motorcycle 101 guides

All You Need to Know About Motorcycle Brake Pads

All You Need to Know About Motorcycle Brake Pads

Motorcycle brake pads are an essential component of a disc brake system. They rest against the brake rotors and create the friction required to bring your motorcycle to a stop. But like other motorcycle components, brake pads can become worn down and need to be replaced. To improve braking performance, many riders replace the OEM brake pads with aftermarket ones. Some riders change the brake pads during the summer and winter to a set appropriate to the season. Others prefer brake pad upgrades suited for several riding styles and road conditions. Whether you want to replace damaged brake pads with new ones or get upgraded versions, you should ask yourself which brake pads are the best for optimal braking performance? In this article, you will learn about the functions, types, and characteristics of motorcycle brake pads to make it easier to choose the best option for you.

1. Function of Motorcycle Brake Pads

Motorcycle brake pads are positioned where the brake discs and calipers make contact with each other. When you press the brake lever, the master cylinder activates the disc brake system. The pressure from the cylinder transfers hydraulic pressure to the brake calipers on the wheels. These calipers feature one or more pistons that press against the brake pad backing plate. As the brake pads make contact with the spinning rotor/disc, this creates friction. This friction converts kinetic energy (the energy of motion) into heat and reduces speed. The heat travels from the brake pads, calipers, and brake rotors before being released into the air.

2. Types of Motorcycle Brake Pads

The three main types of brake pads include the sintered, semi-sintered, and organic versions. The main difference between these brake pads is their material composition. The best brake pad for your bike is one that fits your bike and complements your riding style.

2.1 Sintered/Metallic Motorcycle Brake Pads

As the name suggests, sintered brake pads are made via the sintering process. This procedure involves compacting metallic powders into a solid shape by subjecting them to intense heat and high pressure without causing them to liquefy. The material is then fused to the backing plate. The metals used to make sintered brake pads are usually copper alloys. The exact composition depends on the manufacturer and the intended quality. The sintered brake pads’ friction coefficient depends on the metallic powder used in their construction. Sintered brake pads offer optimal and reliable stopping power during emergencies.

Sintered/metallic motorcycle brake pads are more durable, water-resistant, heat-resistant, and long-lasting than other types of brake pads. They are better equipped to handle off-road and muddy trails and traveling at high speed or downhill.

With sintered brake pads, there is little to no risk of glazing. Glazing is when the brake pad hardens and develops a smooth glassy surface. This occurs when the brake pad’s temperature exceeds its recommended limit, resulting in reduced friction when trying to stop the motorcycle. Luckily, the metals in sintered pads can handle high heat, which prevents glazing.

Sintered brake pads are ideal for riders who enjoy track racing. Sports bike C brake pads are specifically developed to handle heavy braking and sudden stops.

However, it is worth mentioning that the metals in sintered brake pads transfer heat to the brake fluid in the caliper at a fast rate, which can reduce the effectiveness of brakes significantly over time. Some riders also complain that sintered pads make a lot of noise, do not work properly in the cold, and take a while to warm up.

Sintered Metallic Brake Pads
Pros Cons
Durable and Long-Lasting Noisy
Performs Well in Muddy and Wet Riding Conditions Takes a While to Warm Up
Can Withstand High Temperatures Transfers Heat to Brake Fluid in Calipers
Less Risk of Glazing Not Designed for All Types of Motorcycles
Optimal Stopping Power
Moderate Friction Coefficient
Reduces Deterioration
Reliable Braking in Hot & Cold Temperatures
Quickly Transmits Heat to Brake Rotor for Thermal Recovery
Can Be Cost Effective Depending on the Brand

2.2 Ceramic Motorcycle Brake Pads

Ceramic motorcycle brake pads are often considered a variation of sintered brake pads since they have similar designs. The only difference is that ceramics are used to make ceramic brake pads instead of metals. The ceramics are subjected to intense heat and pressure into a solid shape. Next, it is fused to a metal backing plate or attached using hooks.

Ceramic brake pads are designed for racing motorcycles. They can handle the heat generated at high speeds and provide optimal stopping power crucial on race tracks. However, they tend to take longer to warm up or “bed-in,” making them an unpopular choice for street riding. Some riders also prefer sintered brake pads over ceramic ones since the former offers just enough bite to inspire confidence.

For Your Information
Brake bite is the speed threshold at which the frictional material in the brake pads reaches its maximum friction coefficient while braking. Too much brake bite makes initial brake modulation difficult, while too little bite will delay braking.

Ceramic brake pads are the most expensive type of brake pads. Plus, they can cause the cast iron brake rotors to become worn out. To increase the lifespan of the brake rotors, many motorcycle manufacturers are now equipping bikes with stainless rotors to increase their durability when rubbed against ceramic and sintered brake pads.

Ceramic Motorcycle Brake Pads
Pros Cons
Ideal for Race Tracks Expensive
High Heat Resistance Takes a While to Warm Up
Quieter Performance Not Ideal for Street Riding
Long-Lasting Underperform in Cold Weather
Reliable in Wet and Dry Weather Conditions

2.3 Organic Motorcycle Brake Pads

Organic motorcycle brake pads, or resin pads, are made of rubber, silica, and kevlar held together with resin. Organic brake pads do not make annoying noises like sintered brake pads. When pressed against steel brake rotors, organic brake pads provide a soft initial bite. They work well even in cold weather. However, their overall performance is less efficient than sintered and semi-metallic brake pads.

The organic compound used to make these pads acts as an insulator, preventing heat from transferring from the rotor to the brake fluid in the calipers. This ensures optimal and efficient braking at the start of a ride. However, organic pads tend to cause brake fade, temporary and unexpected reduction in braking efficiency, due to overheating and prolonged or repeated braking. As a result, organic brake pads require frequent replacements, especially if you travel long distances, ride with heavy luggage, or enjoy high-speed riding.

