An Introduction to Brake Pads
Chris Farley in Tommy Boy

An Introduction to Brake Pads

“I make car parts for the American working man, because that’s who I am, and that’s who I care about.” If you know where that quote is from, you understand why it’s the first thing I thought about when I sat down to write an article about brake pads.


I hope that it goes without saying that brake pads on your bicycle are important. Regardless, I hope this page acts as a friendly reminder. When you are traveling somewhere possible ten miles per hour or more on an open bicycle with no bumper or airbags to save you, possessing the ability to come to a stop becomes an ability to cherish. Brake pads make the difference between stopping the bike that you are on top of in the distance you require. Sometimes you will need to stop with minimal notice such as when a car door swings open and swerving out into traffic is less than ideal.

The Basic Concept

Before I give you a better idea of how your brake pad works, you probably already know that the brake pad is applied to the side of your wheel with some level of force. Beyond that, what is occurring when you grab the brake lever, the pad is effective due to its level of friction with the rotating wheel.

How They Work

Your brake pad is made of a rubber like substance which possesses a very high coefficient of friction as compared to metal touching metal. And if you don’t have good or any brake pads, metal on metal is exactly what you will have. The result is two-fold.

What to Avoid

First of all, with metal on metal contact, the level of friction is going to be so drastically low that your application of the brakes will not be very effective. If your brakes work at all at this point, it will require more time for your bicycle to come to a stop. As a result, it will also take more distance for your cycle to stop. So if the obstacle you are trying to avoid is too close, you may not be able to stop before it becomes a bigger problem. The other issue with bad brakes is the toll that all that wear and tear will take on your wheel. Metal on metal contact is something you want to avoid. Being able to stop your moving bike in a short distance and small time-frame is a good thing.

Final Advice

Make sure to check your brakes before every trip so that it becomes a force of habit and it results in you having a safe ride.

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