This is a picture of new brake pads for a disc brake. Almost all of our bikes have disc brakes on at least one of the wheels. When you push the brake pedal or pull in a brake handle on hydraulic brakes, fluid flows through a hose and that fluid is used to squeeze these pads against a rotor that is attached to the wheel.
Since the brake pads don’t move and the rotor is moving, the friction between the pads and the rotor causes the rotor to slow down, stopping the bike. The energy of the moving bike was converted to heat through the friction of the pads against the rotor.
Important safety tip: don’t touch hot brake rotors!
The friction material that stops the bike wears off the pad the longer it is used. The pad, when new, starts off tall and wears down by repeated use. An eraser on a pencil works the same way.
The line in the middle of the new brake pads is called a wear indicator. When an inspection mechanic checks your brakes, they often start by looking to see if this line is still there. If it isn’t, the brakes are worn and probably need to be replaced if they are “lower” than a certain height.
The friction material is given extra strength by being attached to metal frames. The metal part of the brake pad is the part that has the holes in the new brake pad picture. These holes are used by the brake “calipers” to keep the pads in place.
We are starting to have a number of folks wear out their brake pads.
When this occurs, they have worn completely down through the friction material and now the metal backing plate is being squeezed against the rotor.
This results in metal on metal contact and technically is what we call, “A Bad Thing!”
At this point, applying the brakes will sound different to the rider from before. Incidentally, none of our bikes have “wear indicators” like some cars do. Wear indicators are small pieces of hard metal that warn automobile drivers – “Hey, the brake pads are almost worn out, replace us!”
Nope, we don’t have wear indicators.
When we hear funny brake sounds, we are squeezing that remaining metal against the brake rotor which will rapidly destroy it.
Brake rotors can cost as much as $180 for just the part. The front wheel on a GT650R has *two* of them. At this point, of course, the pads are toast too and must also be replaced. We have to remove the wheel with the torched rotor(s), replace the rotors and put a new set of pads on.
Since we hate for your to waste your money, you may want to check the condition of the pads yourself with a small mirror. Position the mirror so you can see the pads on either side of the disc rotor and try to find the wear indicator. The pads will wear out over time and this will vary by riding style, softness of the material, size of the pad, weight of the bike and rider – well, the life of the brake pads vary by lots of things.
So, you want to make sure that yours are ok ’cause the alternative can cost much more – and we like our bikes to be cheap to keep!