every time you press down on your brake levers. The good thing is that it should not be affecting the efficiency of your braking even if the noise is getting rather annoying.

Even better news is that it's relatively easy to fix squeaky bicycle brakes in a few simple steps.

Sort those noisy brake calipers, canilevers or V Brakes with the steps below.

How can you stop your bicycle brakes squeaking?

What can you do to stop your bicycle brakes from squeaking?
What can you do to stop your bicycle brakes from squeaking?

What causes squeaking bicycle brakes? And how to fix the problem

Dirty Bicycle Rims
Clean the rims (details below)
Damaged Bicycle Rims
Replace wheels/ Rims
Incorrect Toe-In of Brake Pads
Correct the 'toe-in' (see below)
Overly Worn/ Damaged Brake Pads
Replace Brake Pads
Causes of squeaky bike brakes and remedial action

Cleaning bicycle rims to prevent squeaking bike brakes

If your rim is dirty or has picked up a residue over time which make be causing additional friction and leading to noisy braking it is vital that you clean your bicycle rims before taking any other action.

Initial cleaning can be done with a simple cotton cloth to remove any dirty or residue however if this does not prevent braking noise while cycling you can also use a cleaner such as Acetone which will not leave a residue on your rims leading to impaired brake performance.

Try not to use a soap based cleaning product as this can impair braking performance by coating your bicycle rims with a fine soapy layer and as we all know- soap is slippery!

How to to 'toe in' bicycle brake pads to stop braking squeal

Toeing in Bicycle Brake Pads for quieter braking

Excessive noise when braking can be rather irritating and the avoid such an excruiciating sound (think teacher scraping her nails down a school blackboard) a cyclist needs to "toe-in" the brakes pads so that the front edges of the brake pad make contact with the rim first.

As your brake pads wear, the toe-in wears away so old pads tend often to be the ones which need their toe in to be adjusted. New pads often already have a toe-in built into their pad already however With bolt-on types such as road caliper brake pads you will need to set toe in at the time of fitting the brake pads.

Worn brake pads with no toe-in need replacing

Heavily worn brake pads can lead to noisy squeaky braking and need replacing with some new cantilever pads with some toe-in
Heavily worn brake pads can lead to noisy squeaky braking and need replacing with some new cantilever pads with some toe-in

The secret to quieter braking

Credit and store cards are excellent for helping to 'toe in' bicycle brake pads
Credit and store cards are excellent for helping to 'toe in' bicycle brake pads

The secret to quieter bicycle braking is in your wallet

The secret to effective toe-in of your bicycle brake pads and fixing squeaking bicycle brakes is in your wallet. All those credit cards and store loyalty cards have a use in your cycling toolbox as they are all relatively thin while being stong.

A credit card has a width of around a milimeter which means they're ideal for making minute adjectmenst to your brake set up. You can spend money on specialist tools to help set toe-in of your brakes however you don't always need a bicycle specific tool for the task.

How to use a credit card to toe-in your bicycle brakes

Fit screw or fix your bicycle brake pads and shoes as standard. Once fitted squeeze your brakes and slide the edge of your credit card between brake pad and the rim at the rear few millimeters of the brake pad.

Squeeze your brake levers fully in and simultaneously loosen off the nut that holds the brake in place. This will force the brake pad to become slightly diagonal to the rim.

Tighten off the bolt which holds the brake pad and shoes in place and then repeat the process for your remaining brake pads for quieter and more effective braking.

Wishing you happy and squeak free cycling

Happy noise free bicycling


Need some new brake pads? Kool Stop brake pads with built in 'toe-in' for quiet and effective braking.

Kool Stop MTB Mountain Bicycle Brake Shoes
Kool Stop MTB Mountain Bicycle Brake Shoes
Kool Stop mountain bike brake pads ideal for V-Style brakes and Cantilever brakes. These have a pre-built toe-in to reduce noise when braking and clean the rim.


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    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      8 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks eugbug. Go for it and please come back and let me know how you get on. CF

    • eugbug profile image

      Eugene Brennan 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      Useful hub. Using the credit card for toeing-in is a good tip so I'll try this the next time I adjust my brakes!

    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      8 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks Natashla, I'd recommend your sister gets any brake problems resolved quickly for her bicycle for her safety's sake. Thanks for reading CF

    • Natashalh profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      Very useful - thank you. My sister's bike is currently having some brake problems - I'll have to go check it out!


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