Essential disc brake maintenance: Brakes not powerful enough? Levers spongy like cheese strings? Don’t buy new ones before you try these tips…

Brakes not powerful enough? Levers spongy like cheese strings? Have your stoppers stopped stopping? Follow these tips. Don’t buy new ones before you try these tips about essential disc brake maintenance.

Read more: Best mountain bike disc brakes

1. Lever position

Struggling for power or modulation? Start searching for the solution here. Line up the blades so you’re just using one finger, pulling near the end of the lever. You’ll have the most power this way, and also the most control.

While you’re at it, use the reach adjustment to bring the blade into the bar, close enough to get maximum power but not so close that it closes on your hand. If your brakes have any contact-point adjustment, dial it so there’s just a little ‘float’ before the pads bite.

2. Bleed your brakes

Ideally, the internals of your brakes should be filled with brake fluid and nothing else — but air often finds its way in and reduces the power and consistency. For guidance on flushing them out, watch our vids…

Wandering bite point Shimano brakes: the cause and the cure

How to bleed Avid or SRAM brakes

3. Buy bigger rotors

The more expensive fix, but upsizing can make a dramatic difference if your bike comes with piddly little 160mm rotors. Bikes often get fitted with a smaller rotor at the rear and a larger one at the front, which makes no sense to us but hey. Upsize your rotors so they match  – go big at both ends – and don’t forget to buy caliper adapters too.

disc brake maintenance

4. Clean your rotors and pads

Whip the wheels out of the bike, remove the pads and inspect the rotors and pads for grime or damage. If the rotors are straight and the pads have plenty of material left, clean them up with a fresh rag and solvent.

You can buy dedicated disc brake cleaner, but if you’re a keen camper (or very keen alcoholic) you might have some meths lying around that’ll work just fine

If they don’t bite properly after this clean up they’re probably contaminated with chain lube, Miracle shine, silicone spray or something like it. Don’t try and salvage them — they need to be replaced.

5. Buy new brake pads

Organic (AKA resin) pads offer the most power, but can wear out more quickly than sintered metal pads. The latter last better in wet conditions but have an unfortunate tendency to squeal and not offer full power until warmed up a bit. You takes yer choice and all that. If you’re wanting more power though, go resin/organic.

6. Improve your braking technique

Now you should polish up your technique, as this is the best way to maximise your braking. Read Fabien Barel’s braking tips.