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Daily hard and extended braking with disks?

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Joined: 09 Feb 2005
Posts: 4905
Location: Back in the snowy homeland

11/2/22 5:52 AM

Daily hard and extended braking with disks?

Being new to disk brakes I don't have much experience with their longevity and I have a small concern. I live near the top of a hill that's about 750' above the valley floor on either side (this is glacially carved topology) and grades get up to about 14% as best as I can figure.

Road conditions and intersections, esp the part where the road hits the valley at a 'T', means I can't bomb out of here at high speed and have to brake almost all the way down. I do my best to brake intermittently to avoid excess heat build up but there's only so much I can do with this hill. Also I'm still hovering around 230lb, so that's a fair bit of mass to slow down.

My question is if I am significantly reducing the lifetime of the pads/rotors or not? I'm aware that more wear is more wear, regardless, but will doing that descent multiple times per week have a large impact on useful life of my equipment? And, perhaps even more important, how do I monitor pad wear so I don't suddenly find myself heading for that 'T' and not being able to stop? I've got a micrometer for the rotors...I guess I should actually use it to get my baseline.

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 4965
Location: Nashua, NH

11/2/22 6:16 PM

I wouldn't worry too much about the rotors, but your pads will definitely wear faster, as one would expect under the circumstances. Switching pad materials may help, depending on what comes on the bike. Organic pads are fairly soft and wear quicker than harder semi-metallic pads. Organics brake better initially, but semi-metallic pads are better once they heat up. Organics are generally quieter.

Regardless of all of that, all disc pads wear reasonably slowly, especially on road bikes where they aren't subjects to mud and dirt. Worst case, carry a spare pair. They weigh next to nothing and take up little space once you take them out of their packaging. Changing them in the field isn't difficult, though I suspect that you'll come to the conclusion that it isn't necessary if you just check them periodically.

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Nick Payne
Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2582
Location: Canberra, Australia

11/3/22 4:43 AM

It's easy to eyeball the amount of pad material remaining on the backing plate. I do it when I clean the chain, and replace the pads when they start getting down to about credit card thickness on the backing plate. Unless you ride a lot in wet gritty conditions, the pads (and rotors) should last a long time.

Rotors usually have the manufacturers recommended minimum thickness engraved on them somewhere - normally somewhere around 1.5mm. I use a micrometer every so often to measure the thickness at a diameter where the pads engage the rotor.

I think on the bike I do most riding on, I've replaced the pads twice and the rotors once in three or four years. It's fairly hilly around here, but is normally a dry climate, and I only weigh 65kg, so I'm probably not overly stressing the brakes.

Also note that some rotors (cheaper Shimanos in particular) are marked as "Resin pad only". This is because they are made of a softer SS, and will wear more rapidly if used with sintered pads.

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