Brake Pads - A break down of what you need to know

Mar 3, 2009 at 0:09
Mar 3, 2009
by BLAKE PANKRATZ  
 
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There are a lot of people who know a lot about bikes, how to set them up, which components are better, and especially how to ride them. I also know that there are many often overlooked parts on a bike, one of them being brake pads. Now I know what you are thinking, "A brake pad is a brake pad right?" Well as I recently found out you are wrong. Until recently I knew nothing about brake pads, and it really didn't bother me. "If I stop, that's all I need", was my thinking. But as I have recently discovered, different brake pads make a huge difference in braking performance, and that can lead to a more enjoyable ride, more maneuverability and better race times.

I am here to share with you the information I have gathered on brake pads, hopefully you will come away knowing more about what slows you down. No one can decide for you what pads to run, but this should be a good guide, which will help you make an educated decision on what pads to you should be running.

There are 2 main types of disc brake pads: Sintered (or metallic), and Resin (or organic). Both types of pads have their pros and cons, and choosing the right pad depends on many things such as:

-Rider weight
-Weather/trail conditions
-What type of riding you will be doing
-What size rotors you run

Sintered Pads
Sintered pads are made up of hardened metallic ingredients, which are bound together with pressure and temperature.

Pros
-fade at a higher temperature than resin pads
-better performance in wet conditions
-last longer

Cons
-louder
-longer break-in time
-not as much initial bite
-heat is conducted through the caliper, not the rotor

These pads will be better if you are a heavier rider. These pads are recommended for riding in wet, muddy, or dusty conditions. They are also a lot better if you are running small rotors, or are on a long descend. Although they are more noisy, and do not have as much of an initial bite as organic pads, you will definitely notice the increased performance at the end of your run. This happens because the heat is put back through your caliper, rather than your disc where you would get brake fade. Since these pads are made of a harder compound they will last longer than resin pads, but do not buy these pads just because they last longer. Always buy the pad that will enhance your performance the best, they are cheap you can always buy more if they wear out.

Metallic Pads

Metallic Pads




Resin Pads
Resin pads are made up of fibers and organic material that are bonded together with resin.

Pros
-Quieter
-Shorter break-in period
-More initial bite
-Prevent heat buildup
-Pushes heat back into the rotor

Cons
-Wear quicker
-Not as good in wet/muddy conditions

These pads are for lighter weight riders, and riding where lots of brakes are not required, like cross country, and riding in flatter areas. One thing I really love about the organic pads, is that they have a large amount of initial grab, this is a personal preference and you may not like this. When running these pads with smaller rotors, they will "manage" the heat better, meaning your oil is less likely to boil, which would cause a loss of power. Another great thing about resin pads is that they are much quieter, I know I hate brake squeal, and I'm sure you do too. One big disadvantage of these pads is that they wear out quicker, which means more replacing, and potentially more brake bleeds. Also don't run these pads when it is muddy, wet, or even very dusty conditions. It is suggested that if you are running these pads, you occasionally sand the surface, to remove the glaze.

Resin Pads

Resin Pads




In my opinion you should run metallic pads if:
-You are heavy
-You ride downhill
-The conditions are wet, muddy, etc.

and run resin pads if:
-you are light
-Conditions are dry
-You like lots of initial grab
-Your riding is less hard on brakes i.e. dirt jump/street, XC, etc.

Although I have now recommended pads for you to use, you have to make your own choices on pads according to your riding, the above list should be considered to be a guideline, and not used as a strict rule.

Sources:
-Hayes Disc Brakes
-Hustler.pinkbike.com

If you have any questions feel free to send me a PM: djman22.pinkbike.com/


Editor's Note:

Do you like articles like this or do you have something to say that would help others out in a technical manner? Well then contact me at brule.pinkbike.com and we'll get it out there for everyone to read
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100 Comments

  • + 32
 Thanks for the write up!
  • + 3
 Was very good apart from the fact you just told us not to run organic pads in the wet and you didn't justify this with any reasons.

Just to clarify - is it because organic pads wear down quicker in the wet? or are you saying the sintered pads have more 'bite' in the wet? (I think I would be suprised if you meant the latter, as I have found the organic to perform the best in wet and dry, but have the disadvantage of wearing out quickly).

