Road Cycling

Ask the Expert: How do I Know When my Brake Pads Need Replacing?

Signs you need to get some new rubber


Brake pads need replacing from time to time, especially over winter, as they pick up more grit and grime from wet roads and muddy trails.

There are two main classes of brakes: rim brakes and disc brakes. Rim brakes – which can be v-brakes or cantilevers – are often found road or hybrid bikes and the pads clamp onto the rim to bring you to a stop.

Disc brakes are found on mountain bikes, some hybrids, and more recently on road and cyclocross bikes. These have brake pads which clamp onto a disc in the centre of the wheel to stop you.

In both cases, the pads wear down over time and will need replacing, probably a couple of times a year but this will be dependent upon use.

So – how do you know when you need to replace yours? We asked Jenni Gwiazdowski founder of the London Bike Kitchen.

“For rim brake pads (v-brake, cantilever, road), the time to replace them is when the teeth, or grooves, in the rubber are gone. New brake pads generally have teeth, grooves, or some sort of pattern in the pad.”

If your rim brakes have become a little unresponsive, take a look at the rubber on the pads – if you can’t see any indents at all in the pads, it means the top layer of rubber has worn away and you need to replace them.

Here’s how to replace brake pads on rim brakes

 If your brakes do not feel as sharp as you would like, but the rubber is not worn, they may just need tightening or adjusting – here’s how.

If you have disc brakes, you will need to remove the wheel, and pull the brake pad out of the calliper to be able to see how worn they are. Jenni explained: “Disc brake pads start out with about 3-4mm of compound [on the pad]. They need to be replaced when there’s about 1mm left.”

She added: “Disc brakes generally stop working so well around this time [when you’ve got down to 1mm].

“As a general rule, when your brakes stop working so well – for example when you’re pulling the lever almost against the handlebar to stop – check them and see if they need to be changed. If they still have a thick layer of compound, then all you need to do is tighten your brake cable.”

Watch how you can adjust and maintain your bike breaks here


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