Mountain bike brakes are essential for keeping you safe and in control on the trails, but what components make them work?
As a mountain bike owner, knowing how important these brakes are, you can’t allow them to get worn fully before replacing them. But how do you know when to replace your brake pads?
Knowing the thickness of your brake pads is an important step in determining whether or not you need to replace them. So, how thick are they?
The thickness of an MTB brake pad varies based on the type of MTB, braking surface material, and riding conditions. However, the thickness is between 2mm – 10mm. For instance, the brake pads on cross-country bikes are thinner than the ones on downhill bikes because they’re for light trailing. So, the riding terrain also determines how thick your brake pads are.
In this article, I’ll explain how thick your mountain bike brake pads should be. I’ll further explain how you can check how thick your pads are and how to replace them.
By the end, you’ll be able to know how thick your MTB is, and if worn, you can replace them.
What Is the Thickness of Mountain Bike Brake Pads?
The thickness of your MTB brake pad depends on the brake system type. Typically, it should be between 2mm-10mm; it also depends on the MTB brand, as they have different designs.
For instance, Magura’s brake pad thickness is 3.5mm – 3.6mm. Also, some MTB have thicker brake pads than others, so they can last longer or have more stopping power.
That’s because if the pads are too thin, they won’t have enough stopping power. So, getting it right is required for the optimal performance of your mountain bike.
The brake pads on downhill bikes are thicker to provide them with the ability to handle intense descents better. On the other hand, the ones in the cross-country are for light trail riding.
One important factor that affects the thickness is the braking surface material.
Brake pads for disc brakes, commonly found on mountain bikes, come in different compounds for different types of terrain.
A softer compound brake pad is typically used for wet or muddy conditions, while the manufacturers use a harder compound pad for dry and dusty trails.
When purchasing brake pads, you can consult your local bike shop or manufacturer to determine the appropriate thickness for your bike and riding conditions.
The wrong thickness can cause poor braking performance and excessive wear. In addition to thickness, you should consider the brake pad material’s quality when buying brake pads.
Quality pads provide greater braking power and heat dissipation during hard braking situations.
Using the correct brake pad thickness for your mountain bike will ensure optimal performance and longevity for your particular riding conditions.
Doing so will not only give you better control and stopping power but will also help extend the life of your brakes and protect your safety.
How Thick Should Mountain Bike Brake Pads Be?
The exact thickness of the pads should depend on the type of brakes you are using and the terrain you will be riding on.
However, it should be at least 1mm thick. It can be more than 1mm, depending on the brand and type of MTB you’re using.
Less than 1mm, and the pad is worn. However, it would be best if you didn’t let your pad thickness be as low as that before changing it.
The table below shows a few popular MTB brands and their thickness specification.
Note that you can replace the brake pads of the specified MTB brands if they are less than the specified thickness value.
Also, different MTB manufacturers designed their pads differently; some wear out faster than others.
So you must check your manufacturer’s specification for your specific brake system thickness.
You should know that when replacing an old brake pad, replace it with a new one with the same thickness.
If you need help with getting the thickness, check your manufacturer’s specifications or ask your mechanic.
If the new pads are thicker than the old ones, you should adjust the brake caliper’s position accordingly.
Ensure the mechanic helps to adjust the new brake pads to fit the caliper’s position so you are sure about its installation process.
Thicker brake pads provide better braking performance but tend to wear down faster than thinner ones.
It is important to remember that the thickness of the brake pads will determine how much pressure it takes to engage the brakes.
This thickness can greatly impact your overall braking performance, so it is essential to make sure you select the correct thickness for your setup.
Another important factor to consider is the material used for your brake pads.
Brake pads are from different materials, e.g., steel and carbon fiber, typically lasting longer and providing more stopping power than softer materials like rubber.
However, as with any brake pad, softer materials tend to wear down more quickly than harder materials.
When selecting mountain bike brake pads, consider the terrain you will be riding on and the type of brakes you use.
In addition, understanding the thickness of your brake pads and the materials used for them will help ensure you get the best performance possible.
How to Check and Replace Your Mountain Bike Brake Pads?
Checking your mountain bike brake pads is a simple yet essential task for ensuring your bike runs smoothly and safely.
You can do it yourself by following the steps below.
#1. Get Your Tools
Get your repair tool kit ready to remove the parts of your mountain bike. It would help if you also had isopropyl alcohol, a clean towel, and a fresh set of pads to replace the worn-out ones.
Ensure the new brake pads are the same brand and model before purchasing them. You can also choose to use a bicycle repair stand if you wish.
#2. Remove the Wheels
Next, remove your bike’s wheel so you can easily access the old brake pads.
#3. Locate the Pads
After removing the wheels, you will need to locate the pad to check and replace them. You will find them in the brake caliper.
On the wheel, you’ll see a part that applies pressure to the rotor when you squeeze the brake lever; that’s where the pads are. They are in between.
#4. Check the Pad’s Thickness:
You can measure the pad’s thickness with a brake pad thickness gauge to know if you need to replace it. If the thickness is less than 3mm, it’s time to change it.
#5. Remove the Pad
You can now remove the pads to replace them if worn out after locating them. However, don’t squeeze the brake lever if your brake is a hydraulic brake.
Rather remove the safety clip so the retention pin doesn’t fall out. Next, get the brake pads out by removing them with needle nose pliers from the retention pin.
#6. Installing the New Pads
Check the brake pad material with a caliper to measure if it’s less than 1mm. You can also change it before it gets to this stage; 1 mm is a critical point to change it.
If you allow it to deteriorate to this point, it will damage the rotor. Clean the caliper with isopropyl alcohol and the paper towel to remove the dirt from the previous pad, and let it dry.
Put in the new pads and ensure you properly align them in the caliper. Then secure it back with a retaining clip.
If you have disc brakes, aim for about 1-2mm of space between the pad and the rotor.
There should be about 2-3mm of clearance for rim brakes. Once everything is in the correct order, tighten up all the bolts, and you’re ready to go!
You can now test if the pad works well and makes contact with the rotor.
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