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Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake

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Stompper3 Offline
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Posts: 5
Joined: Apr 2011
Post: #1
Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
First, thank you for the forum and the instruction videos. You provide a service well beyond your membership.

I purchased a Marin MBX-50 for my child. Everything for the setup went smooth until the brake adjustment. The rear sidepull caliper brake was not aligned and one side was rubbing. I spent hours on the bike adjusting the brake and wheel, without success. The bike shop I purchased from on-line (no lbs sells Marin), told me it was the easiest brake known to man and I should bring it to my local bike shop. In all fairness the tech told me to take a brake and return to the work after a rest. I spent hours going through videos on line and could not get the answer I needed. I learned more about brakes and bikes then I could ever imagine. I finally figured it out and wanted to share my instructions and "pass it on" to the next guy. This is not for the professionals here, but for someone out there like me who is searching for this answer.

May I tell you what I feel would have helped me in adjusting the brakes? These are instructions I drew up myself. I hope if you are encountering centering problems that this may help you. My brake is labeled "Alhonga", and it is basic. It does not have allen bolts. There is one nut in the rear, one in the front and a front locking bolt. I used only a crescent wrench for this job.

1. Take off the locking cap nut in front of the calipers. This is the one with the rounded top.
2. Loosen the nut that was underneath the locking cap 1/4 to 1/2 way to the end of the bolt. You will notice the calipers opening and there is wobble when moving the two ends of the calipers in opposite front to back directions at the same time.
3. Loosen the rear assembly nut found on the back part of the assembly attachment to the frame, slightly, and align the brake pads even. Tighten this nut securely.
4. Tighten the front nut so there is no wobble in the calipers but not enough to prevent movement during the squeezing of the brake. During this adjustment, only one of the calipers may show movement with squeezing the hand brake. This is ok. Do not worry about centering at this point. The next step will center the calipers.
5. Take the locking nut cap and screw it back on. Screw it down moderately tight to the front nut until the edges of these two front nuts approximate. Tight but do not overtight.
6. This is the most important part to understand. Centering adjustments are now made by placing your wrench across the space where the two front nuts meet (turning the locking nut and front nut both at the same time with your wrench) moving either clockwise or counterclockwise to center your calipers and pads with the wheel, even on both sides.
7. Test your hand brake.
8. If there is problems with opening of the calipers, then the front nut is too tight. Remove or loosen on the front locking cap and then loosen the front nut slightly. Replace the locking cap and secure it down and test your hand brake once more. You may need to adjust centering of the calipers by moving the locking cap and nut together at the same time slightly in either direction together as above.
9. The brake pads may have to be adjusted at this point to contact the rims.

These are instructions I made and this is what would have helped me. I hope this will help other dads or moms. For me the missing part was understanding that adjustments are made by turning the locking cap and front nut at the same time. Had I had these instructions it would have saved me much frustration. I'm not sure if this is 100% correct, but it worked for me. As this bike comes with no instructions at all, it was the best I could do.

BTW I do not begrudge the time put into this bike when seeing the excitement and smile it brings to my fortunate 4 year old.

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Apr 8, 2011 12:11 PM
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Alex Ramon Offline
Veteran Member

Vancouver, BC
Posts: 589
Joined: Oct 2009
Post: #2
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
Great job explaining the procedure you used, this will certainly help others. Another trick you can do to make it easier to pull is explained in this video: http://bicycletutor.com/childs-hand-brake/
Apr 9, 2011 01:33 PM
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X-RAY Offline
Senior Member

western PA
Posts: 147
Joined: Aug 2010
Post: #3
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
caliper and coaster brake? or am i seeing things?

Get on your bad pedalscooter and ride!
Apr 9, 2011 03:53 PM
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Stompper3 Offline
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Posts: 5
Joined: Apr 2011
Post: #4
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
(Apr 9, 2011 03:53 PM)X-RAY Wrote:  caliper and coaster brake? or am i seeing things?

Great observation. No you are not seeing things. Let me explain.

My 4 year old started riding his 12 inch bike that I purchased for 10 at a yard sale. A month ago we took off the training wheels. It was apparent this 12 inch bike was getting too small. Also, I noticed after long rides, when he was exhausted, the 12 inch steel bike was just too heavy for him.

I spent hours on the internet looking for a new 16 inch aluminum bike for the child. His little hands are just too small for a bike with only hand brakes. This bike was very well thought out. It has the coaster brakes he has gotten used to, and provides him the hand brake to help him transition into his next bike which will not have coasters.

There are only a few 16 inch bikes that are aluminum and none have the coaster caliper set up except the Marin. Your bikes for the 16 inch in aluminum are made by Giant, Specialized, and Raleigh. I spoke to the folks at Marin about the design and it includes some pretty specialized components and was well thought out for kids. I was able to tighten up the screw on the hand portion so it was easy for him to grip and to my surprise, he has already started to use the thing.

We just got back from a 12 mile ride and this bike was so much easier to handle for the child than his 12 inch steel bike.


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Apr 10, 2011 02:52 PM
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Stompper3 Offline
New Member


Posts: 5
Joined: Apr 2011
Post: #5
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
(Apr 9, 2011 01:33 PM)Alex Ramon Wrote:  Great job explaining the procedure you used, this will certainly help others. Another trick you can do to make it easier to pull is explained in this video: http://bicycletutor.com/childs-hand-brake/

Thanks Alex. Nothing I could write could compare to your amazingly helpful videos. I watched that video and it saved my butt as far as realizing what that screw on the hand brake was for. It was perfect as the bike in your video was the same basic brake set up as this bike. If you only had a short addition to the tutorial that said something about if the brake was rubbing on one side and then show how to adjust it.... For me, the demonstration on the slightly different style brake set up threw me off when I watched your video on adjusting the side pulls. Nevertheless, I could not have done it without your help! You also gave me some great advice as far as the grease and lubes I needed. You inspired me to clean up my older Giant Acapulco.
Apr 10, 2011 03:53 PM
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toniok Offline
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Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2011
Post: #6
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
Thanks for telling your brake setup story. I just ordered the same bike for my 4 year old, and it may come in handy for me. My girl is transitioning from a balance bike that's been limited to use around the yard. I noticed some gear in your pictures and wonder if you could tell me about it.

