If you’re heading into a mountain bike race that you think could be a wet and muddy one, then its a good idea to be well and truly prepared in the brake department.
Because if your weather forecast is correct then that muddy mountain bike race could wear out your brake pads in a matter of minutes. How does that happen?
As you’re riding along through all that mud and sand and slop, all that grit can get flicked up by your tires onto your brake rotors and into your calipers. As your rotors spin through your calipers, that fine film of grit on the rotors can slowly start to wear your pads out.
It’s just like a fine sheet of sandpaper continuously running over the pads.
But Much Worse Than That
The real damage occurs every time you apply the brakes. When you brake you’ll be trapping that grit in between the brake pads and rotor surfaces, and that extra force created from the brake pressure really gets that grit chewing into your brake pad material.
In really gritty and muddy conditions you could wear a set of pads out in minutes. And sometimes you only find out you’ve done just that when you start hearing…
A Horrible Squealing Noise
I was riding with a mate on a really muddy and sloppy ride a few years ago when he wore through a set of brake pads in less than fifteen minutes.
What was really amazing was how quickly it all happened. One minute he started the ride with plenty of pad, and less than fifteen minutes later his rear brake pads were finished.
In his case we didn’t realize he had run out of brake pads until his rear brake started making a horrible squealing noise. And it was the sound of dollar notes burning!
Actually, it was the sound of the pad backing plates clamping onto the rotor each time he braked. The grit had worn off all the pad material off, so the only thing left to try and stop the rotor from turning was bare metal. Steel on steel.
The rotor got heavy scored and damaged in a very short space of time and he had to buy a new rotor as well as new pads. Not a cheap exercise. So,
Mountain Bike Racing Tip Number Eighteen is this…
If you’ve got what could be a really muddy race coming up then, if you can afford it, fit brand new brake pads front and rear so that you start the race with full thickness brake pads.
Doing that will give you the best chance of getting through the race without having to pull over to fit another set of pads mid-race. And nobody likes stopping mid-race for a mechanical that could have been averted.
And don’t forget these…
Three Muddy Race Ready Super Tips
Three essential super tips you need to know to help you ‘be prepared’ for your next muddy mountain bike race:
1. Pack spares
A couple of new sets or the old pads you just replaced, if they’ve still got a bit of meat on them. You may as well put them in because if the race is gritty enough you could wear straight through the new set. And hey, spare pads don’t take up much room in your camelbak or pocket.
2. Pre-race check
Always check the condition of your brakes pads before any mountain bike race, not just before the muddy ones. How much wear your pads can take before they need replacing really does depend on the type of brakes you have and how you use them.
Either way, once you’re down to less than 1 millimetre left on the pads then hey, don’t push your luck much more than that. Fit new pads. And if you’re not sure how to, then check your brake manufacturers website for instructions.
3. Pre-race fit
Fit the new pads one or two rides before the race just in case you need to do some fiddling with your brake setup, like caliper alignment, pad contact or lever adjustment. You don’t want to be fiddling with your mountain bike brakes on the start line!