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Disc Brakes - Which Pads to Use

Different riding styles and different riding conditions require different brake pad materials to get the best out of your swish hydraulic brakes. There’s no point having £200 a set brake levers and callipers if you are choosing the wrong pads for where and how you ride. If you want the best stopping power you need to have a think about how the different pad types are made and what they are made from and to be prepared to spend a bit of time giving your brakes all the love they require.

There’s basically two different brake pad types for you to choose between for bicycle disc brakes, organic and sintered. Manufacturers add varying amounts of compounds to fine tune the mix and performance of both types but essentially your choices are sintered or organic. A little bit of insight into how they differ and the physics behind them will help you make the best choice.

Organic pads are made of a matrix of heat cured paste bound up with high friction organic fibres. Cellulose, aramid and PAN fibres can all be mixed in to create a high friction pad with excellent dry weather performance and reasonable resistance to brake fade with increased temperature. The down side to organic pads is that they wear more quickly than sintered pads particularly in the wet- on the flip side though they wear your discs much more slowly.So for summer riding, cross country racing and the like these are probably your best choice.

Sintered pads are made up of a mixture of powdered and flaked metallic compounds. Instead of having a heat set paste form the pad they use a mixture of low and high temp melting metals where the low temp melting point materials are fused together during manufacture binding the higher temp metals together into a homogenous pad.  Sintered pads are harder than organic pads so they wear more slowly and are the better choice for wet and muddy conditions, but they do wear your discs more quickly. They also require more braking force to create the same stopping power as an organic pad so they are a little heavier on the hands. On the upside though they are much more resistant to temperature related brake fade, making them the ideal choice for long descents.

So to sum up, for dry riding, on tracks where temperature related brake fade isn’t going to be an issue and for the lightest action at the brake lever go for an organic pad. For downhill racing, Enduro or Megavalanche style events and wet weather riding go for a sintered pad- just keep an eye out for accelerated disc wear.

Disc brake pads are inexpensive here at On-One we sell both types for loads of different brake models. Why not stock up on both types and experiment a little to ensure that you always have the best braking possible for the prevailing conditions- after all it only take a minute to swap your pads over and no one wants to be braking bad!

Have fun and ride safe.

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