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Breaking In Your Bike Disc Brakes

Brake pads need to be broken in to reach optimum performance.

Virtually all brakes, whether they’re on airplanes, trains, cars, or your bike, need to be broken in to reach optimum performance. A simple break-in process will rid the pads and rotors of superficial oil, grime, and contaminants that inhibit friction. Breaking in will help reshape the pads so they conform more accurately to the rotors.After breaking in, more of the pads’ surface will contact the rotor more evenly for better overall braking. Breaking in your disc brakes also increases “stickiness” of the system by transferring a thin, even layer of brake pad compound to the rotor—this is a good thing.

Add it all up, and you can expect to gain up to 50% more stopping power  from broken in brakes.  It is important to remember that whether you’ve added new rotors and pads, or replaced the entire system, you should always do a break-in ride before a real ride. If your bike is ridden hard before the break-in process is performed, the rotors can be  damaged. Indications that this has happened include brake noise and  reduced braking power.

Brake maker Avid advises that to safely achieve optimal break-in results, remain seated on the bike during the entire procedure. Component maker Shimano adds that a break-in process should be done in controlled and clean conditions, preferably on pavement. Brake tech innovator Hope recommends pouring clean water over the caliper and pads while breaking in.


How to do it

To break-in new brakes, start by accelerating your bike to a moderate speed (approximately 12mph), then firmly apply the brakes until you are at walking speed. Repeat this step approximately 20 times. Now accelerate the bike to a faster speed (approximately 20mph). Then firmly (but safely!) apply the brakes until you are at walking speed. Repeat approximately 10 times.

Lastly, allow your brakes to cool before doing any additional riding. Shimano adds that anytime a rotor is replaced, the pads should be replaced as well.


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