We are on to the final frontier in our coverage of disc brakes. It has taken three meaty articles to get to this point in our disc brake story, as it’s a very complex topic to cover. So now that we’ve helped you discern if disc brakes are right for you and we’ve discussed the difference between hydraulic and mechanical, it’s time to decide “What kind of pads should I get?”
Disc Brake Pads Differ in Many Ways
Pads differ in lots of important ways. The materials they are made of are vastly different, but how they react in different weather or terrain conditions, how much noise they make, and how they potentially react with the hydraulic systems are also important factors to take into consideration.
Bedding in Your Disc Brake Pads
Disc brake pads need to be worn down a bit before they grip properly, which is called “bedding” them in. If you just replaced your pads, you might notice that they don’t stop as well as your old ones. Simply ride somewhere flat while holding the brake so the wheel will still barely turn. After the bed in period is over, the brakes will feel very responsive.
Organic (Resin) Disc Brake Pads
Referred to by both names above, these pads are made simply of organic material held together with resin. They are made of slightly softer materials and are known for their powerful and consistent braking power. They also have a short “bed in” period. With organic pads, you can bed in the pads in the first few blocks of your ride and then have brakes that feel excellent.
Organic Disc Brake Pad Pros
- Run quieter when braking (or if there is any rotor rub you might not notice).
- Quick bed in time means maximum performance from the jump.
- Doesn’t heat up hydraulic fluid (which is only a concern if you’re a heavy rider or carrying weight on extended descents—like down hill riding or bike touring down a mountain road) because they push the heat build up from friction back into the disc rotor.
Organic Disc Brake Pad Cons
- Softer material wears more quickly so pads don’t last as long.
- They don’t stop quite as well in wet or muddy conditions.
Sintered (Metallic) Disc Brake Pads
Sintered pads are referred to my many names, most frequently by the process that binds the pad together (sintering) instead of the metal material the pad is made out of.
Sintered pads are created by heating and compressing powdered metal—often copper mixed with other metals. These make for harder pads that last longer and aren’t as affected by rain or mud. However, the harder material also takes much, much longer to bed in, which can be annoying, especially when you want your new pads to feel better than your old ones.
Sintered Brake Pad Pros
- Harder material lasts longer—especially in adverse conditions.
- Works well even in wet weather.
Sintered Disc Brake Pad Cons
- Very noisy (can screech loudly) or sound like it’s scraping the rotor even if there is minimal contact.
- Can overheat the brake fluid on long descents causing a lack of braking power.
- Long bed in time means you have to use them for a while before you’re going to feel the best performance.
- Not as much initial “bite” or reaction time.
No surprise here, the industry has three names for this same product, which is simply a mix of the organic and metallic materials used in the two pads above. Much like a “partly cloudy” day could also be called “mostly sunny”, it’s best to check with the manufacturer to know what you’re getting.
These pads intend to combine the best features of both while minimizing the cons. They pretty much split the difference between the sintered and organic pads.
Semi-Metallic/Organic Disc Brake Pad Pros
- Combo of the best of both organic and sintered pads.
- Good braking power without too much bed-in time.
- Good durability.
Semi-Metallic/Organic Disc Brake Pad Cons
- Hard to determine what the ratio of organic to metallic mix is.
- A bit more expensive than the other pads.
Which Disc Brake Pad is Right For You?
Determining which brake pad is right for you isn’t straightforward. While organic brake pads need to be replaced more often, this still might only be once or twice a year because disc brakes still have a much longer life than rim brakes.
Run organic pads if:
- Your riding is not too wet, snowy or muddy (or you don’t mind changing the pads a bit more frequently).
- Your riding style isn’t too hard on the brakes.
- You prefer initial grab when you pull the lever (or your hands aren’t as strong).
Run sintered pads if:
- You’re hard on your brakes and like to use them a lot.
- You are heavier and are wearing through pads frequently.
- You do most of your riding in wet, muddy or snowy conditions.
Run hybrid pads if:
- You want a mix of the two braking performances and don’t mind the slightly higher price tag.
ROAD/COMMUTING: I prefer the immediate and reliable response of organic pads on all of my bikes. I commute year-round in Portland, so a good portion of that is in wet weather. I don’t notice much difference in the braking power of my organic pads when it’s raining—even when I’m carrying a huge load of groceries.
MTN: As for my mountain bikes, I generally don’t ride trails when they are very wet or muddy due to the damage erosion can do to the trails (#preach!). When I have been caught out in a rainstorm, I have noticed a slight decrease in braking power in the mud, but for the very few times a season this happens, it’s not enough for me to make the switch to sintered pads as their noise drives me a bit crazy and takes away from the enjoyment of my ride.
The good news is pads aren’t expensive, so if you try one type but think you might like another better, it won’t break the bank to make the switch.
Tori Bortman is ORbike’s resident bike mechanic. She is also an educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench. Tori’s new book, The Big Book of Cycling for Beginners, was recently published by Bicycling Magazine.
