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Avid cyclists know the value of a well-maintained bike and how important it is to keep every single component in tip top shape. Brake pads are vital when it comes to your safety and replacing them is a must once they become worn. Bicycle brake pads replacement is an easy DIY task if you have the right tools and instructions at hand, but first you need to identify a worn pad in order to replace it before your upcoming trip.

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Bike Brake Pads

Worn Pad Signs

You will be able to differentiate between a worn and perfectly functioning brake pad by simply using your senses. Listen to the sound your bicycle makes while riding and if you hear a strange scraping noise then this means that the brake shoe is repeatedly hitting the rim. Each pad has a pattern or grooves especially when brand new and unused, so the absence of these grooves means that those pads are no longer fit for your bike. You will also sense a change in the way you brake if the worn pads are constantly catching under the rim. New pads have a thickness of around 3 to 4 millimeters and they gradually lose this thickness with time. Pads that measure around 1.5 millimeters or less have already lost a huge chunk of their mass and their functionality, so this is another sign to look for as well.

Why Brake Pads Go Bad

There are many reasons why brake pads deteriorate quickly, and poor maintenance is one of them. Your riding style also makes an impact on the pads and the more you brake on descents, the more pressure you put on the pads. Cyclists who enjoy going on long rides no matter the weather conditions will often encounter rain and mud along the way. Dirt and muddy deposits will eventually dry up and affect bike performance in the absence of regular cleaning and the pads will suffer as a result. Therefore, you need to clean the rims using alcohol and a clean cloth or a mildly abrasive sponge from your kitchen.

Worn brake pads for bicycle

Replacing Bike Brake Pads

Bike brake replacement is far from a time-consuming process and takes around ten minutes to complete. This simple DIY task requires several tools such as needle nose pliers, a wide flathead screwdriver and a disc brake cleaner as well. You will also need a cone wrench and a kitchen towel or clean cloth to remove any grime or dirt while working.

  • Mount the bike on a stand and remove the wheel.
  • Different caliper designs have different retention systems when it comes to their pads. Some designs have a cotter pin while others have a screw in pin. Springs are also used to secure pads while others are held against the pistons by magnets.
  • Use the pliers to detach the pins or springs before removing the worn brake pads. It is recommended that you clean the caliper and rotor from the inside using a degreaser and a clean cloth. If the pads are giving you a hard time, try loosening the adjuster.
  • Before installing the new brake pads, you need to fully retract the pistons to make room for the thicker replacement pads.
  • Simply press the pistons back in using a cone wrench if your bike has hydraulic calipers.
  • Turn the adjuster counterclockwise until it stops if your bike has mechanical calipers.
  • If you accidentally squeeze the brake lever, the pistons will come back in, so avoid touching them during the installation process.
  • Install the replacement pads and secure them using their clips or pins before re-attaching the wheel.
  • Make sure that everything is centered, and this includes the rotor and caliper. If the wheels rotor is not running central to the caliper, then you need to make the necessary adjustments before removing the bike from its repair stand.
  • Press the brake lever and spin the wheel at the same time to test the new pads. Bleed the brakes if the pads fail to grip the rotor. This process involves removing air from the hydraulic brake system.
  • The next step revolves around breaking in your new brakes and you can easily do that by riding your bicycle in a low traffic neighborhood or an empty parking lot.

Tips for Breaking in New Pads

In order to optimize the performance of your newly installed brake pads, you need to break them in the right way. This involves bringing them up to a certain temperature and maintaining a speed of around 60 MPH while rapidly accelerating and decelerating.

  • Newly installed pads and rotors take a while to reach their maximum braking capacity the first few rides so make sure to be gentle when applying the brakes and avoid cycling in areas with heavy traffic.
  • Complete the 60 MPH – 10 MPH cycle that involves accelerating to 60 and then slowing down to 10 without putting too much pressure on the brakes. Repeat this cycle around ten times and make sure not bring the bicycle to a complete stop.
  • You will notice a subtle blue color and a light gray layer forming on the surface of the rotor. The blue color means that the rotor has been successfully broken in. Do not be alarmed if you notice the gray layer either. This is simply caused by the friction between the brake pads and rotor.
  • Allow the brakes to cool down before performing the above-mentioned cycle if the rotors on your bicycle are old and the pads are brand new and freshly installed.

Preserving your newly installed pads is incredibly important if you want them to last. This involves cleaning them using soap and water and removing the wheels altogether if you need to wash or lube your bicycle. Always use isopropyl alcohol or a similar solvent to clean the rotors to avoid contaminating the pads, and do not forget to wear gloves to add an extra later of hygiene and to keep the pads free from grease and dirt.

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Sources:

  1. How to Change the Brakes on Bikes – It Still Runs
  2. Choosing the Right Mountain Bike Brakes – HowStuffWorks

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