How Long Do Bicycle Brake Pads Last & How To Change It? Disc VS Rim Breaks!


Brakes may arguably be the most important component on our bikes. They help us moderate pace, slowing us at corners and (ideally) stopping on a dime. In other words, you really don’t want to neglect taking care of your brakes. So how long do bicycle brake pads really last?

So, How Long Do Bicycle Brake Pads Last? Typically, brake pads last anywhere from 500-1000 miles. However, this depends on a variety of factors such as the braking system used and the conditions of the ride itself as in riding in wet or dry conditions.

So be sure to check your pads regularly for signs of wear.

We’ll go through how to tell when your brakes need to be replaced, different types of brakes, and how to replace them.

How Do I Know if My Bike Brakes Need Replacing?

One of the first signs of brakes that need to be replaced is a squealing, metallic sound. This happens when the pad on the brake is worn so thin that the metal beneath begins to rub against the metal of the disc or rim (we’ll get into the different types of brakes below).

It’s best to avoid getting to this stage as it’s a sign that they need to be replaced immediately. Instead, you should be checking your brakes regularly for signs of wear and tear. You can check your brakes daily (or just before each ride) to see if they are getting thinner or worn down. (Source)

Of course, just because brakes don’t look visibly worn doesn’t mean they’re fine. You may notice your brakes getting slightly less responsive (sometimes referred to as a ‘“spongy” feeling). This is a clear sign that your brakes need to be replaced – once your brakes start to lose their power, they become unsafe.

How Much Should Brake Pads Cost?

In general, bike brake pads cost between 8 and 30 USD. Keep in mind that this isn’t for the entire brake system. Both types require cables (and disc brakes may require “bleeding” kits if they’re hydraulic). In addition, disc brakes will need discs and rim brakes will need some kind of caliper system.

However, regular maintenance and replacement of the pads themselves should help prevent costly repairs in the future.

Low/High EndDisc Brake (USD)Rim Brake (USD)
Low End$8 (Shimano)$8 (SRAM)
High End$26 (SRAM)$30 (SwissStop)
Cost of Bike Breaks ( Disc vs Rim Break )

Keep in mind this is a general guide. Different brake setups will require different types of pads, but generally, you’ll be looking anywhere in the $8-$30 range for a set of pads.

Is It Hard to Change Brake Pads?

Changing brake pads is something you can do on your own with minimal equipment. Being able to handle your own bike maintenance can be very empowering and will save you money in the long run. The way you’ll change your brake pads depends on the type of brakes you have.

Hydraulic Disc Brake Pad Replacement Resources

First of all, if you’re looking for easy-to-follow bike maintenance tutorials, look no further than Park Tool’s YouTube page. They can walk you through virtually any maintenance requirement you’ll have.

You’ll need the following tools when replacing hydraulic disc pads:

  • Measuring Tape
  • T25 Torx wrench
  • 5 mm Allen wrench
  • Flathead screwdriver or Disc Brake Pad Spreader
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Cassette tool (road bike rotors)
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Degreaser
  • Clean rag or lint-free cloth (like microfiber)

And, of course, the pads themselves.

If you prefer to go to a bike shop and have a mechanic do the replacement for you.

Rim Brake Pad Replacement Resources

Generally speaking, rim brake pads are much easier to replace. Here is a video tutorial for you it,

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Allen wrench (hex wrench) – usually 4mm, but you may also need 2.5mm
  • Needle Nose pliers
  • New brake pads

Regardless of what brake pad replacement you’re doing, a standing bike holder can make a world of a difference when it comes to any kind of bike maintenance.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of routine work on your bike, a good stand may be worth the investment.

What Is the Difference Between Disc Brakes and Rim Brakes?

Disc brakes utilize a disc in the center of the wheel while rim brakes stop at the top side of the rim. These aren’t the only brakes on the market, but they are typically the most common.

You’ll typically find disc brakes on newer bike models. There are two types: hydraulic and mechanical. Disc brakes have greater stopping power and tend to extend the life of the wheel because it doesn’t put pressure on the rim. It also doesn’t matter if the wheel is not true – as long as the disc and the brake pad are in good condition, there won’t be a problem with stopping. However, disc brakes tend to be a bit heavier and can be more challenging to maintain (especially hydraulic disc brakes) (Source).

Rim brakes, on the other hand, are much easier to replace. They’re also lighter and more aerodynamic than disc brakes. However, they do have a few cons. They don’t work as well in wet conditions and tend to wear out much faster than disc brakes. There are quite a few different styles of rim brakes: calipers, cantilevers, and V-brakes.

How Do I Know if My Bike Disc Brakes Are Worn Out?

The best way to know if your disc brake pads are worn out is by a visual inspection. In order to do this, you’ll need to remove the wheel from the bike and view the calipers. You may be able to see immediately if the pads are worn down (they’ll look nearly metallic), but if it’s not obvious, you can always measure them. Disc brakes should have at least 1 mm of padding on top of the metal. If it’s below that, you’ll likely want to replace them.

Another reason you may need to replace your disc brake pads is if they get contaminated with brake fluids or oil. This can happen if you aren’t careful when replacing the pads, or just from general wear and tear. It can be very hard to salvage contaminated brake pads, so your best bet in that scenario is to just get new ones.

How Long Do Rim Brake Wheels Last?

Wheels with rim brakes have a huge range of lifespan, anywhere from 1,500 to 12,000 miles. The amount of use you can get out of your wheels will ultimately come down to the conditions you ride your bike in and how well you care for it. (Source)

Rim brakes put a lot of pressure on your wheels, especially if you’re riding the brakes often. Your wheels may have a way to indicate how much life they have left (usually either a groove along the length of the rim or a small “hole” somewhere on the rim). Once your rims have worn down, they will reach that groove or hole, signaling a time for a change.

You should make it a regular practice to clean both your rims and brake rotors after each ride. This will help reduce debris and anything coarse that may increase the rate at which your rims wear out.

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to maintain and replace your brakes on your own or use your local bike shop services, it’s always important to know when your brakes are worn out.

It can help to get into the habit of checking your brakes before each ride.

That way you can monitor the life of your brake pads and change them before you damage your rims, disc, or lose too much braking power.

When it comes to brakes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

 

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

Recent Posts