Bike Shop Girl | How To: Properly Setup and Adjusting Avid BB5 Brakes
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How To: Properly Setup and Adjusting Avid BB5 Brakes

Adjust Avid BB5 Brakes

How To: Properly Setup and Adjusting Avid BB5 Brakes

Tech TuesdayOne concern that so many women (and guys) have with owning a bike is the basics of fixing it, or how to do basic road side repairs. I do recommend that as an avid cyclist even with some mechanical skills that you should become best buds with your local mechanic (beer or ice cream works well.) I also want women to feel empowered and to have a better idea of what they are talking about. Tech Tuesday is the remedy for common tech questions!

As you know I have beenrocking the Airborne Delta CX bike for this summer going into cyclocross season. Originally I was struggling to adjust the Avid BB5 road calipers that come stock on the cyclocross bike. (Yes, it is a disc brake cyclocross bike.) After several tries at adjusting the brakes as Avid outlines on their website I finally started from scratch using good ole common sense! Once I sorted out my disc brake issues I was getting messaged and questioned about what I did to get them to stop well and not rub!

There are tons of great resources out there showing you the basic ways to adjust the brakes, but they left out key details. Let’s forget about those other instruction and start from the top.

Tools You’ll Need

Tools for Brake Adjustment

Torx wrench, 5mm allen, business card and a computer to read this how to on.

Setup and Adjusting Avid BB5 MTB Brakes

Avid BB5 Brake Diagram

Click to Enlarge

Check brake pads for wear. If your brakes are used at all there is a great chance the pads were worn incorrectly and will never align right. Remedy by sanding or replacing the pads, normally sanding with a fine grit will fix this problem.

Loosen the mounting bolts for the caliper, some bikes have the caliper mount directly to the fork, loosen those bolts. This will allow the caliper to move side to side. Check if your washers are worn or if you can see any grooves out of the normal. If you do, file/sand down or replace.

Adjust Avid BB5 Brakes

Loosen brake cable fixing bolt, this will allow the fixed pad to pull all the way out.

Turn the adjustable brake pad (red knob with Torx in middle) counter clockwise to turn out.

Business card in Disc brakes

Place a business card between a the fixed pad and rotor. Fixed pad is on the outside (look at diagram above)

Adjust BB5 Torx Brake

Turn the adjustable brade pad (red knob with Torx in middle) clockwise, use a Torx wrench if need be to tighten down as tight as you can with out breaking it!

Tighten the mounting bolts to the caliper.

Pull the brake cable tight to the fixing bolt, make sure the barrel adjuster on the caliper and the barrel on the brake lever both are turned in all the way, then backed out a full turn and a half. Tighten down the fixing bolt on the brake cable.

Back out the adjustable brake pad one or two turns, counter clockwise so  it isn’t touching the rotor. On the back of the Delta I had to back out an extra 1/4 of a turn for out of the saddle movement of the rear end.

Pull out the business card.

Use the adjustable brake pad to change the feel of the brake lever, use the barrel adjusters to adjust cable tension as well.

Check over all bolts and proceed to ride beautiful riding Avid brakes.

  • Matt
    Posted at 12:09h, 17 August Reply

    Isn’t this what Avid says to do on their site (minus the business card)? It’s how I set up my BB7s (which are very similar, but both inside and outside pads adjust).

    Also – I would recommend using the cable tension to adjust the feel rather than moving the inner pad farther away – the farther away the inner pad is, the more the outer pad is going to need to push the rotor. I feel this puts unnecessary stress on the rotor, which isn’t really built to take a lot of side-to-side force.

    • Bike Shop Girl
      Posted at 13:46h, 17 August

      You are correct but BB5’s adjustments a bit off as you don’t have that outer adjustable pad. (I much prefer BB7)

      While on a mtb you have the luxury of a cable barrel adjuster, on the road you don’t. The only barrel adjuster is that at the caliper, on a bb5. BB7’s don’t have that adjuster (bad avid!)
      I’m also not a huge fan of adjusting with barrels when you are setting them up. A quarter turn here or there is one thing, and when you are riding is also another thing but when you are originally setting up you should have the caliper do the work for you. If not, if your cable stretches or you do need to use that barrel adjuster you may be out of luck.