Expert Mechanic Tori Bortman of Gracie’s Wrench is ORbike’s resident mechanic. For many years she’s been sharing her wisdom on how to easily keep your bike in tip-top shape for a sweet ride.
But beyond the maintenance of bikes, Tori is also a bicycle instructor. She teaches people of all ages to ride a bike – which is no small feat.
We asked Tori to tell us a little bit more about what it’s like to teach people to ride a bike and learn bike maintenance. After all, learning to ride a bike is that all-important skill they say you never forget, and Tori is the one to help many people learn it for the first time.
The Best Job in the World
For me teaching is the best job in the world. But teaching with bikes? It’s like winning the lottery. From people learning to ride for the very first time to newbie flat fixers to eager home mechanics, I’m lucky to work with people itching to learn about how to ride and repair one of humankind’s greatest inventions. (Well, next to duct tape and fire. Those are pretty cool too.)
Showing Up is the First Step
The biggest, bravest step any of my students take is showing up for class. As adults, most of us are used to being competent and in control when it comes to moving through our daily lives. We’re used to knowing answers, not asking too many questions, we think we’re above making silly mistakes, and we’re nervous about (gasp!) failing before we succeed.
In essence, we’re not used to being vulnerable, mostly because it’s scary and tough so it’s more easily avoided. Facing our own anxieties, perfectionist tendencies or just admitting “I don’t know” is hard, so I’m honored and awed anytime someone is open to learning with me. In return, I do my best to respect their fearlessness by having patience, being humble and making my classes as much fun as possible.
Meet Your Inner Squirrel – Then Say “Adios, Amigo”
Imagine you’re driving along, minding our own business and you narrowly avoid hitting a frantic rodent who can’t seem to decide which way to cross the road. You can feel their panic but can’t do a darn thing to help them cross safely. Let me tell you about your “inner squirrel”. This is a little buddy who resides in us all – your anxiety – the little guy who thinks he or she is “helping” you – but is actually making things more chaotic.
Whether I’m with adults or kids who are learning to ride a bike, the inner squirrel usually manifests itself by trying to get them to stop the bike with their feet instead of the brakes, or to jump off the bike in a frantic attempt to ditch it while moving (forgetting the brakes all together). Neither of these scenarios ends well.
This little dude is the biggest single obstacle my students face when learning.
Much like a real, live squirrel, you can’t control your inner one, so it’s our job together to convince yours to go find some nuts or something useful because actually, you don’t need it’s help and you’ve really got this, thanks very much. When the inner squirrel bears it’s little furry, rat-like head during a lesson, we can laugh for a moment and move on, knowing the squirrel will NEVER win. Plus, I do a rad crazed squirrel impression. (Someday I’ll tell you all about “baby seal hands” or “YMCA”, I swear, but there’s not enough room here for all the fun we get to have.)
Let’s Hear it for Screwing Up!
At Gracie’s Wrench, I love, love, love questions and mistakes. Questions help me know how my students are processing and what I’m not communicating clearly. As a teacher, if my student isn’t getting something, it’s my job to find a way to explain it that works for their learning style. Mistakes in class create excellent opportunities for learning. I can guarantee that if you goof it up in class and we fix the mistake together the solution will stick with you much longer than when you get it perfect right off the bat. So let’s hear it for screwing up!
For my students of all ages who don’t know how to ride a bike, I’m expanding their worlds so they can ride for the very first time and to conquer a life-long fear of two wheels. There is very little in life that’s better than being able to see someone pedaling away from you for the first time. These lessons often end in high-fives, hugs and surprised faces. Boo yeah! Feel-good endings are the best.
Knowledge is Power
In my bike mechanics classes, I love seeing the wonder on the faces of students who finally learn to repair a flat in under 10 minutes (with their own hands! on their own bike!). It’s equally magical when the come to realize why this skill has always been challenging for them, and when they understand it never has to be so challenging again.
Recently a dad who took my Beginner Maintenance class stopped back in so I could take a look at his son’s bike that wasn’t shifting well. Using the knowledge he gained from class, he was able to diagnose and repair the bike himself once we walked through the problems together. This man was floored to be able to put his lesson into action but I was even more thrilled to watch him solve the problem and walk away knowing he could better care for his entire family’s fleet of bikes.
Living Larger through Learning
I have the honor and pleasure of helping empower my students to live a little larger and go a little further – hopefully laughing at themselves a little bit along the way. In keeping with the practice of the best teachers I’ve had in my life, my goal is to help students become more passionate for both cycling and learning.
The bonus is the fascinating and cool stuff my students have taught me over the years! Being a teacher is pretty darn special, and teaching about and on bikes is rewarding beyond words.
Are you ready to take the plunge and learn more about how to repair your bike? Check out Tori’s workshops and classes and sign up today.
What’s in store for this year’s amazing Arthritis Bike Classic? We can’t wait to find out at the Route Release Party!
The organizers have planned an evening of Oregon wine, fun and laughter to celebrate the 8th Annual Arthritis Bike Classic in Oregon.
