The Best Mountain Bike Brake Pads & Installation Guide

The Best Mountain Bike Brake Pads & Installation Guide 2

Quality brakes can make or break (excuse the pun) your mountain biking experience. The best brakes have effects on not just your ability to stop but your overall control and even speed.

Mountain bike brake pads, sometimes called brake blocks or brake shoes, also play an essential role in your mountain bike’s brake system, particularly while navigating wet conditions.

Brake Pads are a consumable component, meaning they tend to wear over time and will need to be replaced every so often. If they are too old and worn out, the pads will not work properly, which may harm your bike and can even become a safety hazard.

Therefore, it is always best to make sure you regularly keep an eye on your brake pads and replace them if they show signs of wear and tear.

There are two main types of brake pads made for two different brake systems: rim brakes and disc brakes.


Rim Brake Pads vs Disc Brake Pads

Rim brakes use the wheel’s rotational rim to stop. These brake pads are attached at the ends of the brake’s pivoted cantilever arms, and when you pull the brake lever, it squeezes against both sides of the rim, which slows down the bike.

Rim bikes tend to be used on BMX and road bikes because of their lightweight and simple mechanics. However, V-type Rim brakes tend to be common on mountain bikes.

On mountain bikes, you are much more likely to use disc brakes and, subsequently, disc brake pads. Disc brake pads do not use the rim as a braking surface but rather use a round metal disc attached to the wheel’s hub.

This disc rotates through a caliper where the brake pads will be attached. If you squeeze the brake lever, it will apply the pads to the rotor, creating friction to slow down the bike.

When your brake pads have worn down, there will usually be telling signs on the pads that tell you it is time to buy a new set. When you replace your pads, you do have to consider a few things, though.

The types of brakes you have, and your riding conditions and bike manufacturer may direct you to different brake pad options. Mountain bike disc brake pads are usually sold in pairs, with one pair fitting into one brake caliper.

Each pair usually also has replacement retention springs which help keep the pads in place. Most disc brake pads are fitted to specific calipers, so you will need to find out which brake pads are compatible with your bike caliper.

Best Mountain Bike Brake Pads

Types of Mountain Bike Disc Brake Pads

Organic Brake Pads

Organic/Resin/Semi-Metallic brake pads are created from a melange of fibers joining together with resin. Some of these materials used include Kevlar, carbon, rubber, and many other items depending on the bike brakes they are being made for.

The materials used to make organic brake pads are generally softer and quieter than those used to make sintered brake pads. When it comes to mountain bikes, organic pads provide you with more bite when pulling your brake lever.

However, the organic brake pads do have some fallbacks. They tend to do poorly when handling heat and tend to fade on long descents. Brake functionality is most important while going down hilly terrain, so it can be an issue when organic brake pads begin to falter on long descents.

Organic brake pads are also not the best option if you choose to bike in wet or muddy conditions. Moisture and mud tend to wear the brake pads down even faster, and they may even glaze over, making them faulty even when conditions are a bit drier.

Sintered Brake Pads

On the other end, you have sintered brake pads that are not as susceptible to heat. These pads are made from metallic particles merged by a combination of heat and pressure. Sintered brake pads are common on mountain bikes as well as motorbikes and cars.

As such, they are some of the best brake pads when it comes to handling wet and muddy trails. They also tend not to fade as quickly as organic brake pads on steep descents, meaning they tend to last longer.

However, there are some negative attributes associated with sintered brake pads. For one thing, they are incredibly loud if they must run through wet or hot terrain. Secondly, they are made from harder and heavier material which can be hard to handle for your brake rotors. However, this usually is not much of an issue since it takes a lot to inflame your brake rotors.

Although this is the general division, many brake pads offer a compound of both organic and sintered brake pads to maximize bite and minimize heat accumulation. Most mountain brake pads will also infuse them together with some semi-metallic brake pads.

Great Mountain Brake Pads Models Available

Disc Bike Brake Pads for Shimano Deore

Disc Bike Brake Pads for Shimano Deore

These pads are great for mountain biking and descents and have strong stopping power. Additionally, these pads also have anti-noise capabilities and simple modulation. These are generally made for Shimano Deore brakes which are some of the most reliable on the market.

Shimano XT/XTR M775 Disc Brake Pads

XTR M775 Disc Brake Pads

These pads are designed for Shimano XT/XTR brake calipers and are made from material resin. They are also sintered metal pads which means they offer a lot of support for rough terrain riding. These Shimano pads are also great because they are compatible with most mountain bike brakes.

