Are Mountain Bike Brake Pads Universal? (Let’s Find Out)

Are Mountain Bike Brake Pads Universal

Identifying the nature of your mountain bike brake pads is a step closer to making judgments or informed decisions regarding what you need to work on.

However, a lukewarm attitude toward your mountain bike brake pads will later be something you will regret.

To avoid such a disastrous situation, you should show genuine concern about what type of brake pads you use for your mountain bike.

Generally speaking, mountain bike brake pads are universal. But, you will notice the differences in size, diameter, and the compounds from which they come, as some are metallic, non-metallic, or even organic compounds at times. And most modern hardtail bikes carrying full suspension use a hydraulically activated disc brake system.

As we progress, we will know if mountain bike brake pads are universal and interchangeable. We will see how to pick brake pads and know if all of these components are identical.

Are the Brake Pads on Mountain Bikes Universal?

Are Mountain Bike Brake Pads Universal

Going by the general idea, the brake pads on mountain bikes are universal. However, when you intend to change the brake pad, you can see the variety of options available.

Looking at the three main types of disc brake pads, it will be easy to conclude that MTB brake pads are universal. But they come in varying shapes, sizes, and components.

These disc brake pads may be organic, sintered, or semi-metallic.

And each one has its distinct components as well as characteristics.

#1. Organic Brake Pads

The components of the organic brake pads are rubber, silica, and Kevlar, all bound together by resin. The good thing about organic brake pads is that they are noise free.

Among the three types, it is the quietest of them all. It renders very sharp braking and does not require warming up to serve as you require it to.

It can keep more heat in the rotor while transferring some of it to the brake fluid.

This action is due to the organic compound that insulates the brake pad from the caliper. But it will fade after breaking for a long time.

The downside, though, is that, compared to the other types, organic pads will wear more quickly. 

Also, it can be challenging using them for wet or dirty riding; they will only glaze over than brake.

If you are going for a ride that is less extreme and in dry conditions, then organic pads are suitable.

For example, they are good with XC mountain biking on relatively flat terrains with fewer brakings.

#2. Sintered Brake Pads

Sintered brake pads, also known as metallic brake pads, are a mixture of particles that become pressed together. In terms of durability and lifespan, it stands above organic pads.

Even when the metal components of the pad will try to transfer heat to the caliper and increase temperature, a sintered brake pad will still function properly.

However, the sintered brake pad will need a little time to warm up and begin working again. Also, note that your sintered brake pad may likely be noisy.

The sintered brake pads are useful while riding on the extreme side or muddy terrain with an enduro or downhill bike.

#3. Semi-metallic Brake Pads

The good thing about semi-metallic pads is that they combine the advantages of organic and sintered brake pads.

Another advantage is that the stopping power on long descents is better than that of organic brake pads. And the warm-up is faster than that of sintered brake pads.

Apart from being the most expensive type, there is also glazing over, just like the organic pads. But they are far noisier than organic brake pads.

NOTE: Not all mountain bikes use the three-disc brake platforms above. For instance, many hardtail bikes and those with full suspension today carry the hydraulic disc brake system.

Frame designs of today for mountain bikes have a construction with a disc brake mount rather than the usual cantilever mount. As a result, they also do not use the brake platforms above.

Can You Interchange Brake Pads on a Mountain Bike?

You can interchange your mountain bike’s front and rear brake pads. And the difference could be clearer.

Please note that the only difference is that the rear brakes are weaker, which is why they lock on easily at the back wheel of your mountain bike.

And this is also connected to why you will see fellow bikers with rotors of different sizes on their brakes.

Nevertheless, the rotors at the rear pad are usually smaller. However, after buying it as a set, you will still see people who use brake pads identical for both front and rear.

No matter how you fix it, the most important thing is that, in the end, you install the brake pads, and it performs efficiently. 

How Do I Know What Brake Pads I Need for My Mountain Bike?

You must know that disc brake calipers will only accept pads that are uniquely just for them. Therefore, you will find them in various shapes and sizes.

The aftermarket pad manufacturer or the brake system brand usually gives compatibility information, which you should rely on while looking for a replacement brake pad.

Also, to know the best brake pads you need for your mountain bike, you should carefully go through the pros and cons of each brake pad. 

And the tables below show all of these.

For organic brake pads;

Pros Cons 
Very quietGlazes over easily
Quick bed-inWears fast
Initial braking response is sharperAt high temperatures, braking powder fades
Initial is awesome (especially when the temperature is low)Poor performance and faster wear in wet and dirty conditions

For sintered brake pads;

Pros Cons 
No glazing Takes a long time to bed-in
Can withstand higher temperaturesIt may become very noisy
Longer lifespanCan easily transfer heat to bike’s caliper
Reliable in wet and dirty conditions
Braking power is very strong.

For non-metallic brake pads;

Warms up within a short timeMost expensive
More powerful than sintered padsMay likely become prone to glazing
More durable and has better wet-condition performance.

Are All Bike Disc Brakes the Same Size?

No, not all disc brakes have similar sizes. Disc brakes are made in varying sizes and are measured in Millimeters, and the most common is among the smaller sizes of 150mm.

Other sizes include 160mm, 185mm, and 203mm. The 203mm (8 inches) is the most commonly sorted large size because it offers much more stopping power.

It is a power that comes in handy when going for downhill rides. And because you find 203mm disc brakes on most mountain bikes, heat is dispersed easily

It will happen easily at the disc brake rotor due to its capacity to hold higher heat and, as an added benefit, prevent brake failure.

The reference “disc brake dimensions” refers to the rotor size (the disc you will see in the disc braking system).

Although your rotor diameter and bike frame may go together, there can still be a difference in size when there is compatibility between the rotor and the disc-specific hub.

These kinds of brakes are mostly used on mountain bikes because water and mud hardly affect them. However, they perform well on extreme road conditions and very rugged terrains. 

It is possible due to their position at the middle of the wheel rather than on the rim. The downside is that they are more expensive and heavier than rim brakes or V-brakes.

Josh Matthews

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