      Kudo’s for the great response!

    • Ed Nasjleti
      Posted at 10:36h, 15 October

      Never use cable tension to adjust “feel”, what we call deadband. Cable and actuating arm must be at maximum throw, fully extended. Only use pads and caliper placement to adjust brake lever movement. I like the business card trick, will try it today.

  • Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » Damn.
    Posted at 23:21h, 03 September Reply

    […] and I was making great progress. I was following a particular method for adjusting my Avid BB5s (first article, second […]

    • Chrissy
      Posted at 15:39h, 04 October

      Depends Cantilever brakes, V-brakes, which exact type? Take it to your local bike shop. They can sell you the cocerrt parts needed probably give you some installation tips.

  • Francisco
    Posted at 16:28h, 27 November Reply

    Thanks for this article, it was super helpful to understand my spanking new bike’s brake system.
    I would advise everyone not to just follow the instructions, but to understand what’s going on at every step and modify as you see fit. For example, in step 6, it worked best for me not to tighten down the adjustable brake pad as tight as I as could, but rather leaving it snug (I hope this make sense).

    Anyways, thanks BSG!

  • Logan
    Posted at 01:52h, 01 August Reply

    This is a great article and thanks so much. I was replaceing my first set of bb5 pads. I was getting no braking power and it seem as though only the corner of the adjustable pad was touching. I tryed to “braze” it in for an hour (because im slow in the head) and still had lousy but better braking power. It finally dawned on me to do a little research. I found this article and vaula brakes work.

    I agree “snug” is sufficient on the adjustable tighting phase.

    I just did the rear and am almost excited for the fronts to wear out so I can true that caliper up as well.

  • joe p
    Posted at 16:16h, 22 February Reply

    Thank you for your easy to follow directions.. Could not understand why my rear brakes lost 80% force…. Loosened everything up, followed new pad directions and your steps worked like a charm.. Back to excellent brakes.

    I would like to add one suggestion:

    1. Brake pads for BB5 are usually color coded.. For me the Black painted pad goes on the outside of the caliper…. READ directions for YOUR BIKE OR PAD Manufacturer.

  • chad
    Posted at 15:50h, 29 September Reply

    what if my caliper is rubbing the rotor now?

  • chad
    Posted at 16:58h, 29 September Reply

    nevermind, i was doing it wrong… 🙂

  • Rob
    Posted at 04:10h, 06 November Reply

    I’ve followed these instructions several times now and the process seems straight forward enough… But… In order to get a nice feel on the brake lever I find that the pads are binding on the rotor. When the pads aren’t binding, the lever is touching the bars before there is any power on the brakes.

    Any advice as to what I might be doing wrong? SRAM Apex levers btw.

    • Alan
      Posted at 18:00h, 27 November

      Rob, same exact issue here with Apex levers and BB5 Road Calipers. We’re you able to get them sorted?

    • Rob
      Posted at 06:10h, 13 February

      Hi Alan, yes eventually I got them sorted. I followed the instructions to the letter and on the 5th time, or so, it worked.

  • Norm Samuels
    Posted at 12:51h, 24 October Reply

    First time replacing my own disc brake pads and your instructions worked great.
    Storman Norman

  • Zack
    Posted at 08:14h, 25 May Reply

    Thanks so much!!

  • ben
    Posted at 09:00h, 29 July Reply

    Thank you loads for this article !!

  • Juan
    Posted at 06:51h, 28 August Reply

    Thanks for a great and well documented article. I used it awhile ago and it worked fantastic. I replaced my BB5 pads yesterday and came back for a refresher course 🙂

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