Bedding in Brake Pads - Why and How!

Bedding in Brake Pads - Why and How!

Brakes work better once the pads have been bedded into the disc. But what exactly is ‘bedding in’ your brake pads? Well, it’s the process of depositing an even layer of brake pad material onto your brake rotor. That, for some scientific reason, makes your brakes work better; the power is more controlled, and most importantly- you can slow down and stop where and when you want to.. #greatsuccess

Now that we’ve determined that you should bed in your brakes, let’s talk about how you can do it and when you should.

Brakes, Rotors and cleaning gear

Fresh Brake Pads/Rotors

Your brakes have been feeling like garbage and you thought it was time for a bleed but it turns out your pads are kaput and it’s time for a fresh set.

  • After installing new brake rotors and/or brake pads, perform 3 to 6 slow-downs applying moderate pressure from roughly 10-15kph without coming to a stop. Don't lock up your brakes! Gradually apply your brakes… Ease them on, more pressure, more pressure (you should be feeling the lever firm up by now) and release. Repeat this 3-6 times. If you have a big hill nearby find a way to the top of it so you can repeat this process many times on a single descent. Just make sure the bottom is a safe environment to potentially deal with a lack of stopping power.
  • Do an additional 1 to 3 slow-downs applying heavy pressure from a speed faster than before without coming to a stop. Want to speed up the process? Wet your brake pads before you start. A squirt from your water bottle with do. (Provided it only has water in it).
  • Give your brakes some time to cool down. Don’t compress the brake levers at this point. Let the heat from the rotor dissipate in the air, not your brake callipers.
  • Your brakes should be pretty well-bedded in- or at least well on their way there. Something to note is organic/resin pads will bed in faster than Sintered pads.

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Contaminated Pads/Rotors

Do your brakes wail like a toddler who's just lost the plot? Maybe they’re honking like a flock of geese chasing that kid for that last bit of bread? If either of these or any number of other humorous descriptions of squeal, honk, squeak- the odds are your brakes pads or rotors have become contaminated.

  • Remove your brake pads and rotors, fill up the kettle and turn it on.
  • Take that freshly boiled kettle and pour it into a big pot on the cooktop (not a fancy pot). Turn up the heat until it’s boiling and add in a fair amount of dish detergent. That’s not quite enough, a bit more… That’s it. Perfect.
  • Place your pads and rotors in the pot and let it boil away for some time.
  • Once several minutes have passed, turn off the cooktop and carefully pour the top 1/3rd of the water out of the pot. The contamination agents should be residing as a film on the top of the water and we don’t want to pull the pads and discs back through them.
  • Set the pot in the sink and run some cold water into it until the average temperature is low enough to remove the pads and rotors by hand.
  • Now it’s time to resurface your brake pads and rotors with some sandpaper- 180grit works well.
  • Re-install your brake pads and rotors and go bed them in!
Boiling Water

Tips & Tricks

  • No hills around to bed in your pads on?
    • You can try the Jason Marsh, aka 'Marshy' brake pad trick. Hold the opposing brake pads in your hands. Wet them with some water, rub the braking surfaces together. Do this until you begin to feel the friction level increase. Rinse them off and install. Go ride your bike.
Rubbing Pads Together
Rubbing Pads Together - Results

  • Too busy to boil your pads and rotors?
    • Remove the pads and rotors from your bike, give them a proper dousing in some a quality brake cleaner, wipe them clean and then resurface them. Always wear proper nitrile gloves to protect yourself from the chemicals in the brake cleaner and only use it in a well-ventilated area. Eye protection is always a good idea as well.
  • Too lazy or time poor for all of this? Try Michael's talcum powder hack.

Other Considerations

  • Some brake rotors are only compatible with Resin/Organic brake pads.
  • If you are replacing your worn-out brake pads with fresh ones, resurfacing your brake discs will speed up the bed-in process.
  • If you have been using Sintered/Metallic brake pads on a brake rotor it is highly unlikely you will be able to get Resin/Organic brake pads to bed-in properly over top of it. Generally speaking, you can go from Resin/Organic to Sintered/Metallic but not the other way around.
  • Brake rotors don’t last forever. You generally get 2-3 sets of brakes pads out of one rotor. There will be a minimum recommended thickness written on the rotor somewhere. If your rotor is thinner than the number listed, time for a new one.
  • Get out there! Modern brake pad compounds and rotor construction is quite awesome and brake pads tend to bed in reasonably well just by riding your bike.

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