Improve your braking power and control and avoid disc brakes rubbing with our expert advice on how to adjust mountain bike disc brakes


To maximise your confidence and ride to the best of your abilities, you need to make sure your brakes are totally dialled. A huge part of this is ensuring you have them adjusted to you; both the setup of the brake levers and also disc brake pads and rotors where the braking action happens. 

Of course, a great set of brakes makes all the difference, and we’ve tried and tested a whole lot to make it easier to find the best mountain bike disc brakes to suit every budget.

How to adjust mountain bike brake levers

Taking time to get the brake lever in the best position for your fingers and hands will give you the ultimate confidence and control over the system. 

Adjust brake position on handlebar

Hand on mountain bike disc brake lever

All hydraulic mountain bike disc brakes are designed to be used with just one finger. It doesn’t matter whether you use your index finger or your middle finger, you want your braking finger to sit at the end of the lever, just before the kink. This will stop your finger sliding around and ensure you have maximum leverage. 

Adjust brake lever angle

Adjust the angle of mountain bike disc brake levers

Now let’s look at the angle of the brake lever. To a certain extent this is down to personal preference, but one tip worth considering is to run your levers at a fairly flat angle. What this does is let you support your weight through your palms and your arms right up into your shoulders, rather than through your wrists. The benefits can include better control over the bike and less arm pump on longer descents. 

Adjust brake lever reach and bite-point

Comparison of reach on mountain bike disc brake levers

The other two components of lever set-up are reach and bite point. These two need to be approached in tandem, as a short reach won’t work with a long lever throw. To a large degree, lever reach will depend on the size of your hand and the length of your fingers. Small hands will want the lever closer to the bar and big hands will need them further away. 

You can adjust this with the dial on the front or a hex key inside the lever, depending on the make and model of brake you have. 

Hand operating disc brake lever reach

On some brake systems you can also tune the bite point. This refers to the point at which the pads contact the rotor. Set this up to your personal preference, but don’t go too close or too far away. The former can lead to snatchy brakes and pads that drag on the rotors, which wastes energy. The latter can lead to the lever crushing your knuckles before the brakes start doing anything. 

How to adjust disc brake pad position and caliper alignment


Adjust mountain bike disc brake rotors

At the wheel-end of the brake system are the brake calipers which hold the brake pads, and the brake rotors.When you squeeze the brake levers, the calipers contract, squeezing the pads against the rotors and slowing down the wheel. 

To work effectively, you want the brakes to run drag-free so they’re not rubbing on the rotor while you ride. 

There are tools to help you get a good alignment, but the most accurate way is to eyeball it. If you have something bright or white, put it on the floor under the bike as this will make it easier to see the gap between the pad and the rotor. 

Loosen the caliper bolts so they’re almost fingertight. Then move the caliper so that there’s an even gap on each side. Hold the caliper tightly and just gently nip up the two bolts alternately, a bit at a time, until they’re at the correct torque. Now spin the wheel and check it doesn’t rub.