Ultimate Motorcycle Brake Pad Buying Guide

While everyone likes to focus on engine power, few realize that the feel and control of motorcycle brakes are more important and improve the quality of the ride. The brake pads you choose for your motorcycle endure a substantial amount of strain and stress. To ensure your bike's safety and your own, you will need to replace them on time and choose brake pads that are the most suitable for your needs.

This Ultimate Motorcycle Brake Pad Buying Guide explains the difference between organic, sintered, and semi-sintered pads from top brands in the industry and can help you choose which suits you best. So… let’s get into it.

The Importance of Good Brake Pads

What’s stopping you? It’s not just our slogan, it's also a question for every rider who values safety and comfort in their riding experience.

For most riders, stopping is all they really hope to achieve when they pull the brake lever but throwing a metal bar in the spokes will stop you!

The key to good braking is the feel and control. You want to ensure you have control over your bike and enjoy a comfortable ride everywhere you go.

Different brake pads provide a different style of ride for every rider. Whether you are taking your motorcycle out on a track every weekend or just riding around the city once in a while, there's a different brake pad out there for you and your unique needs.

For example, organic pads will offer a nice progressive feel, and sintered pads will stop you with more power. The quality of the brake pads you use can be the difference between stopping unpredictably or stopping with complete control. The style of brakes that are right for you will depend on your preference, where you live, and how you use your bike.

Before we compare and contrast the different types of brake pads in our Ultimate Brake Pad Cheat Sheet, we need to talk about asbestos and how it affects the quality of the brake pad, and other factors that make pads “good” or “bad.”

Bad Pads: Contain asbestos, poor braking friction, create dust and noise, bad performance in either dry or wet conditions, and cause excessive rotor wear.

Good Pads: Asbestos free, work well in wet and dry conditions, have low levels of noise and dust, increase performance with shorter stopping distances, and are kinder to your rotors for longer life.

Asbestos in Brake Pads

Most quality motorcycle brake pad manufacturers haven’t installed asbestos-containing brake components since the ban in the 1990s due to health concerns for those that perform brake-related automotive repair or maintenance.

And yet, asbestos-containing products continue to present a health risk in the aftermarket industry in North America primarily due to high sales of low-cost, asbestos-containing brake parts from countries such as China and India.

In fact, between 1996 and 2006, the number of asbestos-containing imported brakes had increased by 83%, and the low-cost advantages of such imports have continued to drive their sales through the current day putting mechanics at an increased risk of asbestos-related disease. Some Chinese and Indian companies also use ceramic fibers that are carcinogenic. This makes them dangerous, if not more so than those with asbestos.

Asbestos worked well with cast iron rotors, but since the ban on asbestos in motorcycle brake pads, most rotors are now steel or stainless steel, which has led to the use and development of sintered metals to create new, safe brake pad compounds.

Basics of How Your Brakes Work

Common production of disc brakes began in the late 1970s, but the concept had been around for some time before it caught on. MV Augusta’s had a limited run of disc-style brakes in the 1960s. The earliest model, the Douglas Model RA with cable-operated calipers on rotors, launched in 1923. On motorcycles, approximately 70% of the braking effort is performed by the front brakes.

Most systems work by converting kinetic energy into thermal energy (heat) by friction via the brake pads and rotors with pressure applied through a hydraulic ratio system (We explain both calipers and rotors in other blogs).

Now that you have a solid understanding of the good and the bad, it is time to get into the nitty-gritty. We made a cheat sheet for the different types of motorcycle brakes, so you are ready to make an informed decision to work for you and your bike.

Three Types of Motorcycle Brake Pads Explained

Organic Brake Pad

Organic brake pads provide most applications with fingertip stopping power, superb feel, and control. Known as the ‘softer’ pad, they deliver a more progressive delivery of stopping power to the bike. One benefit of this pad material is that it pushes friction-generated heat back into the rotor and away from the caliper.

Organic pads are much kinder to rotors and not abrasive like sintered pads, which reduces rotor wear and tear. You will particularly appreciate this if you have an older classic bike that requires “hard to get” or expensive rotors. The downside of the organic pad is a shorter lifespan relative to ‘harder’ compound pads. Kevlar is an essential component in many organic brake pads. Other common ingredients are natural materials like glass, rubber, and resins that can withstand high heat but are softer in nature. In fact, high heat helps bind the brake pad materials together.

Organic pads are a top choice for individuals who aren’t taking their bike to the track every weekend or combating wet terrain every single day. They do better in areas of flatter terrain and less severe braking requirements.

Sintered Brake Pads

The majority of motorcycles today come with sintered pads as ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT (OE), and sintered pads remain the most common aftermarket replacement. Sintered pads are made by fusing the metallic particles under immense pressure and heat to create ultra-high friction coefficient for maximum stopping power and longer life. Common ingredients are iron, copper, steel, and graphite mixed and bonded to form the pad material.

One of the downsides of sintered metals is heat transfer through the pads. However, this is why the majority of quality sintered pads use stainless steel thermal insulation plates on the backs of the sintered brake pads. These brake pads are a common choice for the race track because racers tend to go heavier on the brakes when braking for turns. The same logic applies to individuals who live in the city or hilly terrain.

Semi-Sintered Brake Pad

Using the sintered high copper content with the organic high-density matrix compound combines the advantages of both worlds into the semi-sintered compound. These pads have a longer life than organic but retain a great ‘feel’ with lower heat transfer and less rotor abrasion.