- Find out where the six-day adventure is headed this year
- Enjoy a complimentary wine tasting
- Small bites appetizers
- Learn more about what it takes to snag a spot at this coveted small-group ride experience
As you approach your first distance ride, ever or perhaps of the season, you’re probably excited, maybe even nervous. Getting ready for the ride involves a so many different details, from what to pack to ensuring your ride is in good shape. And then, of course, you start to think about the miles. 10, no problem. 20, you’re good. 40, fine. But when it’s 100 miles or maybe several days on end, things start to seem a little dicier.
But you know what, we’ll tell you something: You’ve got this.
In fact, we’re not even going to call it training from here on out. In fact, you’re just getting ride ready.
1. Start with your mindset
The mind is a powerful force. You’ve got this. Tell yourself that every day. Psyche yourself up for success. Dread makes everything seem heavier, and makes you more sluggish. Slight aches are big pains. But when you think positively, you’re well your your way to a glorious ride.
2. Set realistic expectations
If you haven’t been riding much lately, don’t try to make up for it by going all out on your first ride. Set yourself up for success by starting at a reasonable rate. Maybe a little 20 miler on the weekend. Start as many months out as you can so you can slowly, and realistically, ease into the ride.
3. Mark your calendar, carve out time
Don’t leave this to chance. Don’t just hope you’ll find some magic extra hours in the week and then jump on a ride. You have to make time for this. Your body will thank you – after every single ride, and when it comes time for the Big Event. Set up a regular riding schedule and stick with it.
4. Reward yourself
Here are ORbike, we’re huge fans of rewards for riding. That’s what life is all about! Ride to eat! Even if all you did was a little spin around the lake, you got stronger. You deserve that burger.
Ending a ride on a positive note with friends, socialization and down time is an important part of the recovery process, and the community around why we ride. Plan time for this, and make that time an integral component of your ride day.
5. Be accountable: invite friends
When it’s just you out there, you can slow down. You can quit. You can opt not to go. But once you’ve declared the ride and invited friends who are counting on you, you’re locked in. This is a good thing! You’re much more likely to follow through with a ride if there’s some accountability in there.
So make a routine of it. Invite friends. Form your own little riding club. Heck, you can even give yourselves a name. Feel the bond and the love – comrades on pedals.
6. Go the extra mile
If 20 feels good, next time go more. And if the ride is feeling great, take the steeper route home. And you’re rockin all of that, next time opt for more of a challenge. Do an extra loop. Go down the hill jsut to go back up. Trust us: you will feel victorious.
7. Aim for 80%
If you don’t have enough time to work your way up to 100% of the miles you plan to do in a day on your ride, try to get to at least 80%. If you’re riding a century, it can be quite a time commitment to train up to 100 miles. But if you can at least get to 80% and feel strong about that, you’ll be just fine on the day of the ride.
And if you’re a regular rider who has successfully accomplished century rides in the past, you should have no problem being ride ready with just a few 30 mile spins leading up to the ride.
Corvallis means Heart of the Valley, a lush region with rivers, forests and wide open landscapes. We call this area PERFECT for bike exploration.
Head out for an early season leg stretch on the annual Ride the Heart of the Valley on April 29, a gorgeous ride based out of Corvallis that is connected to the Oregon State University School of Veterinary Medicine
About the Routes
With routes of 62, 30 and we miles, plus a fun 5k Dog Jog, it’s the perfect way to ease into the season. You’ll cruise along the Willamette River as you journey past William Finley Wildlife Refuge and through the quaint towns of Monroe and Harrisburg.
Registration includes snacks and drinks at rest stops, mechanical service provided before the ride, support during the ride, lunch and music during the after-party. Register in advance for a free water bottle!
The Art of Survival Century on May 27 is a special ride experience.
Tucked away on the border of Oregon and California, the ride is an opportunity to ride through an otherworldly landscape teeming with birdlife.
New to century rides? This is the perfect event for you. With a maximum elevation of 2,800 feet, this is by far one of the flattest century rides around. The course is filled with adventure from lava beds to quiet towns, wild life refuges to powerful birds flittering alongside you as you ride.
A Memorial Day Weekend Getaway
The ride organizers know they’re far from the bright lights of the big city, that’s why they invite you to sink into the landscape and relax as you get away from the hustle and bustle of chaotic city life for a weekend of adventure in their natural playground. With Bend, Crater Lake, Mt. Shasta, Lassen National Park, Klamath Falls, Oakridge, and Summer Lake in the region and en route, you can pack your weekend with fun.
ROUTES: 117, 100, 45, 16, MTB Route
LOCATION: Tulelake, CA, just outside of Kalamath Falls
LODGING: Regional lodging or free camping on site at the event (recommended) with hot showers.
BRING THE POOCH!: Enjoy a long weekend of adventure with your travel buddy. While you ride, inexpensive dog care nearby at Ranch Dog Resort in Merrill
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