Saturday, 21 June 2014

How to choose the best MTB disc brake pads: Pad compounds explained

We don’t usually worry too much about mountain bike disc brake pads until they start losing braking performance, getting wear down, squealing or everything at the same time.
With the increased reliability and performance associated with the change from old-school cantilevers, we sometimes forget that the brake system performance can be easily modified changing the disc brake pads. So what's the science behind your brake pads, and are you using the best brake pad compound for your riding style or conditions?. Let's take a closer look at the different brake pad compounds.
There are mainly three different types of pads: Sintered, Semi Metallic and Organics.
MTB pads comparison organics-sintered-semi-metallic

Sintered pads (full metal)
Sintered pads are based on sintering manufacturing process that allows the transformation of metallic powders into metallic parts. The friction material part of the pad is manufactured from metallic powder bonded using a combination of heat and pressure. The friction material contains different metal constituents (copper, bronze, iron,..), with different key role when the friction material is in contact with the rotor (performance, noise, long lasting).

Sintered pad


  • Better durability. They can handle high temperatures and have very good fade resistance
  • Better in wet or extreme conditions like gritty, sandy or muddy conditions.   


  • The bedding in takes some time.
  • They are noisy.
  • Less initial bite due to the hardness of the full metal friction material.
  • They transfer more heat into the calliper, and this can be a problem if your brake system uses mineral oil.

Organic Pads 
Organic pads (sometimes called resin) are made from organic fibres (aramid, PAN,...) and other property modifiers or inorganic fibres (glass, carbon,..) usually bonded with phenolic resin. The backplate is usually steel, or aluminium in the most light XC oriented pads. They are not as durable as sintered metal pads, but they normally offer better initial bite and less noise. The softer material of the brake pad friction material, usually provides better modulation and reduced noise, but with lower brake power and heat resistance.

Organic Pad


  • Good initial bite.
  • Quieter and normally the easy fix to remove brake squealing.
  • Bedding in is easier.
  • They don’t transfer too much heat into the brake calliper, so no problem with oil boiling even with mineral oil. 


  • Lower durability than sintered pads, and can wear quickly in extreme conditions.
  • Friction material can “glaze”, and this will require roughening up the surface to remove any glazing with sandpaper.
  • Lower performance at high temperatures.

Semi metallic pads
Combining different organic and inorganic fibres, phenolic resin as a binder and metallic fibres, the semi metallic pads aim to have the best from both worlds, with the same initial bite, modulation and noise reduction as the organics, but with upgraded wear resistance. As a result from the metal addition, the lasting is greatly improved over the organics, maintaining the same good initial bite and low noise characteristics. Depending on the metal percentage added in the manufacturing the semi metallic pads will show different performances.

Semi-metallic RAHOX pad


  • Good initial bite and easy bedding in. Can handle higher temperatures and reduce brake fade.
  • They are quiet.
  • Longer lasting than the organics, but not as much as the sintered pads. 


  • Can wear quickly in very extreme conditions, even having an improved performance due to the metal addition.
  • Same problem with pad surface “glazing” can happen.
  • Lower performance at very high temperatures.

The best option for you will depend on your riding style, trail conditions and personal preferences, but when it comes to 'feel' and initial bite, organic and semi metallic pads are commonly better choices. Nevertheless is good to remember that everyone has their own preferences, and most of the times these preferences determine the best option. As an example, in the very demanding DH World Cup, the teams alternate between semi metallics and sintered pads depending on the circuit and the weather conditions.

You can find our semi metallic range of high performance mtb brake pads at

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1 comment:

  1. Nice guide. Thanks for sharing, I'm a new biker and this article is very helpful to me!