Cheers

Adam
  • + 5
 Thanks thats good info. =D
  • + 3
 i ride in dry condition but sometimes wet and sometimes dusty. im not really sure what type of pad to get though?? can someone tell me?
  • + 1
 if you're not sure, run metallic, they last A LOT longer, and you'll have plenty enough power with any modern disc brake system
  • + 0
 i may sound stupid lol

but can you buy better brake fluid that lasts longer/ performs better then the brake fluid that stock brakes come with?
  • + 1
 um, well dot fluid is not going to boil as fast, but can not be put in all systems. I have heard if you switched to braided hoses yor breaking improves. I do not know forsure though. As for fluid, I am not sure but doubt it would make a huge difference.
  • + 1
 i though of using dot 4 in my shimano brakes ( which use mineral oil ), but to convert it it would cost a fair bit as i would have to buy new hoses and fittings, i just wanted to know as it it would make a bit difference id give it a go,


cheers for that man Smile
  • + 0
 I find the d.o.t 4 fluid works best...has high heat management capabilities...i asked my mechanic buddy for some... and he was surprised what i told him the fluid was for...he didnt think my bicycle brakes could generate so much heat.
  • + 0
 whats the difference between DOT 4 and 5.1? i dont know which one to choose the next time i bleed brakes. and what about ceramic brakes? are they close to metallic?
  • - 1
 Not much difference between the two, ones may be lighter than the other and handle more heat...as for ceramic brakes ive only heard of them being used on race cars n such... Beer
  • + 1
 hey guys just posting this up here so everyone can see it easier: I really enjoyed writing this article and would like to write some more, if you guys have any ideas please PM me. Thanks for all the feedback and input guys!
  • - 1
 alright cool. thanks. i just want to see my rotors glow up in red. race car rotors glow because of ceramic brake pads hahaha. organic pads make rotors more hot meaning glow? hmm. i know i mad mechanical disk brakes and i got a orange/blue burn mark on my rotor. i was surprised, so i know its possible
[Reply]
  • + 6
 DJman, I thnk you have just answered the most common question in mountainbiking! Your article is crystal clear, providing indepth information yet still easy enough for even me to understand. 10/10 sir.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 that a great help for all the people out there who dont not understand brake pads i work in a bike shop and so many people look at me wierd when i go what kind of pad are you after? they should read this and then they would understand
[Reply]
  • + 3
 Just thought I'd add my 2 cents.
Resin/organic pads work poorly in wet conditions because resin is not porous. Water gets trapped between the rotor and pad and the pad hydroplanes. Sintered (by definition) means "pressed metal powder" and is porous so water is absorbed and evaporates as the pad and rotor heats up. Google "sintered base" to see why sintered bases are preferred over extruded bases in the ski/snowboard industry (they are harder and absorb wax). Semi-metallic is an often used term by pad manufacturers nowadays. These pads are mostly resin pads with a metallic substance added in place of some of the Aramid and Hemp and other organic goodies in an organic pad. They wear less than organic, are quieter than sintered, transmit less heat to the caliper than sintered and wear the rotor less than sintered but they are still resin based so will still suffer some hydroplaning in the wet.
The exception may be the SOS pads you mentioned Nojzilla (cood catch)and I've supplied some links to a few sites with some good info.
Surprisingly, the Taiwanese site is the most informative with way less propaganda and grammatical errors (cough-Hayes) than the more common sites.
www.ashima.com.tw/products_01_03.html
www.velocitydirect.co.uk/uploads/download_362.pdf
[Reply]
  • + 2
 One point to remember:

There are 2 types of 'brake fade'. Pad fade - where the pad has heated up to the point where it no longer works effectively and becomes glazed. And Fluid fade - This is where the brake fluid boils and becomes aireated, leading to the lever pulling back to the bar and no braking.

When the author talks about brake fade he is refering to Pad fade. When he mentions heat being conducted through the pad to the caliper, this is what can cause fuild fade.

Hope this clarify's things.

Will
  • + 0
 thank you for that.
  • + 0
 fluid fade does not exist if you bleed the brakes properly.
  • + 3
 Fluid fade does definitely happen even if brakes are bled properly. You obviously just haven't had a long enough downhill section to find that out. That is why they make increasingly higher boil point brake fluid. If properly bled systems were the answer then the need for different fluid would not exist. Granted, properly bled systems will delay fluid fade, but it is not the cure for it.
  • - 2
 if you have a fluid that's up to spec for the specific heat produced by the rising temperature in relation to time, then no, fluid fade should not exist. most of the time people feel "fluid fade" as the air inside of the lines is compressed, not by the fluid actually losing viscosity under heat
  • + 0
 Nope, If you go fast enough with the brakes on, on a long enough and steep enough descent you will get fluid fade, its basic physics.

However, If you have large enough rotors and a well designed brake system with good fluid in, then it should be designed well enough to dissapate enough heat to prevent fluid fade.

