Disc Brake Pad Guide
Which disc brake pads do I need?
With the increased amount of bikes coming with disc brakes, many riders will soon be puzzled by the many different type of replacement pads available to purchase. This guide is designed to make it easier for you to get the correct pad for your bike and style of riding.
The most important thing to choose is the shape of the pads. Every disc caliper makes use of different shaped pads, and ways in which they are held in place to stop them dropping out. Most manufacturers of pads will list which brakes they are compatible with, but if you are unsure which you need, a visual check of the pads will confirm you are ordering the correct ones.
This is perhaps the most confusing aspect to cyclists looking at replacing their pads. The compound that you choose can alter the braking performance or lifespan of the pad, and so selecting the one that suits your requirement best is key.
There are essentially three different compounds used, though names of them between manufacturers can vary slightly. These are;
- Sintered; Metal
- Organic; Resin
Pros and cons of each compound
Can withstand high temperatures
Powerful at high temperatures so good for downhill riding
Take longer to bed in and achieve full braking power
Better braking power from the start
Softer material so wear out quicker
Less power during high speed descents so not suited to downhill mountain biking
Can ‘glaze’ over
Great combination pad, combining the best of sintered and organic
Good wear rate
Good power at higher speeds
Good feel from the start
Can ‘glaze’ over
Different manufacturers use different mixes of sintered and organic ratios so performance can vary between them
Through use, and lots of braking the heat that builds up in the pad and caliper can lead to the pads glazing over. This can lead to a loss of braking power, and make the pads noisy. If this happens, and you have plenty of material left on your pad, you may be able to rejuvenate them by removing from the caliper and sanding them or filing them down lightly.
Changing disc brake pads
It is time to change the pads when there is no braking material left on the flat metal surface of the pad, hopefully however you will have been keeping an eye on this and won’t be wearing them all the way down.
Every caliper and pad will have a different way of being removed and refitted, so check the manual if you are unsure. Once removed it is always a good idea to give the caliper a good clean using a product such as Muc-Off Disc Brake Cleaner. This will remove all the brake dust that builds up. You will also need to inspect the position of the piston that sits inside the caliper. This should be pushed all the way back, and tools such as the Park Piston Press help if you are struggling.
Checking new disc pads once fitted
Once you have fitted your new pads, there are a few checks to make. Firstly ensure that the wheel is spinning freely. As new pads have more material on them, they may be catching on your rotor slightly, and if so, this can be readjusted by undoing the caliper bolts, and pulling on the brake lever. Whilst still braking, tighten them back up and this should align everything correctly. It is also just worth checking that your wheel is sitting correctly by slackening off and retightening the skewer or axle.
Once you are happy, just go for a quick ‘shake-down’ ride, checking that all is working correctly and braking hard a few times from speed. This will help to bed in your pads and get them ready for more demanding braking whilst out riding.
Andy is the Product Specialist and Content Writer at Ribble. He takes part in all disciplines of cycling, but can mostly be found either on his road bike or on the mountain bike trails.