Average Lifespan of Bicycle Brake Pads

by Mario Claramo

One thing you never want to find yourself without are brakes! We’ve probably all had that dream where you are biking out of control down a hill with no brakes. Brakes are rarely thought about right until they stop working. So how long do brake pads last?

Brake pads will last on average, 400-2000 miles. Brake pads are made from a wide range of material, affecting the performance of the brake. Factors affecting brake pad lifespan include Weather, Terrain, Type of riding and the Weight of the rider.

Note that the two most common types of brakes including rim brakes and disc brakes. The type of brakes you use are also a determining factor in their lifespan. Keep on reading to find out more!

 

Brake Pad Lifespan

First of all, it’s hard to pin down an actual lifespan of brake pads. There are a lot of factors that could either lengthen or shorten the time your brake pads last. Most people find, however, that they fall within that average I gave above.

 

Types of Brake Pads

Rim Brakes

For those of you who are still pretty new to cycling, rim brakes are the most common type of brakes that you will see. They are easy to identify when you squeeze the lever at the handlebars. You will see two rubber pads on either side of your tire pressing onto the rim of your tire.

If you ride purely for enjoyment, nothing too serious, you will probably never have to worry about your brakes wearing out. Rim brakes last a long time.

There are a few ways that these brakes might wear out aside from excessive use. Sometimes the brake pads on this set up will become misaligned or crooked. When this happens and you don’t notice, you will begin to wear down the brake pad unevenly.

It’s not the end of the world if you see this happening to your bike. Usually, you can take an Allen wrench or some pliers and readjust them to the right position.

You might also need to replace your brake pads if the bike is old, and you notice the pads have become hard and rather dry. If this happens, you can still use the pads, but in this state, they are typically less effective

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are commonly seen on bikes that are a little nicer. The reason being is disc brakes are more expensive, so it makes sense that they would be on the bikes that cost more. 🙂

Disc brakes are known to last longer than rim brakes. That being said, they do still wear out. I would also assume that most people who ride a bike with disc brakes ride more seriously than those with rim brakes. hmm. (Just speculation)

With disc brakes, you don’t have to worry as much about your brake pads being misaligned. On the other hand, they are a little more difficult to check for wear.

Probably the easiest way to check is by taking the tire off so the actual disk isn’t in between the two pads.

 

Factors of Brake Pad Lifespan

There are so many factors, situations, and scenarios that could lead to different outcomes when it comes to your brake pads. I’m going to talk about the most common factors that will affect almost everyone. Then you will have to figure out which factors you commonly face and apply the suggestions as needed.

 

Type of Riding

The first major factor that you are looking at is the type of riding you do. The where and how of your riding will severely influence the performance of your brakes.

Road Biking

If you are just road biking for exercise or training, then more than likely you are not using your brakes. (since the goal is to go fast) This type of riding will have a fairly low impact on your bike pads.

Mountain/Trail Riding

Maybe it’s obvious, but this type of riding is definitely going to be harder on your brake pads. Mountain biking involves a lot of control and skill. Most of that control is obtained using the brakes. So if you are riding your brakes the whole day then you are going to burn through your brakes a lot faster than the roadsters.

Joy Riding

Is this even a category? Well, I guess. A lot of people ride just for fun and interestingly enough they will also use their brakes faster that our roadsters.

Since the joy riders aren’t looking for speed, they are more likely to hit the brakes to either maintain a slower speed or to keep them at the same pace with a friend they are riding with.

Commuters

If you commute to work, you probably fall somewhere between the roadsters and the joy riders when it comes to brake usage. Being subject to traffic, you will have to use your brakes at any given time and possibly in a very aggressive manner. (trying to avoid pedestrians and car doors that fly open in front of you)

These are the most common categories, so if you fall somewhere in the middle, then just lump yourself with the group you are closest to.

 

Weather

The weather has a big voice in this discussion. If you live in areas with fairly moderate weather, you probably won’t have too much trouble. But for those of us who see more extreme temperatures, there will be some bigger problems.

The winter months can take a toll on your bike pads. Riding through water plus the cold air can cause the brake pads to harden. They can still work, but not very well. This can cause dangerous situations.

Another winter problem is all of the ice melting chemicals that are all around. These compounds can erode or corrode your brake pads The chemicals get on your brake pads once everything starts melting.

Keeping your brake pads clean in the winter time can help increase their lifespan.

The summer months seem to come with fewer issues. The one main issue would probably be direct sunlight. Allowing your bike to sit in direct sunlight can cause the brake pads to crack and dry out,

Once they start to crack you better replace them pretty quickly. If you slam on your brakes, the pads will probably start to break, but they for sure won’t brake. (pun very much intended)

 

Terrain

Again, mountain bikes brakes are going to suffer a lot more than a road bike will. It is just the nature of the ride. There are different materials for brake pads you can look into to find some that are tougher.

I enjoy a nice road trip on my bike, but there is nothing like a fun day on the mountain trails. In my opinion, it’s totally worth the stress on the brakes. 🙂 I would buy new brake pads every week if I had to.

Also understand that your brakes won’t last as long when you get sand, mud or rocks in your brake pads. or on your rims. Mud will also decrease the life of your brake pads. Again, not a bad thing, just part of the game

To increase the brake pads life, just wash everything down after every use and DRY IT OFF!

 

Weight of Rider

So maybe this is a little bit of a sensitive topic. But its really true. More mass requires a greater force to counteract its movement. (That’s science)

I’m a fairly big guy, right around 200 lbs. (90 kilos) So I get it. My bike has to work harder than the bike who’s rider weighs a buck twenty. The good news is, being on a bike might decrease your mass. 🙂 Or you can go the other route and just replace the brake pads.

All in all, the situations are numberless. I have only ever had to change one set of brake pads my entire life. I don’t even have that bike anymore. On my current mountain bike, I still haven’t changed the brake pads.

So don’t worry about it too much, just stay on top of it, when the time comes you won’t be in trouble.

Happy Riding!

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