Hope this helps :-)
[Reply]
  • + 1
 metallic pads in the summer + bike park: will burn down your rotors if you are a heavy rider... a friend of mine broke is rear rotor with temperature...(totally smash is rear wheel), and he lost the brake in every descend, they faded because of the heat, with organic pads that didn´t happen
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Hmmm, am I the only one that noticed some inconsistencies in the discussion of the differences in heat transfer properties between the sintered and resing pads? For sintered, heat transfering to the caliper is listed as a con, but in the following paragraph, it's talked about like it's a pro.
  • - 2
 and how do you "push" heat? physics people, physics
  • + 0
 Well, in fairness, I think he was simply refering to the heat conducting through the path of least resistance, with sintered metal pads having higher heat conductivity than resin.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I totally do not agry with this advise; Heavy rider (as i am) is not better of with sintered but with organic/resin/normal/semi.
Why: as stated in pro and cons it has to do with heat build up. Sintered does not has the bite and heats up the caliper to much, witch is even more so when heavy.
Sintered ar good in wet wetter because they do not wear out that quickly and because of the above stated reason (see kapers comment). In normal conditions performance of the softer organic/resin/normal/semi pads are always the best choice.
  • + 0
 That is what the end of my article is about, use what pads work for you. Also to add to your comment, stintered pads do take heat through the calipar, which can make it boil. But resin pads do not conduct the heat, which heats up the rotor, also causing brake fade, exept quicker. I am glad that you found what pads work for you, this was only meant as a guideline. Thanks for reading.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 i say to try out each type of pad for your self and see how it goes, ive found ups and downs to each pad type, and i have rested with sintered, they just work best for me, and i kinda like the brake squeel sound. lets me know every thing is working right. the only real problem i have with the sintered pads is i find they get contaminted easyer, witch is fixxed with some heavy braking on a nice wet muddy trail. but i do alot of street and fair weather riding now so its not alwasy so easy to clean the pads that way any more, i had to pull mine out and wash them with some 99% rubbing alcohol to clean them, it worked but not as well as a nice long fall ride would Wink .
[Reply]
  • + 1
 You say "Always buy the pad that will enhance your performance the best, they are cheap you can always buy more if they wear out".

They're not so cheap if they only last a few rides like at certain Welsh Trail centres! In this case, longer lasting is better, regardless of performance. Unless you have deep pockets!

What about a comparison between cheapo pads and higher price versions. This really would be useful.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Don't forget that you also have to take in account that you have different DOT fuild's and MINERAL as well.

It also depends on what brake system you run as well and what hose you use. As an EG: Hope will always sqeek in a wet condistion, no matter what pads are in it.

Also differnet types on the make of pads, act in other ways to the same brand of your brake system own pads.

For Dot try: PACE RC312 (DOT 4)
Typical dry boiling point 312 C
Typical Wet boiling point 204 C
Spec: US FMVss 116 DOT4/SAE J 1703/ SAE J 1704

You can use Dot 5.1 what people think is better but just check against the pace's boiling points.

MINERAL is just MINERAL use the one for your system. But with this it can be a bit laggy in extreme temperatures.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Thanks for another great article, keep them coming.
We have been experimenting with the new CERAMIC brake pads and so far they are out performing the metallic pads with less fade, quieter and stronger stops. There doesn’t seem to be any glazing or extra wear on the discs so far.
  • - 2
 Who's "we"? Are you saying that you happend to find some ceramic pads for your brakes that you tried out, or are you saying that you design & manufacture brake pads, and are testing prototypes?
  • + 1
 We is a group of riders that I support in their DH endeavors that had great success with ceramic pads.
  • - 2
 bullshit ...there isnt such a thing as ceramic pads ..crap ! theres no way you can get any ceramic substance up to temp for braking ...on a mountain bike . porche n lambo n ferrari use them beacause they can get the operating temp correct by massaging the pads milliseconds b4 use . get wot i am saying "ianjanlex" you is talkin crap !!
  • + 2
 www.discobrakes.com/?s=0&t=0&c=2&p=104&; , hmm looks like those are ceramic. P.S. try researching before you try and trash talk.
  • + 1
 bruce, that's ceramic 'discs' you're thinking of. Ceramic pads work, trouble is, they dissolve when used in wet. You are right though, ceramic discs wouldn't work, as the operating temperature is too high. You would need to to have them glowing all the time for them to work properly. The problem is, at low temperatures, they grab like a bitch and have no modulatiomn until they reach operating temperature.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I've run hope brakes for about 6 years now and this is my experience:

Organic pads - Work great in all conditions unless water gets on the rotor (puddles/rain). As soon as water get's on there they start squeeling and there is no bite. In extreme heat they can glaze over but that's usually due to improper braking technique.

