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Disc Brake Pad Compounds

Different Types of Disc Brake Pad Compounds

Typically you'll find that there are three types of compounds to choose from when buying new brake pads for your disc brake equipped bike. They are:

    • Organic
    • Semi-Metallic
    • Sintered

Each of these brake pad compounds will provide a different feel during braking. You'll also find that one compound may last longer compared than another depending on the type of rider you are and the amount to which you use your brakes. 

What compound should I choose?

Choosing a compound ultimately depends on the type of riding you are doing. In most cases a semi-metallic pad will exceed the needs of most riders because it combines the durability of sintered with the feel of organic compounds. To make sure you're getting the best pad for your riding style, review the benefits of each below.

Organic Brake Pads

Organic disc brake pads are made completely of resin and are a much softer compound than a semi-metallic or sintered pad. This softer material means they have a much stronger initial bite and can be easily modulated depending on how much power you need. However, the softer material also means they heat up much faster than a pad with metallic compounds added, so they can fade on steeper or longer descents where a lot of braking is required. 

Besides how they feel, another benefit to organic pads is that they break in quickly. Once installing them into the caliper, it only takes a few moments to have the pads feeling strong and ready to go. Semi-metallic, and especially sintered, take much longer to bed in. 

Organic Pad Pros

  • Strong initial bite
  • Easy to modulate
  • Quietest 

Organic Pad Cons

  • Faster wearing
  • Prone to fade under intense braking
  • Not ideal for adverse conditions (wet, mud, etc.)

Semi-Metallic Brake Pads

Semi-metallic brake pads are an all-round solution for most common conditions, where brakes are not getting extremely hot. They work best for dirt jumping, cross country and lighter enduro rides with shorter downhill segments. They'll even be more than capable for downhill riders who aren't standing on the brakes all the way down, or for lighter riders.

With a high percentage of iron and copper added to the resin in the compound, semi-metallic pads offer a longer life and more heat resistance compared to organic disc brake pads. The metal compounds add longevity and the resin allows for the pad to have high friction against the brake rotor right away.

Because of this, you'll notice semi-metallic brake pads have a stronger initial bite when you begin to pull the brake lever. If you prefer your brakes to grab and feel strong from the start, semi-metallic pads should be your first choice.  

 Semi-Metallic Pad Pros

  • Great initial bite
  • Easy to break-in
  • Quieter

Semi-Metallic Pad Cons

  • Wears faster than sintered
  • Not ideal for adverse conditions (wet, mud, etc.)

Sintered Brake Pads

Sintered pads, also known as metal or metallics, are brake pads that are completely made up of hardened metal, bonded together with high heat and pressure. There are no resins present in sintered brake pads making them much more durable than a semi-metallic or organic pad.  

Sintered disc brake pads are perfect for larger riders, braking on steeper descents, or riders who have had to deal with brake fade issues. While the initial bite of sintered brake pads are not as strong as semi-metallic or organic compounds, they can handle way more heat.

Sintered brake pads also provide a more consistent feel and can be easily modulated, giving your brakes a progressive feel at the lever, rather than only being on or off. 

Sintered pads also shine across a wider range of conditions. They are less likely to be effected by dust, mud, or water than other pad types. 

Sintered Pad Pros

  • Longer lifespan
  • Work better in all conditions
  • Fade at higher temperatures

Sintered Pad Cons

  • Longer break-in period
  • Lower initial bite