Brake pads are one of the most overlooked maintenance items on a bike. They usually sit unnoticed in a caliper until the morning of that epic group ride when you suddenly realize you have no front brake!  Besides the obvious signs that it’s time for a fresh pair of pads, there are other factors that contribute to loss of performance and an increased potential for noise and harshness.


The obvious signs that your pads need replacement are easy to spot. Things like sudden new noises or harshness, loss of power and/or modulation should indicate that it is time for a tuneup and new brake pads. Ideally you should not let it come to this, worn down pads can easily leave you stranded with no brakes as well as cause damage to your rotors, pad springs and even calipers.  Look at it this way, is it better to change the oil in your car every 3000 miles or just drive it hard until it breaks down and then tow it in?  You could just keep riding until you’ve got a steel backing plate grinding against your steel rotor but it’s likely to cause all kinds of problems that could have been avoided.


We are asking more and more of our bikes as the sport continues to be pushed forward. Not only do modern disc brakes have to perform extremely well, they are designed to fit in to a very small space. A brand new Scrub brake pad has a total thickness of 0.150” in order to fit properly into a caliper. We are trying to keep the backing plate as thin as possible, but that still only leaves 0.085” of pad material. To put that in perspective, consider the ACTUAL SCALE image of a new brake pad below:

New Pad - Real Scale

A car guy might suggest that you replace your pads when there is 25% of the pad material remaining. That sounds like good logic, but on a bicycle that only leaves 0.021” (that is 1/50 of an inch!) protecting you and your components from harm:

25 Percent - Real Scale

If you find yourself squinting to see the pad material, you are not alone!  Again, these drawings are done to real life scale purposefully to show how little room for error there is.  Further, the leading edge of a brake pad on any vehicle tends to get pulled in to the rotor which causes uneven wear. If your pads are worn even 1 degree off of parallel, the pad image above changes to this:

Off Parallel - Real Scale

You can see that pads worn this way puts your rotor square into your pad springs and/or backing plate.  It should be clear that given what we ask of our brake systems, the pads need to be monitored closely or changed at regular intervals to avoid letting them get worn to thin.


As many people know Scrub Components is based in Park City, Utah.  Like much of Utah and Colorado, in Park City the riding season is very dry as it is a desert climate. Brake pads tend to last a long time in terms of wear because of the absence of gritty mud and water, but that doesn’t mean they can be neglected. Pad material can harden and dry out, as well as absorb contaminants such as chain lube, hydraulic fluid, frame polish (you know who you are…) and definitely dirt, dust and sand. Any foreign contaminants embedded in a brake pad can cause noise and vibration, loss of power, and accelerated wear of rotors.  A lot of this can be minimized with proper care and cleaning but the pad material is like a sponge so eventually it will absorb contaminants despite your best efforts.


There is a huge demand placed on the performance of your disc brakes, maintaining them will give you more control of your bike, a higher confidence in riding and a more enjoyable experience on the bike. One of the easiest things you can do for your brakes is to change the brake pads regularly. To make this routine maintenance even easier, Scrub offers our one-and-only Brake Pad Subscription packages so that you don’t even have to remember when to pick up a new set of pads. Several levels of subscription are available at discounted prices, so there is no reason not to have quiet, smooth and powerful braking all the time!  Of course you can still purchase pads a la carte if you aren’t ready to commit just yet.

Monday, April 1st, 2013 Uncategorized

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