Sintered - Perfect for when water is getting on the rotor (puddles/rain), porous material allows proper pad contact giving better bite. Due to metal design I find they heat up a lot more and transfer the heat to the oil causing brake pump/fade. From experience they glaze over badly if it's hot and dry.

So I run organics unless it rains. Most of the other Hope team riders are the same.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 What about kevlar pads? I'm guessing they are resin (organic) the sintered pads I used for my downhill were Sooo loud and not very consistent. I've moved to kevlar but facing a week in fort williams with the weather looking shocking, I'm wondering if I should get a spare set of sintered. I've got 3 sets of kevlar for the week. I'm hoping they will last and perform in the wet. Anyone got experience with kevlar in the wet?
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Fluid fade is also known as boiling your brake fluid, that is when the advantages of running a brake system that uses dot fluid vs mineral oil (different brands call it different names, but essentially if its not DOT fluid, its some type of mineral oil) come into effect. Having the brakes properly bled will minimize the chance of this, but it can still happen. Oil systems have a lower boiling point, but do not absorb moisture. Dot fluid systems have a higher boiling temperature, but over time the fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, lowering the boiling point. And yes, even dot fluid systems can boil, I have had it happen riding dirtbikes, never on a bike though, all the sudden, you will have zero braking when you pull the lever like someone cut your line, the good thing is that as long as you didnt cook the seals, you can usually let things cool down and the brakes will come back enough to get back to the car.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Dont get the resin pads they are crap they dont last long and have a horrible squeek.I have just bought sintered which are doing good for the moment no squeeks through the wet or dry and havent seem to gone down at all. great article
[Reply]
  • + 0
 I thought sintered pads should always be avoided for downhill due to the heat levels they generate. As stated above heat will be conducted through the caliper and into the fluid potentially causing fade/vapour generation in the fluid. Don't the cons of sintered pads go against using them for heavy riders/downhill use?
[Reply]
  • + 0
 message recieved
pleaes send more
can we have one for rear shocks please? i got a hard tail an i can figure out all the knobs on my pikes easy enuough but,im about to spend a wedge on a full susser an after a while trying different bikes i know what type of frame style i want but, im still confused about the shock terminology an advanteges or dissavanteges of all the different systems
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Good write up- I find myself putting resin in the back ( you dodn't need that much power to lock up rear) and metalic up front for better performance in the front.
Haven't tried the other combo- metallic/sintered on each caliper,
does it make sense?

BTW- I know it's not a promo, but any recommendations for louise brakes (besides the original ones?)
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Great article! I mistakenly put organic pads on the back of my bike, and thought there was somthing wrong with my brakes. I couldn't lock up the rear wheel with one finger and they felt like they had air in the lines compared to when I have metalic pads on. I was about to take it in for a bleed when I decided to see if the pads had oil or grease on them befor I took it to the shop, when I discovered the pads were organic, threw them in the garbage and put metalic ones on, now everything is great. I find the metalic pads not as loud as organic. Just my 2 cents worth.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 a very informative article. I can't see why anyone would want to run organic pads, though. the only advantage seems to be that they don't squeal as much, and when you concider all the disadvantages, it hardly seems worth it.
  • + 1
 For such a cheap but essential part, it's worth experimenting with different compounds and manufacturers. Think of it along the same lines as tire choice (but at a fraction of the cost) Smile
  • + 0
 I started running organic pads last year and ditched the metallic pads altogether. True they do not last as long, but in my opinion they stop better in any condition and are a whole lot quieter. You will however be replacing pads more often depending on how often you grab the levers.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 im 100% sure the thing 99.9% of trendy pinkbikers right now want to know is

