The brakes on our kids’ bikes should always be in good working order—that’s a no-brainer. Unfortunately, becoming a parent doesn’t automatically make one a bike brake expert. We’ve created this brake tutorial to help you keep your little cyclist safe.
Note: The instructions in this article only apply to our Light Rider 20 , which have rim brakes (with handlebar levers)—and not our Light Rider 16 , which have coaster brakes (in which the rider has to pedal backwards to stop.)
It’s much easier to set up and maintain your brakes correctly if you have a basic understanding of how they’re meant to work. Let’s start there.
Understanding rim brakes
Here’s our super-quick lesson:
- Rim calipers are horseshoe-shaped mechanisms attached to the bike frame positioned above the wheel, with arms that hang down on each side of the wheel.
- Inside each of the two caliper arms is a brake pad.
- The caliper is connected via a cable to a handbrake lever mounted on the handlebar. Squeezing that lever pulls the cable, which pulls the arms of the caliper closed, pushing the pads onto the bike rim. When the wheel is moving, those pads put friction on the moving rim, which forces a slow-down or stopping of the wheel.
- On most bikes, including this (awesome) Light Rider, the right handbrake controls the rear wheel caliper, and the left handbrake lever controls the front wheel caliper.
In order for each brake to to work perfectly—smoothly and, most importantly, safely—the following conditions need to be met:
- The caliper needs to be secured on the bike frame.
- The caliper arms need to be evenly spaced from the bike rim.
- The pads need to be aligned with the bike rim.
- The connection between the cable and the caliper needs to be taut, such that a pull of the cable closes the arms with the right amount of pressure on the rim.
- The handbrake lever and the cable need to be securely connected.
How to assemble the front brake
Part of the assembly process, as outlined in the user manual, involves attaching the front wheel to the frame. To that correctly, you’ll have to make sure the caliper is properly positioned so that the wheel sits inside of it.
You may want to grab an assistant for this: It’s easier with an extra set of hands. Then, take things step by step.
Part One: Securing the wheel
- Rest the bike frame on a box, crate, or other large object such that the front fork is suspended above the ground and stable to work on.
- Rotate the caliper, if necessary, so that it aligns with and follows the shape and direction of the front fork.
- Using the 15mm wrench included in the box, loosen and remove the axle nuts on the front wheel by turning them counterclockwise. Set them aside, along with the washers underneath them.
- Place the wheel between the front fork and caliper arms, making sure that the arrow on the tire, when under the fork, is pointing forward.
- Slide both sides of the wheel axle into the wedges of the front fork legs. On each side, replace the washer and axle nut, tightening the nuts clockwise with the 15 mm wrench.
Part Two: Securing the handlebar and handbrakes
- Using the 13 mm wrench, loosen the bolt at the top of the handlebar stem by turning it counterclockwise for a few rotations.
- Slide the base of the handlebar into the hole at the top of the bike stem, ensuring that the handlebar orientation is correct—with the handbrake levers on the front side, and the bell on the right side.
- While holding the handlebar at the right height, tighten the bolt by turning it clockwise with the 13 mm wrench.
- Rotate one handbrake on the handlebar until it is at an ideal height for grasping. While holding it in position, tighten the bolt on the top side of the handbrake clamp by turning it clockwise with the included Allen Key.
Part Three: Securing the brake caliper
- Loosen but do not remove the nut on the front caliper that's anchoring the cable by turning it counterclockwise with the 10mm wrench.
- Adjust the positioning of the caliper until the pads on the inside of the caliper meet the following conditions:
- They are parallel with one another.
- They are both aligned with the tire rim.
- They are evening spaced from the tire rim.
- Use one hand to squeeze the caliper closed on the rim. With the other hand, pull the brake cable down through the nut until it is taut.
- Continue holding the caliper closed and the cable taut while your assistant tightens the nut by turning it clockwise with the 10 mm wrench.
- Release the caliper and squeeze the left handbrake a few times to test that the caliper opens and closes smoothly and that the rims land on the rim.
- Use the 10mm wrench to tighten the lock nut on the front center section of the caliper.
- Use the same wrench to tighten the bolt on the back of the front fork, where the fork and the caliper connect, by turning it clockwise.
- Check that the caliper is secure.
Assessing the brakes
After you’ve assembled the front brake, give it a safety test by following the below directions below.
Then, test the rear brake; even though it comes pre-assembled, things may have shifted around during shipping and a few tweaks might be necessary.
Then, bookmark this page: You’ll want to thoroughly check the brakes regularly, and that makes it easier to find these steps.
- Test the cable connection – Pull and release the handbrake lever. Check that the caliper it’s connected to opens and closes. If it does not, check for a loose connection where the cable meets the handbrakes or at the cable anchor nut on the caliper.
- Test the pull of the cable – Walk with the bike and pull the handbrake lever gently while it’s moving. Check to see that brake slows the wheel down. Repeat, pulling the handbrake lever with more force. Ensure that the brake brings the wheel to a stop. If the tension isn’t quite right, you may need to loosen the cable anchor nut on the caliper, pull the cable tauter, and retighten the nut. Refer to Part 3, steps 1-4 above.
- Check the alignment of the caliper – With the bike still, pull the handbrake lever to close the caliper. Check that when the caliper is closed, the pads on the inside of it are fully aligned with and only closing onto the wheel rim—not the rubber part of the wheel or the empty space in the area of the spokes. You can also use your ears, here: Rubbing or squeaking noises can be a sign of misalignment. If caliper alignment is off, loosen the hardware in Part 3, steps 6 and 7 above, adjust the caliper, and retighten. If brake pads need straightening, you can loosen the bolts on the outside of the caliper arms, shift the pads around, and retighten those bolts to secure them in place.
Don’t forget: The Light Rider 20’s user manual always lives online; it’s got more details, helpful images, and instructions on assembly and bike functionality. For any and all of your bike questions or concerns, you can always reach out to us—we’re as committed to your kid’s ride as you are.