Also, organic brake pads do not perform well on muddy and wet roads and are prone to glazing. Thus, organic brake pads are best for riding on dry roads and across short distances.

Organic Motorcycle Brake Pads
Pros Cons
Optimal Braking Efficiency at the Start of a Ride Not Reliable for Heavy-Braking
Works Well in Cold Temperatures Wears Out Quickly
Warms Up Quickly Cannot Handle Wet & Muddy Conditions
Ensures a Quiet Ride Reduced Braking Performance When Overheated
Affordable Prone to Glazing

Frequent Replacements Required

2.4 Semi-Sintered/Semi-Metallic Motorcycle Brake Pads

Semi-sintered motorcycle brake pads include the positive features of sintered and organic brake pads. They are composed of metal particles combined with organic compounds to improve durability. Also, semi-sintered brake pads offer sharp braking power and warm up quickly unlike sintered brake pads. Semi-sintered brake pads can perform well on wet and muddy roads. Thus, these brake pads are the best option for riding on muddy off-road trails, smooth paved roads, and can handle heavy braking without needing to be frequently replaced.

Semi-Sintered Motorcycle Brake Pads
Pros Cons
Durable Expensive
Performs Well in Wet and Dry Conditions Prone to Glazing
Warm Up Quickly
Provide Optimal Braking Power

3. How to Choose Motorcycle Brake Pads?

When selecting brake pads for your motorcycle, it is important that you evaluate all of their features, including braking efficiency, initial modulation, price, and durability. The types of brake pads are made of different materials to achieve a balance of desirable traits. If you have never replaced the OEM brake pads on your bike, you might not know which types of pads you will need. Many riders prefer sticking with the same brake pad type their motorcycles came with. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, this results in less customization.

When buying brake pads from a particular brand, make sure you read the product descriptions to learn about their performance and materials they are made of. If you know a trustworthy motorcycle mechanic, you can also ask them from advice. Make sure that the brake pads are compatible with your bike. Keep in mind that backing plates for braking pads may not fit your motorcycle’s brake calipers. After deciding what type of braking pads you needt, make sure their backing plate size can fit your ride.

3.1 Quick Brake Pad Selection Tips

Here are tips to help you choose the right brake pads for your motorcycle:

  • Check your motorcycle’s user manual to find out what kind of brake pads your motorcycle can be equipped with. If you are comfortable with OEM brake pads, you can order a replacement set to save time.
  • Determine the size of your budget. Semi-sintered brake pads are not cost-effective due to being the most expensive. On a tight budget, ceramic and organic brake pads are the only feasible options. Ceramic pads are closest to sintered pads in terms of performance and reliability, but it is not compatible with all types of bikes. Organic brake pads are a good alternative, provided you handle them with care.
  • If you want reliable and responsive stopping power, it is best to get sintered brake pads. These pads offer maximum heat dissipation, last longer, and can handle various weather conditions. Many sintered pads now come with an additional protective outer layer that absorbs heat to protect the brake system from premature heat damage.
  • If you do not like replacing brake pads frequently and want to prolong their use, opt for sintered brake pads. Though expensive, they offer great value due to being long-lasting. You can also purchase them with discounts and at clearance sales to save a few bucks.
  • It is easier to replace and install sintered pads. Even if you lack experience or mechanical skills, you can perform these tasks at home by following the installation manual included with the brake pads.
  • If you are putting your motorcycle on sale, then make sure you change any worn pads with sintered ones to improve the bike’s resale value.

4. Average Cost of Motorcycle Brake Pads

The price of motorcycle brake pads depends on their quality, manufacturer, motorcycle, and location. A rough estimate of the average costs of different motorcycle brake pads is listed in the chart below:

Cost of Motorcycle Brake Pad Set
Brake Pad Type Cost
Sintered/Metallic Brake Pads $50-$70 per set
Semi-Sintered Brake Pads $40-$60 per set
Ceramic Brake Pads $20-$35 per set
Organic Brake Pads $20 per set
Brake Pad Service Cost $100-$300 per brake pad set for motorcycle disc brake system
The prices mentioned above are only estimates.

5. How Long Do Motorcycle Brake Pads Last?

It is nearly impossible to determine the mileage of your motorcycle’s brake pads. The lifespan of motorcycle brake pads depends on how you use them. Do you ride at high speeds and apply them heavily? Do you apply the brakes frequently? Do you use your motorcycle to travel around town at a steady pace? The more aggressively you apply the brakes, the more the brake pads will become worn down. At a moderate pace, your brake pads can last several thousand miles even if you often go on tours. If you learn to adjust your riding style by going easy on the brakes, you can increase their lifespans significantly.

6. The Best Time to Replace Motorcycle Brake Pads

It is best to replace your motorcycle’s brake pads if their thickness is less than 1.5 mm. How quickly brake pad width decreases depends on the quality of the material, frequency of use, and road conditions. Make sure you get the brake pads checked during every maintenance check.

7. Takeaway

Motorcycle brake pads play a role in safely bringing your bike to a stop. That is why it is important that you make sure the brake pads are in good condition and perform optimally. Hopefully, this article will be of help if you have never changed your motorcycle’s brake pads before and are looking for the best replacement options. When picking brake pads, make sure to consider your riding needs, the road conditions, and the weather patterns in your region.

If you are facing motorcycle storage issues then you should consider getting motorcycle LUGGAGE like SADDLEBAGS, TANK BAGS, SISSY BAR BAGS, and BACKPACKS.

Reading next

All You Need to Know About Motorcycle Wheel Bearings
All You Need to Know About Motorcycle Wheel Bearings

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.