Ultimate Motorcycle Brake Pad Buyer’s Guide
by Brakecrafters | February 2nd, 2019 |
While everyone likes to focus on engine power, few realize that the feel and control of motorcycle brakes is actually more important and also improves the quality of the ride. There are a lot of choices and we’re going to break down the options for you so you can make the best decision based on what you want to get out of your bike. This motorcycle brake pad buyer’s guide explains the difference between organic, sintered, and semi-sintered pads from top brands in the industry and can help you choose which suits you best.
What’s stopping you? It’s not just our slogan it’s also a question for every rider who relies on their brakes to make the end of their ride as enjoyable as the beginning and middle.
For most riders, stopping is all they really hope to achieve when they pull the brake lever but throwing a metal bar in the spokes will stop you! The key to good braking is the feel and control for your environment and applications. Organic pads will offer a nice progressive feel and sintered pads will stop you with more power. The quality of the set of pads you are using can be the difference between stopping unpredictably, or stopping with complete control.
Bad Pads - Contain asbestos, poor braking friction, create a lot of dust and noise, bad performance in either dry or wet conditions and cause excessive rotor wear.
Good Pads – Asbestos free, work well in either wet or dry conditions, low levels of noise and dust, increase performance with shorter stopping distances and kinder to your rotors for a longer life.
We made you a cheat sheet for the different types of motorcycle brake pads out there to choose from; what goes into making them, how they work, and which brands offer them so you’re ready to make an informed decision to work for you and your bike.
The Basics of How Your Brakes Work
Common production disc brakes began in the late 1970’s but the concept had been around for some time before it caught on. MV Augusta’s had a limited run of disc style brakes in the 1960s. The earliest model, the Douglas Model RA with cable operated calipers on rotors, launched in 1923. On motorcycles, approximately 70% of the braking effort is performed by the front brake. Most systems work by converting kinetic energy into thermal energy (heat) by friction via the brake pads and rotors with pressure applied through a hydraulic ratio system (We explain both calipers and rotors in other blogs). Let's talk about the relationship between pads, rotors and the materials they use.
Asbestos in Brake Pads
Most quality motorcycle brake pad manufacturers haven’t installed asbestos-containing brake components since the ban in the 1990s due to health concerns for those that perform brake-related automotive repair or maintenance.
And yet, asbestos-containing products continue to present a health risk in the automotive aftermarket industry in North America primarily due to high sales of low-cost, asbestos-containing brake parts from countries such as China and India. In fact, between 1996 and 2006 the number of asbestos-containing imported brakes had increased 83% and the low-cost advantages of such imports have continued to drive their sales through the current day putting automotive mechanics at an increased risk of asbestos-related disease. Some Chinese and Indian companies also use ceramic fibers that are carcinogenic, making them as dangerous if not more so than those that contain asbestos.
Asbestos worked well with cast iron rotors but since the ban on asbestos in motorcycle brake pads, most rotors are now steel or stainless steel which has led to the use and development of sintered metals to create new, safe brake pad compounds.
Organic Motorcycle Brake Pad Compounds
For most applications, organic brake pads deliver fingertip stopping power, superb feel, and control. Known as the ‘softer’ pad, they deliver a more progressive delivery of stopping power to the bike. One benefit of this pad material is that it pushes friction generated heat back into the rotor and away from the caliper. Organic pads are much kinder to rotors and not abrasive like sintered pads, thereby reducing rotor wear. You'll particularly appreciate this if you have an older classic bike that requires “hard to get” or expensive rotors. The downside of the organic pad is a shorter lifespan relative to ‘harder’ compound pads. Kevlar is an important component in many organic brake pads. Other common ingredients are natural materials like glass and rubber as well as resins that can withstand high heat. In fact, high heat helps bind the brake pad materials together.
-Shorter break-in period
-More progressive bite
-Much kinder to rotors
-Pushes heat back into the rotor
-Not as good in wet/muddy conditions
Sintered Motorcycle Brake Pads Compound
The majority of motorcycles today come with sintered pads as ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT (OE) and sintered pads remain the most common aftermarket replacement. Sintered pads are made by fusing the metallic particles under immense pressure and heat to create ultra high friction coefficient for maximum stopping power and longer life. Common ingredients are iron, copper, steel, and graphite all mixed together and bonded to form the pad material. One of the downsides of sintered metals, is heat transfer through the pads, however this is why the majority of quality sintered pads use stainless steel thermal insulation plates on the backs of the sintered brake pads.
-Fade at a higher temperature than resin pads
-Greater initial bite
-Better performance in wet conditions
-Longer break-in time
-More heat is conducted through the pads versus the rotor
Semi-Sintered Brake Pad Compound
Using the sintered high copper content with the organic high-density matrix compound combines the advantages of both worlds into the semi-sintered compound. These pads have a longer life than organic but retain the great ‘feel’ with lower heat transfer and less rotor abrasion.
-Longer life than organic
-Gentle on rotors
-Zero brake noise
-Greater ‘feel’ and feedback
-Not as much bite as Sintered.
-Higher cost than organic
-Not designed for track use
Companies we support –
EBC Brakes is a world leader in motorcycle braking and technical innovation. All its sintered pads are manufactured in their fully ISO compliant Ohio plant. While almost all other brake manufacturers still employ antiquated and cheap “Steel Fiber” based technology, filled with dirty and dusty carbon and coke granules, EBC lead the way in clean and advanced brake formulations. Blending compounts with Aramid fibers gives endless flexibility in formulation that is unheard of with cheap bulky steel fiber competitor products. A large distribution center in Nevada ensures constant supply with up to 4000 parcels shipped per day.
Owned and developed by Spacek Product in the Czech Republic the Goldfren S33 range offers the greatest amount of performance/price ratio in the industry. While motorcycles its primary focus, Goldfren also produces brake pads for cars, racing cars, aircraft and industrial equipment such as cranes and other heavy machinery. Utilizing a ceramic carbon to bind high ratio copper content gives a superb feel and feedback for a sintered pad and less wear on rotors than conventional sintered pads.