How low can you go... and still stop?

With the spring mountain bike race season quickly approaching, it was time to get prepped for the "Shoot out at Angler's Ridge" in Danville, VA.  Upon deciding to race and realizing it would be muddy (horrifically muddy is what we discovered when we got there), I decided it would be a good call to tune up and check over my trail rig.  Everything checked out, with the exception of some rather low brake pads.  Figuring that the level of wear was suitable for one more big trail ride, I thought a 28 mile race would be fine considering there were no substantial descents...boy was I wrong!  The 6.5 mile laps were simply a mud bog, and it was clear the race should have been called off early that week.  For the 3 laps (reduced from 4, either for the sake of the riders, or the trails) all I could hear was the grit in my rear brake wondering just how bad the wear back there would be.  When I got home to clean the bike I found a nice set of brass brake pads, yes brass!  The brass is part of the backing plate the pad materiel is bonded to, in order to hold everything together.  They use brass because it is softer than steel and won't hurt your rotor AS BADLY as other metals, though riding with brass for brake pads won't help you stop and will cause premature rotor failure.  Below are a few pictures and rules of thumb to follow when wondering just how long you can go on your brake pads.  Remember, with all new brake pad there will be a "Burn In" process where your new pads break in with the rotor.  Your brakes will feel noticeably weaker for anywhere from 10-30 good stops.  Just don't go trying to lock up the brakes or the pads will burn into the rotors unevenly. 

Brake pad wear, from left to right:  Brand new, Worn (should be replaced), and Nothing Left.

Brake pad wear, from left to right:  Brand new, Worn (should be replaced), and Nothing Left.

Use the spring clip that helps hold your brake pads in place as an indicator for brake pad wear.  Here is a brake pad that would have one or two good rides on it (or one lap at Danville).

Use the spring clip that helps hold your brake pads in place as an indicator for brake pad wear.  Here is a brake pad that would have one or two good rides on it (or one lap at Danville).