SRAM X0 Trail Guide Brake Pads

SRAM X0 Trail Guide Brake Pads

These pads are made from metallic and sintered compound materials attached to steel plates to foster equal heat distribution. It has some great initial bite and makes very little noise from its organic materials and high heat resistance from its heat materials. These are great for All-Mountain or Trail Mountain bikes.

These pads are compatible with Avid Trail, Guide, and G2 series brakes.

Types of Mountain Bike Rim Brake Pads-V-brakes

Since Mountain Biking requires heavier brakes than any road or hybrid bike, disc brakes are generally the go-to option. However, many older mountain bikes do a type of rim brakes known as direct-pull cantilever brakes or V-brakes.

There are two types of V-Pads: cartridge pads or non-cartridge pads.

Non-Cartridge Pads are the cheapest and most basic pad out there. It is essentially a rubber block with a braking surface and threaded metal post on the other end that attached it to the brake arm.

On the other hand, cartridge pads have a metal shoe with swappable rubber inserts attached to the bike by 1-2 grub screws. These are generally thought to be better than non-cartridge pads since the metal shoe is less susceptible to flex than a rubber block and has stronger braking capabilities.

These pads are a basic upgrade that can dramatically influence your bike’s stopping power. There are also some higher-end cartridge pads with rubber compounds designed for different kinds of riding conditions (wet, dry, snowy).

Installing/Replacing Disc Brake Pads

When you must replace disc brake pads, you must install the same ones you had before unless you want to replace both the pad and the rotor. Additionally, it is also imperative that you research your pads to make sure they are the right ones for your caliper.

Although the steps may slightly differ depending on your bike and the pads you are using, here are some steps you can take to replace your disc pads.

  1. Use a pad spreader or flathead screwdriver to push the pistons back into the caliper. This will be useful later when you must put the new pads in and will stop them from rubbing against the rotor.
  2. Then, you should use either a screwdriver or an Allen wrench to take out the pin holding the pads together.
  3. After the pads have been taken out, you should use a degreaser to clean your caliper/pistons. This will make sure your pistons will move smoothly and will not get stuck. After this, you need to thoroughly clean the degreaser off the caliper to make sure the excess degreaser does not taint the new pads.
  4. Now, place your new pads in the caliper and ensure that you do not touch the pads with your fingers. The oil on your hands can also contaminate your new brake pads.
  5. Finally, your brake pads package should come with either a bolt or a pin. Use it to fit your new pads inside.

Installing/Replacing V-Brake Pads

V-Brakes are often a cheaper option compared to Disc brakes and can offer a satisfying brake force. Although disc brakes and disc brake pads are the norm for mountain biking, if you have an older mountain bike model, this is the process of replacing your V-brake pads.

  1. Release the quick-release mechanism on the cable by pulling the calipers together and unhook the L-shaped noodle.
  2. Use an Allen key to release the old brake pads and set them aside.
  3. Ensure you get all the spacers in the right order. Next to the brake pad, there is a flat washer and then a set of curved washers followed by a set of curbed washers followed by a flat washer.
  4. Afterward, put in your new pair of brake pads by opening the calipers, inserting the pads, and installing all the spacers. Then hand tighten all of them.
  5. Then use a brake shoe tuner to align the brake pads. Once you have aligned the pads with the guides on the tuner, then tighten your pads onto the caliper with a bolt or pin.
  6. We should balance the spring tension on both sides of the calipers to apply the same pressure on both ends of the brake pads. Tighten the screw adjuster on the caliper on both sides to make sure there is even braking.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do brake pads last?

It really depends on how often you ride them. Most experts believe that brake pads can last between 20,000 and 65,000 miles, depending on the type of terrain you frequent. Your terrain, frequency, and brake pad brand influence how long they are going to last.

Should I replace all four brake pads at once?

You do not have to replace all four simultaneously, but if you are replacing one brake pad on one wheel, you should replace the other on the same wheel. Unless your bike has a serious problem, both pads on the same wheel should be wearing out at roundabout at the same rate.

How do I know my brake pads have worn out?

As a rule of thumb, if your disc brake pads are about 3mm thick (including the metal plate at the back, you will need to replace them. You may need to remove the caliper to measure how thick they are.

As for rim brakes, you should look at the rubber on the pads. If you cannot see any indents on the pads, it likely means the top layer has worn out and needs replacing.

Which brake pads are better for mountain biking, organic or sintered?

Ideally, your mountain brake pads will have semi-metallic brake pads. These pads will have organic fillers and a metal plate to ensure the pads are sturdy and have the excellent bite from the cold that most organic pads provide.

Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic

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