We recommend getting new brake pads before the old ones wear out. Because, if you just keep riding, you can end up without brakes or with very limited stopping power, which can easily cause a crash. Our advice follows. But, please keep in mind that it is not for disc brakes, which are found on some mountain bikes. Disc designs vary widely so, if you have these, learn about pad wear, adjustment and replacement by studying your owner's manual. Or, come in and ask us for advice at the first hint of brake trouble.
How do you know when your rim-type pads are worn? On most bicycle brakes, all you've got to do is look at the face of the pads (the part that rubs on the rim) every couple of weeks (check every few rides, if you train on wet trails and roads). When new, most pads have several grooves in them. These help channel water away from the rim on wet rides. But, they're also wear indicators that tell you what condition the brake pads are in. When these grooves disappear, it's time to replace the brake pads.
Surprisingly, it's possible to wear out a set by mountain biking for several hours on muddy singletrack. The dirt in the mud can grind away pads that fast. So, if you ride like this, it's important to keep an eye on the pads and replace them as necessary. In fact, many cyclists like to keep replacements on hand so they can deal with worn parts right away and not have to make a trip to the store.
In most cases, it's relatively easy to install new brake pads. But, designs vary a lot depending on the make and model of the brake. And installation varies from simply slipping out old cartridge pads and sliding in now ones (literally, a fifteen-minute job), to replacing the entire brake shoes and completely realigning them (you'll probably want to leave this one to us).
We stock a complete selection of replacement brake pads and are happy to make recommendations. If you want to change them yourself, we can explain what's required in tools and know-how so you can do the job right. And, we're happy to install the pads for you, if you prefer.