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Understanding Brake Pad Compounds in About Five Minutes

Posted: Saturday 05 Aug 2017. Category: Cycling

To get the most out of your bike's disc brakes, you need to choose a pad compound that suits your riding style, and the types of conditions and terrain you ride in.

To help you with this choice, here's a very brief, but comprehensive overview of the three most commonly used compounds.

Resin/Organic: Soft pads  

Organic pads or resin as they are also known are made from a mixture of materials, such as glass, carbon, rubber and other natural stuff, all bound up together with a resin compound.

The advantages of resin/organic pads are:

√  They are very quick to bed in

√  They have excellent initial bite and feel in dry conditions

√  They are very quiet

√ Inexpensive

√  Most of the heat is dissipated through the rotor not the caliper – preventing mineral oil systems from overheating 

The disadvantages of resin/organic pads are:

x  They have a relatively short lifespan

x  They don’t perform well in very wet, gritty or muddy conditions

x  They can fade at high temperatures on performance descents

x  The braking surfaces can glaze over when overheated, so occasional sanding may be required to roughen the surfaces back up

Are they for you ...

A great choice of pad for both recreational and serious bikers who generally only ride in dry to damp conditions. Not suitable for people into DH, wet weather riders or bikers that live in mountainous areas where very long descents are common.

Sintered/Metal: Hard pads

The sintered or metal pad is the complete opposite of the resin pad. These pads are made from a combination of sintered metal powders such as copper, iron and bronze that are melded together through a process of heat and compression.

The advantages of sintered/metal pads are:

√  They are incredibly durable

√  They offer the best performance in extremely wet, muddy and gritty conditions

√  They offer good performance on extreme descents

√  They don’t glaze over

The disadvantages of sintered/metal pads are:

x  They take a long time to bed-in correctly

x  They can be very noisy

x  They lack the initial bite and feel of the softer resin pads

x  They can overheat mineral oil systems on very long demanding descents due to heat being conducted back into the caliper

Are they for you ...

Sintered/metal pads are best suited to riders that do a lot of performance DH, and aggressive trail/enduro riders who are regularly out regardless of the weather. If you don’t do either of these, you probably don’t need this kind of pad.

Semi-Metallic: Medium pads

The semi-metallic pad is essentially a hybrid pad that's made up from a mixture of organic materials along with shavings of various metals.

The advantages of the semi-metallic are:

√  They are more durable than resin pads

√  They perform well enough in moderately wet, muddy and gritty conditions

√  They offer decent performance on moderate performance descents

√  Once bedded in they offer a good initial bite and feel

The disadvantages of semi-metallic pads are:

x  They can suffer from glazing when overheated

x  They take longer to bed in than resin pads

x  Not as good as metal pads for really atrocious wet, muddy or gritty conditions 

x They can fade on demanding performance descents

Are they for you ...

As you will see from the pros and cons, the semi-metallic is a great compromise between a sintered pad and an organic. But as with all compromises, you gain a little here and lose a little there. A good choice of pad for serious recreational riders who occasionally ride in wet conditions and take on the occasional spot of moderate DH.

Compound Combinations

Many riders like to run combinations – for example, a semi-metallic on the rear and a softer resin pad on the front. This combo offers great feel and bite up front where you need it most, whilst offering more durability on the rear – which tends to pick up more grit and dust.

This type of combo also works well for more aggressive riders with a semi-metallic on the front and a sintered on the rear. 

So, there you have it. Your personal riding style, weather conditions and types of terrain you ride in, really dictate the type of pad compounds you should be using to get the most out of your disc brakes. 

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Posted by DL


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