Swapping Brake Pads on Your Road Bike

Brake pads are like toilet paper; useful, necessary, and easy to take for granted until it's too late. When you're down to your last roll, picking up a new pack is a no-brainer and similarly, when your brake pads start to get down to the 'wear line' it's time to start planning for their replacement. Failure to think ahead in both situations can you leave you stranded, and a little foresight goes a long way toward keeping 'business as usual', well, usual.

In today's post we'll walk through swapping the pads on our Road Series (and give me a hard time for not being more timely in my maintenance). Let's get wrenchin'!

When It's Time

Telling when it's time to swap your brake pads is pretty easy. They'll have a 'wear line' marked on them to show you how much they've eroded and once you're braking surface is hitting that line, it's time to make a change.

You don't even really need to make a special effort to check, just give 'em a quick glance while you're sitting at the stoplights - all you have to do is look down and your brake pads will be front and center. As you can see, mine are well ready to be replaced.

Your front brake pads will likely wear faster than your rears (because so much more braking power is applied up front), but once the fronts get low, give the rears a check too. In this case, while my fronts are nearly burnt away, my rear pads still have plenty of life left!

Out with the Old

Removing your old brake pads is a snap, all you'll need is a 5mm allen wrench! Insert your wrench into the bolt on the outside of the brake pad and give it the ol' lefty-loosey until the pad is free.

Repeat on the opposite side. 

And now you're ready to swap in some new pads!

In with the New

Seeing the old and new sets side by side really shows how much of the pads I've worn through in the last 1200 miles. I probably should have swapped these earlier....

Replacing the pads takes a little more fine-tuning, but it'll basically be a reversal of the removal process. Begin by getting both left and right pads secured, but not tightened, to the caliper. Your new pads will be labelled 'L' and 'R' for left and right, and they'll also say 'forward ->' so you know which way to point them. Once you know which is which, just slide the pad's bolt through the caliper and then use your hand to spin the nut a few threads, righty-tighty this time.

We just want them on there loosely at first so we can get everything lined up before we tighten them down all the way. They'll probably hang all weirdly for now, that's ok.

Now, let's line 'em up! The easiest way to align your brake pads is to use one hand to hold the caliper closed (like the brakes are engaged), and then use the other hand to align the pads and tighten them all the way down. (Since this takes both hands, ask a friend to take these photos if you're making your own how-to guide).

Once the pads on both sides are aligned and tightened down, pull the lever to make sure they're still hitting the right spot on the rim. You want the brake pads to be completely on the machined braking surface and clear of the tire (seriously, pad/tire contact is bad - it can lead to flats, unexpectedly 'grabby brakes' and just general sketchiness).

It's also a good idea to check and make sure that the pads on both sides of the rim make contact at the same time. Watch the pads as you pull the lever and, if you see one side making contact to early, just give your calipers a little shove left or right until everything's centered again!

And that's it! You're all set to stop safely for another mountain of miles.

Ride happy, stop confidently, and we'll see you out there!