Did the kickstand come with the bike? If not I'd be curious to know what you bought.

I like the arm and knee protection on your son. What did you get for him?

It also looks like you have some equipment on the handlebars, is there more than just a bell?

I'm very excited for Christmas now too!
Nov 26, 2011 11:08 PM
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Stompper3 Offline
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Posts: 5
Joined: Apr 2011
Post: #7
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
You are going to love this bike. Unfortunately we stopped riding for a few months and there was a new learning curve to get back on the bike. I learned some things.

The kick stand was a standard one bike stores buy in bulk. You need the one to hook on the rear wheel bolts. I purchased a greenfield kick stand for my bike. I think they are still made here in the USA. Sorry I don't have a brand for the one I purchased for this bike.

As far as the equipment for the kid, I purchase Rollerblade or hockey style pads. I'm especially fond of the wrist and elbow pads. These are the worst kind of injuries for children. They will bruise and scrape knees, but the elbows really need to be protected. The plastic on the wrist pads have save many layers of skin for my child.
Now as far as the bells and whistles... The bell was a great idea for a thought. It was a $10-15 battery powered digital scream type horn. He loved it. However, when we recently started riding again, a couple falls and the thing was rendered useless. It broke apart very easily. For your little girl, a simple cheap squeeze horn IMO will do the job.

The other thing was an LED light. Great little light, but it does run out of batteries quick. Again, this was a no brand light sourced from China. It is a tiny LED powered by watch batteries and it attaches with a pretty colored band. Very inexpensive and worth getting.

I hate to tell you to take a bike your may have purchased elsewhere to a local bike shop.... but.... After you build it, or sometime in the near future, take it to a shop to have it gone over. I purchased some nice canned lubricant from the bike store, much better than the messy junk I used as a kid.
I hope you have a great time with your bike and please post some pictures.
Nov 27, 2011 07:20 AM
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toniok Offline
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Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2011
Post: #8
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
Well that explains why I didn't recognize that gear, I've never shopped in the Rollerblade or hockey isles. Smile They look great, hopefully Sports Chalet has something like them.

I ordered an original style Incredibell for her. I think she'll be able to flick it without taking her hand off the bar, which I prefer.

The kickstand makes sense to me. I wouldn't put one on my bike, but kids aren't as attentive and I want to try to keep this bike looking nice for years to come. Her brother is 2-1/2 and he'll get this when she's outgrown it. The Marin also has a nice neutral non-gender specific color that will work well for both.

By the way, she learned on a Kazam push bike. When I gave it to her I let her push her way around the house (wife was tolerant) and within 5 days and with no real instruction she was taking corners fast with her feet on the rests. Having taught other kids to ride the traditional way, a balance bike is so completely superior that no one should learn any other way. The training wheels on the Marin will never get used, and I say good riddance to the whole concept.

The rear hand brake (and hole for a front) was another huge point in favor of this bike. I'd just as soon have her skip the whole coaster brake thing, but if she can't squeeze hard enough at first at least she has the coaster to fall back on. If she can squeeze hard enough she may get a front brake sooner!

Thanks for your tips and thoughts. We're having Xmas in January due to travel issues, I'll post some pics then.
Nov 28, 2011 04:02 PM
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Stompper3 Offline
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Posts: 5
Joined: Apr 2011
Post: #9
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
Great to hear about the push bike. Makes sense.

As far as the brakes, my child was riding without the training wheels at 4. Kids just cannot squeeze the brakes at that age. He had a cheap bike with coasters at that time.

Unfortunately, most bikes now only have the hand brakes for the kids and I think that is a mistake, again because of the hand maturity at a young age. I spoke to the people at Marin and they took this into consideration for this bike. Seems they thought out just about everything for this model.

When he got the bike he would ride for miles with his hands glued to the handlebars. I would have to help him stop so he could scratch his nose as he would not loosen the death grip. Nevertheless, I did notice he was actually using the hand brake and I never even explained it to him. Must be intuitive?

For anyone reading this thread, I'm still very happy with the bike and feel it was a great investment.
Nov 29, 2011 09:08 AM
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toniok Offline
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Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2011
Post: #10
RE: Adjust sidepull child's first hand brake
I'm having a chuckle at your son's initial death grip. Fairly sure I did the same thing for a long time. And again when I got on a motorcycle.

I have also been told that kids that age just can't squeeze the levers hard enough. Being a typical proud dad, I can't help but think my child is different. But yes, having a coaster seems like a good idea to start.

My thing is I want them to learn as much as possible the very way they are going to do it for the rest of their life, so they don't have to relearn a different way as they grow. This is why I always swap bike brakes so the rear is on the left and the front is on the right.

I have no idea why bikes are reversed from motorcycles, but it seems crazy to me that one could spend all of their formative years learning to clamp down first on the lever that would give you an unpleasant surprise when (if) you ever road a motorcycle. Learning to ride a motorcycle is dangerous enough without having the brakes reversed.

I know the Marin is spendy for a kids bike, but even though I had to fudge the exact price for my wife I'm psyched about it. I'm not sure if my daughter or me will be more excited to get her on it!
Nov 29, 2011 07:45 PM
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