Your brake pads are one of the most crucial components on your bike. They determine just how effective your braking system will work, especially in wet and slippery conditions. Unfortunately, brake pads are a consumable component that undergoes wear and tear and may require to be replaced over time.
If you are planning to replace your brake pads, you may want to know whether they are universal; and if not, what you should look out for to find the best fit for your bicycle.
So, are bike pads universal? Bike brake pads, on the whole, are universal; the main difference is the compound they are made of. Some have soft non-metallic compounds whereas others feature hard metallic compounds. There are also some variations in size and diameter of the pads but this doesn’t make much difference. If you’re not sure, however, remember to ask your local bike store attendant for advice on the best fit.
In this post, we will look at the composition and functioning of bike brake pads and their lifespan as we consider some of the best performing bike brake pad brands available for your road bike in the market.
What are Bike Brakes made of?
Generally, the size and shape of your brake pads don’t differ, although the material used in their manufacture does. In most cases, cheap brake pad makers use resin, which provides good and silent braking results. However, the pads have a shorter lifespan, especially in rainy conditions.
Alternatively, you can find half-metal or full metal brake pads; these tend to be louder with a less effective braking performance. The advantage with these is that they last longer even in wet and muddy conditions.
Semi-metallic pad manufacturers use a combination of synthetics and different proportions of flaked metals for the brake pad compound.
Meanwhile, metallic pads comprise sintered steel with no synthetic additives. They require more actuating force to stop your bike, wearing off the rotors at a faster rate. Finally, ceramic is another material used to make brake pads. It comprises a mixture of clay and porcelain, bonded to copper filaments and flakes.
The disadvantage with ceramic as a brake pad material is that it doesn’t dissipate heat well; causing the other components on your bike’s braking system to warp. Selecting a brake pad will come ultimately down to the buyer’s preference, although some rotors function better with specific pads.
Some brake pad makers fit their brake pads with an alloy core or cooling fins that serve to prevent all the heat from reaching the caliper and affecting the brake fluid. This though, is essentially a performance upgrade, albeit to a small extent.
What are the Best Road Bike Brake Pads?
When considering the choice of road bike brake pads to buy, you have to look at; the material they are made of, their durability, and their general performance to find the best.
The following are a few examples of top brake pads available in the market:
- Avid 20R Brake Pad SetThese popular road brake pads from Avid will effectively bring your bike to a halt in any condition you are riding in. The pads are generally designed to be compatible for the linear brakes, creating a hugely efficient braking performance for the rider. It takes just a couple of minutes to set up the pads into the brake set, making for a great fit in most rim sizes. Furthermore, the pads feature treads that add power to the braking performance and are very suitable in warm weather. The Avid 20R are easily adjustable and come at a reliably affordable price; Check Price on Amazon.
- Shimano J02A Resin Disc Brake Pad PairThese brake pads are made using resin and feature cooling fins aluminum Ice-Tech. You can easily stop your bike in an instant and still retain complete control of your bicycle. There is no spiking or jarring during braking and any noise is minimized. Given that they are cartridge pads be sure to watch out for your bikes compatibility when buying these products from Shimano. You can buy Shimano J02A Resin Disc Brake Pad Pairs on Amazon.
- Swiss Stop FlashProThese come at a slightly premium price but with an impressive performance that will justify the cost. The brake pads are made of aluminum and have a more linear braking performance. They are also noticeably more powerful in their stopping ability compared to other cheaper alternatives and with little “wear and tear” effect on left on your rims. You can find a set of 4 pads of Swiss Stop FlashPro here on Amazon.
- Origin8 Sports Road PadsThese road bike pads will cost you only $6.75 on Amazon. Despite their cheap pricing, they are a fantastic product, featuring an all-weather compound that will easily fit into most 50mm caliper braking systems. The pads are soft and ensure that you enjoy a smooth ride on dry surfaces, as well as on wet surfaces. The stop is also smooth and fast, giving you complete control of the ride. Most bikers prefer the Origin8 Sports Road Pads because of the performance they offer at such an affordable price.
What’s the difference between Front and Rear Brake Pads?
There is no noticeable difference between the front and back brake pads; only that the rear brakes don’t need to be as powerful since they are easier to lock on the back wheel. That’s why it is common to find some bikers with differently sized rotors on their brakes.
Usually, the rotor on the rear pad is smaller. However, most people run identical brake pads at the front and back since they often purchase duplicate sets at the same time. The important thing is that either way you choose to fit your brake pads; it will still get the job done!
When to Replace Brake Pads – what Percent?
There are two main types of brakes that you generally find on bikes. The first type is rim brakes; these have pads that press against the rim to bring your bike to a stop. The other class is disc brakes and these feature pads that will clamp onto a disc in the center of your bike’s wheel to stop.
Both brake pads wear down with time and will naturally need to be replaced. Depending on how much you use your bike, will determine the timeframe on which you need to replace the brake pads. As a guide though:
- Rim BrakesYour brake pads will usually come with a tread pattern on the contact side. If you can’t seem to notice any indents on the pads, this is a sign that the upper layer of the rubber has worn away, and the brakes need to be changed.
- Disc brakesDisc brakes feature pads that have around 3-4 mm of compound length on them. If you notice that the pads have worn down to 1.5- 1 mm or 25% thickness, it is time to change your pads. Additionally, if your bike has sintered metal pads, you may not be required to replace them as often as with organic, resin pads.
Whichever type of brakes you have on your bike, the general rule is that when you suspect your brakes are not performing adequately, i.e. such that you have to pull the lever to almost against the handlebar for the bike to slow down or stop, then inspect them and determine whether they need to be replaced.
If their layer of compound is still thick, then all that may be required is for the brake cables to be tightened.
How long do Bike Brake Pads last?
There is no definitive answer to this question as there are too many variables that will determine how fast your brake pads wear. Your body weight, the terrain you are riding on, as well as the conditions you are riding in are just some of these factors.
Generally, I would say after riding at least 500 miles your brake pads may need some inspection to determine whether they are worn enough to warrant replacement.