Replacing Brake Pads

Brakes are one of the most essential features on any bike. They are important for control and riding efficiently as well as stopping.

No matter what kind of riding you do, you need to take care of your brakes! Check them regularly to make sure they are working as they should and replace your brake pads when necessary.

If you fail to change your brake pads when they wear out, you risk brake failure, damaging your bike, or serious accidents.

Take care of you brakes, and they will take care of you!

Time for a change…

So when is it time to change your brake pads? How would you know?

You should inspect your brake pads regularly as part of your bike maintenance routine. There are a few ways to determine wear on your pads depending on the braking system on your bike.

Rim Brake

Rim brake pads will generally have a wear line indicator or grooves/teeth in the compound. When you are close to the wear line or the grooves have worn away and the pad is flat, it’s time to change your pads. If you can’t see a wear line, then it’s probably because you’ve worn your pad down past it! Time to change your pads ASAP.

This brake pad has a ‘Wear Limit’ line and also grooves/teeth. Once you wear to the line, the pads will be flat and the teeth will be gone. It will then be time for a change!

Disc Brake

Disc brake pads may come with a suggestion from the manufacturer, but generally you should be thinking of replacing when you have less than 1.5mm of compound left. Check them by eye regularly to make sure there is still enough compound and when you are unsure, remove the pads for a closer inspection.

Don’t let it get to this stage. The compound on these pads has almost completely worn away, leaving nothing but the metal backing.


The rate at which your brake pads wear down will depend on a number of factors. Weather, frequency of use and the kind of riding/terrain will all play a role.

Wetter weather will increase wear and muddier riding conditions mean you will be churning up more debris, grit and muck which will, in turn, cause your pads to wear out quicker.

Fast descents or technical terrain means more aggressive braking and will require more frequent brake checks.

If you are not sure, then we would suggest a monthly check or a wee look every 500 miles. Or whichever comes around first!


Sometimes you may notice that you are not getting the braking power you once had, or would like, but still seem to have enough life left in your pads.

If you braking system uses cables , there are some minor adjustments that you can make to improve the performance. This usually involves increasing the cable tension using the barrel adjuster at the lever or caliper and is an easy and quick adjustment that may resolve your issue.

Quick adjustment at the brake caliper. There is usually also a barrell adjuster at the brake lever.

With hydraulic systems, the process is a little different and small adjustments are not really possible without adjusting the amount of oil in the hoses. The upside is that once a hydraulic brake system is set up, it requires very little maintenance other than changing the pads/rotor when necessary.


Changing brake pads is a fairly easy and straightforward job. It doesn’t require any fancy tools and anyone with a basic level of skill should manage without difficulty.

There are a number of great online resources aimed at teaching basic bike maintenance. Our YouTube Channel posts regular ‘How To’ Tutorials and videos on basic bike maintenance.

If you’re unsure about anything, it’s always worth checking with a bike mechanic first. We are always happy to offer professional, friendly advice.

It’s also worth noting that different rim materials require specific pads and if you use the wrong ones, you risk damage or poor braking performance. It’s important that you use the correct pad for your rims.

If you are keen to give it a go, but don’t have the right tools or want to make sure you are doing it correctly, why not book in to one of our Saturday afternoon Fix Your Own Bike sessions. We can lend you the tools, give you a work-stand to use, and one of our professional mechanics can keep you on the right track.

Get in touch to book a spot!