Breaking in new brake pads


You’ve seen lots of change since we last spoke. Congrats on new directions (family and home), and good luck on release of bmx book.

Been working my skills up on Montara Mtn. Tons of fun and meet all kinds of people from all over up there. Rode last month with a guy who grew up in ptown and now lives in boulder. He rides moto and mtb. I told him to look u up.

Can you help with a practical question? How do you break in new brake pads?

Also thinking of putting a 8 inch rotor on my front (32 talas) thoughts?

Thanks, Tony

Hey Tony,

Thanks for the kind words and the great question.

I learned a lot about brake pads. Here are the basics:

Why must you break in your brake pads?
Brake pad break-in, or “burnishing,” is the process of depositing a layer of brake pad material on the brake rotor. The friction between this layer and your pad is what turns your kinetic energy into thermal energy — your speed into heat.

Professional advice
This is from Richard Travis at Hayes:

With our sintered pads (copper colored), ample stops are required before dropping into any trail system.

What I mean is this: Always do 20 to 30 parking lot stops to get the bed in process started. Then drop in doing a sight lap or two making lots of brake applications while investigating the track/course. Thru this process you’ll feel your brake power come online and improve greatly.

The longer the you allow your brakes to bed in, the more power you’ll have. If you drop in on your local DH track on an un-burnished pad you’ll have no power, glaze the pads, your brake application time will compound and you’ll put mega heat into the system resulting in poor performance. All because you didn’t make time for proper bed in.

Our semi metallics (black and silver) need about a third of the time for bed in. They tend to come online very quickly.

OK, how?
To transfer the pad material to your rotors, you have to generate some serious heat. That means you need speed, and you have to brake pretty hard.

Here are three ways to get speed, hardest first:

1. Sprint. Get up to full speed then shut ‘er down. 20-30 full sprints … Go get some!

2. A short, steep hill with a long, safe runout. My vote.

3. Motorized assistance. Curtis Keene used to have his dad tow him up to speed on a quad. I never knew why they bothered, but now I know: burnishing, baby!

More than you ever wanted to know about brake burnishing:

Pad and Rotor Bed-In Theory, Definitions and Procedures: Removing the Mystery from Brake Pad Bed-In by Matt Weiss of StopTech and James Walker, Jr. of scR motorsports.

Wow. I guess pedaling around while dragging my brakes won’t cut it anymore.

— Lee

RE: the 8-inch rotor on your 32 TALAS: I rocked that setup for several years, and it worked well.

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