what is lighter? performance doesnt mean shit if one is lighter then the other
[Reply]
  • + 4
 Wer bremst verliert. :-)
[Reply]
  • + 0
 This article has good information for people new to the sport or for those who want to learn about replacing brake pads themselves. Not everyone on this site is mechanically inclined brucethomson.
  • - 3
 in response dude , everyone should have a good all round knowledge of how a bike runs , you cant take it to a bike shop half way up or down a track.you should ba able to jump on your ride knowing its going to run sweet and stop on a dime . i just think if you cant set up disc brakes theres not much hope . changing pads , knowing what pads work for you and for surrounding conditions is just as important as knowing how to change a tube or bleed brakes .
[Reply]
  • + 0
 has any one seen that ad on page 137 of the latest dirt mag,for the SOS multi compound pads they're sinterd with an organic section in the middle,
any opinions?
[Reply]
  • - 2
 blah blah blah !! cmon guys , if you dont know the difference between dot4 and dot 5 ..resin or sintered pads , you shouldnt be riding freeride or downhill . when shifting along down your favorite track you should know exactly whats on your bike , how its going to work in every condition , how the bike is set up is just the most important thing ever . a good tip however is if you find pad or rotor contaminated with lube or woteva is grill them for a min or two , you can see the crap smoking off !! thats my rant over thanx ..elvis has left the building !
  • + 2
 WOW Bruce, You sure flap your gums but do not have alot to say. Before you waste words and page space consider looking up some information and facts first.
  • - 3
 arm ...yer maw ..twice ..sack o tatties
[Reply]
  • + 2
 thanks for the good article
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I have hope m4 brakes, I live in wet conditions... What pad material do ya guys recommend
[Reply]
  • + 1
 do you think is posible and useful use one Sintered Pad and second Resin Pad...?
  • + 0
 yes it is.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Good informative article. I've known people who will run 1 of each. Maybe to make it a little less squeaky? I dunno, but they seemed happy with their results.
  • + 1
 Sintered pads don't glaze like resin ones do, which means less unnecessary squeaking. That should be added to the list of pros for them.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 thx..i think it was very good information...in fact i see my avid pads wich i use for dh and it is organicBig Grin but it is ok next i will use metalicBig Grin
[Reply]
  • + 0
 i was told that with metal pads if oil gets on it you can burn it off and not need new pads right away
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Under cons you should add that sintered pads will wear down the rotor faster.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 WTF has that got to do with brake pads?
[Reply]
  • + 0
 erggh i spent 15 pounds on mettalic brake pads, and i ride dj. explains why i feel like i wasted my cash Frown
  • + 0
 you haven't wasted your money . don't worry
  • + 0
 but it doesent have bite, and i dont sue it enough to warm it up Razz
  • + 0
 you don't want it to warm up , it won't have bite at first . it takes a long time for it to bed in .
  • + 0
 long time as in i need to go for a ride involving the brakes everytime i want to dj. or long time as in after 4 months theyll work fine?
  • + 0
 hay fuzzy, Sounds like you have oil on your pads. My saint breaks with metalic pads stops on a dime, they are very graby, I have to warn people test riding my bike about the graby breaks or they get launched. Try cleaning your breaks with break cleaner, but once the pads are contaminated they will ozz oil out during use.
  • + 0
 takes bout 2-3 good rides to bed in sintered pads. to clean the pads bake or grill them for a few mins . (i boil mine in a kettle )
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Very informative for sure. Thanks, there should be more articles like this on PinkBike.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 thanks alot, thats really helpful.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Love these tech articles! keep em up!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Cheers for all that info Daddy !
[Reply]
  • + 1
 more articles like this about parts would be a great idea.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Finaly i got my answer! Keep the good work!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Thank for the info
[Reply]
  • + 0
 this said both pads are better for smaller rotors...
[Reply]
  • + 0
 i like these articles really useful
[Reply]
  • + 0
 this is really informative including some comments. it was def a good read
[Reply]
  • + 0
 im getting resin pads now.. i need a better breaking distance
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Just commenting so I can find this artcle later
[Reply]
  • + 0
 so the resin ones are from rubber? like v-brakes have?
[Reply]
  • + 0
 thats a very nice article, there should be more like this! Thanks.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 I enjoyed that article,keep up the good work.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 what does that say? (im sorry, im not so good in english)
  • + 1
 made out of living things, I assume like leaves, and grass
  • + 0
 but also mixed with glue.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 wow, i never knew any of that! cool!
[Reply]
  • + 0
 good article man!
[Reply]
  • + 0
 THABK FOR GOOD INFO
[Reply]
  • + 3
 this is awsome, how do i book mark this thing?
[Reply]
  • + 2
 My wife has been through several bikes in the past couple of years, but everytime she gets a new frame I transfer over the same old Hayes Mag brakes. She rides alot, including XC and Whistler DH on the same bike, currently a Transition Syren. The brakes are 9 years old, and with 8" rotors have perfect modulation and power for her. I haven't done anything but change the brake pads a couple times in about 4 years. I rebuilt them 7 years ago when they were my own brakes, then installed Goodridge brake lines which added alot of power. This was the last completely user serviceable disc brake, and I don't see why there are so many haters, or why Hayes changed the design.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 WTF has that got to do with brake pads?
[Reply]

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