When do brake pads need replacing and how do I get the right ones?
Brake pads are the rubber or composite blocks on your brakes that rub against the rims to stop the bicycle. In the case of disc brakes, these pads are inside the brake calipers and clamp against the disc rotors when you apply the brakes.
All brake pads wear from use and should be inspected regularly so that you never end up riding with unsafe brakes. Rubber and composite pads can also harden with age, something that happens to a bicycle stored for several years. In this case, you'll notice a serious loss of braking power, which will be restored once you replace the old pads with new ones.
For conventional rim brakes, such as sidepull, linear-pull and centerpull designs, brake pads usually feature grooves in them that act as wear gauges. When these grooves are almost worn out, it's time for new pads.
For disc brakes, when the pads are worn, braking power drops off. Weak braking can be caused by other brake problems, too, so if you're not sure, just ask and we'll help. Pads should also be replaced if they're contaminated by lubricants, which ruins them.
When it comes time to replace pads, we need to know the brand, model and type of brakes they came off. The easiest brake pad to replace is the cartridge style (see photo, above), which means the pad slips into the brake shoe (the part that holds the pad) on the brake. This means there's usually no need to make any pad placement adjustments during replacement. Cartridge pads are on most linear-pull brakes, found on many mountain bikes, hybrids and tandems. They're also found on high-quality road bikes.
For these brake types, you can remove one brake pad and bring it in for us to use in finding the proper replacements. Then, replacing the pads is as easy as removing the old ones and installing the new ones (being sure to match direction).
For other rim-brake types, it's more difficult to replace the pads because you must remove the entire pad and holder, which usually means realigning the brake shoes. Because there's a real risk of compromising your braking power, we recommend you let us replace the pads on these models. If you're handy with tools and understand how to correctly align the brake shoe to ensure optimum braking and no squeaking, it's not a difficult job. Install one pad at a time so you can refer to its partner to see how the new one should be adjusted.
Disc-brake pads (photo, right) are usually popped out and replaced by hand, however, this varies according to the design. Please ask us for advice when you pick up the pads, check your owner's manual or visit the brake-manufacturer's website for complete information.
If you have any questions at all, just ask and we'll be happy to help!