Disc Brakes are a considerable improvement over the age-old rim brake we grew up with.
Increased modulation, efficiency in extreme conditions, and finally, superior stopping power – Disc Brakes are giving riders the ability to ride further and harder than ever.
Although the change seems like a no-brainer to some, the maintenance process that comes along with disc brakes can appear to be a little complicated.
Especially if you feel like you just mastered the linear brakes on your old bike.
But aside from a few changes to the mechanics, getting up and running is fairly easy to understand.
And you definitely need to know a thing or two if you want to do a good job maintaining your Bike.
For those of you looking to make the change to Disc Brakes, or even those who are just wanting to get a better grasp on the concept, here is everything you need to know to maintain about maintaining Disc Brakes on a Bike.
To maintain your Disc Brakes, keep your Brake Assembly clean and aligned, replace Brake Pads when worn and make sure to check your Brake Cabling or Housing for fray or leaks. To further understand each step, keep reading below.
What You Need
On the plus side, you don’t need too much to maintain your Disc Brakes.
In fact, you may already have most of what you need. If you find yourself needing a serious overhaul, it may be a good idea to take your bike in to your LBS.
For those of you who like to do it yourself, make sure you have the following:
Sandpaper – Use this to sand down a thrashed set of brake pads.
Oil – Some type of Mineral Oil if you have Hydraulic Brakes, and lubrication if you have Mechanical Brakes.
Check the Brake Assembly
The Brake Assembly consists of the Brake Calipers, Pads and mechanism that actuates the Brakes.
As complicated as this system looks, doing the maintenance is fairly easy and typically includes the following:
Cleaning – Just like a car, the Brake Pads on your Bike will cause the eventual build up of brake dust. On top of that, you also pick up a considerable amount of dirt and grime while riding. This can cause issues with how well your Brakes work if the build up gets to a certain point. Since you want this mechanism moving freely and with as little resistance possible, make sure you clean regularly and thoroughly.
Alignment – In addition to cleanings, make sure you check the alignment of the Brake Assembly regularly. You can usually see if your brakes are out of alignment by looking at them. Make sure the Calipers are centered between the Brake Pads and around the Disc. While you’re looking at each Caliper, give the Brake Lever a squeeze to make sure both Brake Pads fully engage the Disc. Once you’re sure they’re aligned, make sure all the bolts are tightened to spec.
By keeping your Brake Assembly clean and aligned, you significantly increase the life of your Brakes and the overall performance.
If you’re ever unsure about how you have them adjusted, don’t be afraid to take a trip to your Local Bike Shop.
If you’re looking for a visual guide on aligning your Disc Brakes, check out this video from Park Tools.
Check and Clean Brake Pads
Your Brake Pads are one of the most common noise makers on your Bike.
If you ever find yourself having trouble keeping the squeaking down, it may be a good time to pull these bad boys out to have a look.
And don’t ignore the signs of failing Brake Pads. These are the main things that helps you stop your Bike and can be the determining factor between a controlled maneuver and a sketchy wipe-out.
Check – If you start to notice a pattern of squeaking when you pull your Brake Levers, pull the Brake Pads from their Calipers to see if they are glazed over, oily or worn down. If they are greasy, wipe them down with an alcohol-based cleaner or wipe. If they look “Glazed” over, lightly scrub them with a fine piece of sandpaper until they are smooth.
Replace – If you continue to have problems with noise or loss of Brake performance, don’t wait to get a new set of Brake Pads. Use this guide and get a new set of pads ordered. Even if you feel like your Brakes are working fine, make sure you check them after a long period of riding to make sure they’re at least 3mm thick.
Clean and Inspect the Brake Discs
The Brake Discs are relatively easy to maintain if you’re keeping your Bike clean.
Together with a good set of Brake Pads, they should help support modulation and stopping force when you squeeze the Brake Levers.
Although they seem like just a thin piece of medal, they will often require their own separate attention.
Clean – Sometimes dirt and oil can coat your Brake Disc, impacting the overall function of your Brakes. Make sure you keep some alcohol wipes close to wipe them off when they’re dirty, and you can even use a fine grain of sandpaper to lightly brush them clean. If the Disc is particularly dirty, you may want to check the Brake Pads as well.
Alignment – Your Disc can easily get bent if you rest your bike against something or even during a crash. Lift each tire and give them a spin to see if your Discs rub against the Brake Pads. If the Disc looks off balance, bend it back until it is perfectly centered again.
It is also good practice to check the bolts or screws on the Disc assembly, as these can rattle loose and cause damage if left unattended.
Check Brake Levers
Your Brake levers are one of the most personal components you have on your Bike.
You can set everything from the distance and position to the angle and tension. If you left them in the same position from the store, you’re missing out.
In fact, it is always recommended that you set up your Brake Levers as soon as you start riding.
Positioning – Ideally, you want your Brake Levers positioned where you can comfortably and effectively pull them with one finger while riding. Also make sure to set the tension to where there is just 1 inch of clearance between Lever and Handlebar when fully engaged. After you set the position, adjust the angle based on how you prefer to ride. For a relaxed position on the bike, angle them higher up, for a more aggressive riding style, angle them down.
Once you have the positioning and angle set, make sure you tighten each bolt just snug enough where they don’t rotate when used. If you have a carbon bar, please be careful when tightening them down.
Brake Hoses, Cables and Housings
Wrapping everything up, do not forget to check your Cabling and Housing often, especially if you have Hydraulic Disc Brakes.
The integrity and operation of the cables and components that operate your Brake mechanisms have a lot to do with the feel and performance of your Brakes.
If you have Hydraulic Brakes, make sure you check the hoses and fittings for leaks.
Missing a leak can lead to really dangerous situations, even injury.
If you ever experience friction, the likely culprit could be the cables within the cable housing.
Brake cables can rust, fray or break over time, causing a complete Brake failure.
If they’re severely corroded or there’s too much slack in the line, you can also experience a delay in Braking.
Clean – Keep dirt and grime out of the Housing and off of the cabling, this is the best way to extend the life of your Brake lines.
Oil or Lubricate – Keep an eye out for leaks and make sure you keep the cables lubricated and the Brakes well oiled.
If you’re ever worried about Brake performance and don’t know how to diagnose, make sure you take your Bike in for a professional opinion.
For those ready to do it yourself, check out this video on Disc Brake repair from GMBN.
In conclusion, there’s not too much too Disc Brake Maintenance if you’re willing to put in the effort.
If you a dedicated rider, it’s worth it to learn as much as you can about your Bike and how to maintain it.
Good luck with your future Bike maintenance and safe riding!