Typically, they are made with a combination of metal particles and organic compounds for increased durability. These brakes are also great if you enjoy off-roading because they do well in wet and dry climates.

Brakecrafters’ Ultimate Brake Pad Comparison Chart

Noise Level:

How different pads are constructed will make them quieter or noisier when braking.
Organic Brake Pads
Quieter— Hate noisy brakes? It may be a sign you need organic brake pads. The soft material in organic pads makes these brake pads quieter than other options and more enjoyable in some instances.
Sintered Brake Pads
Louder— The metal construction of these brakes makes them louder by nature, especially if they’re either wet or really hot.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Moderate noise level - These brakes are much quieter than sintered brake pads, making them a great alternative for individuals desiring less noise than sintered pads.

Break-In Period:

All brakes have a break-in period during which, if you need to come to a stop, you need to put your bike in neutral. This avoids having to hold your brakes down unnecessarily or leaving any unwanted impressions on the brake pad after installation.
Organic Brake Pads
Break-In Period— With organic brake pads, the break-in period is shorter and you can get back to unrestricted riding more quickly
Sintered Brake Pads
Longer break-in time— We hate to break it to you (no pun intended), but you'll need to drive around for nearly 200 miles before this style of brake pad is completely broken in. If you’re riding everyday, this might go by faster than others who just ride for leisure.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Slightly less than sintered— Allows you to return to normal riding sooner than sintered pads, yet requiring greater break-in than organic.

Bite:

The speed at which the friction material reaches its maximum coefficient of friction when braking is initiated.
Organic Brake Pads
More Progressive Bite— This style of brake pad has a softer, more progressive bite with more coefficient friction that grows over time.
Sintered Brake Pads
Greater initial bite—The metal construction of these brake pads creates a stable coefficient of friction that quickly shifts from cold to hot. This means you don’t need to spend as much time warming up your brakes, before expecting good bite.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Not as much bite as Sintered—The combination of materials means you won't have as much bite when cold, so you will need to allow the brakes to warm up before expecting maximum stopping power

Wear On Rotors:

The hardness of the materials used will cause heavier or lighter wear on the rotors, which effects how often rotors will be replaced. Gentler brake pads won’t take away from the shine and aesthetic of your rotor, making them a great option for show bikes and those who wish to maintain the beauty of an antique rotor.
Organic Brake Pads
Very kind to rotors - You can rest assured knowing that organic brake pads won't wear on your rotor nearly as much as other brake pads. Making them a great option for individuals who aren’t looking to replace their rotor often or want to maintain the beauty of an antique rotor. They also won’t take away from the shine and aesthetic of your rotor, making them a great option for show bikes.
Sintered Brake Pads
More wear and tear on the rotor—Since the material of the brakes is so hard, they put more pressure on the rotor. Which can cause increased rotor wear. Are you just riding your motorcycle around town or looking for a low maintenance option? Organic might be a better fit.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Gentle on rotors—The fusion of organic compounds with metal particles makes these brakes gentler on your rotor and causes less ongoing maintenance.

Heat Transfers:

How well do the pads absorb the heat that results in the braking process?
Organic Brake Pads
Pushes heat back into the rotor—The organic brake pads push the friction-generated heat back into the rotor and insulate the pad from the caliper. However, this may result in fade if you brake for too long.
Sintered Brake Pads
More heat is conducted through the pads versus the rotor—The metal material is a heat magnet. This means these brake pads can get really hot, fast.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Less heat transfer— Since the pad materials are similar to the sintered less heat is transferred to the rotor.

Feel & Feedback:

Overall rating of how the brakes feel during a ride
Organic Brake Pads
Most feel and feedback— Making organic a good choice for riding conditions requiring less frequent heavy braking, like mountains or track days.
Sintered Brake Pads
Won’t fade at a higher temperature like organic pads—Unlike other options, they can handle the extreme heat caused by brake use. Making them great for the race track and individuals who use their bikes more often.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Greater ‘feel’ and feedback—With these brakes, you’ll feel in control. They provide a greater feel and more feedback, making them a more enjoyable ride while you’re out on the streets or the highway.

Life Span:

Some pads need to be replaced more often than others. Long bar indicates longer life.
Organic Brake Pads
Quicker wearing—Provided as the OEM pad on many new bikes for years, these offer great brake feel for less severe riding conditions, they will wear faster than semi sintered and sintered alternatives.
Sintered Brake Pads
Longer lasting—These are built to last, that’s why they’re the industry standard. No matter what types of conditions you encounter, they’re built to handle it all.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Longer life than organic—These brakes combine the best of both worlds, this means they have a longer lifespan than organic brakes.

Ability to Handle Wet Conditions:

The braking performance of brake pads and brake discs in contact with water. Long bar indicates less effect.
Organic Brake Pads
Not a great option in wet/muddy conditions— These brake pads don’t perform as well in wet and muddy conditions as in other conditions. They even build up a “glaze” on the outside of your brake pad, which will affect your braking ability over time.
Sintered Brake Pads
Better performance in wet conditions—The porous nature of the brakes makes them an optimal choice for wet conditions, so you won’t need to worry about the weather conditions. Whatever the weather these brake pads are a good choice.
Semi-Sintered Pads
Not designed for track use—Since these pads have organic linings, they won’t last as long as traditional sintered brake pads if you always stop and go, meaning they aren’t the top choice for the track.

Price:

Relative price of each type of brake pad.
Organic Brake Pads
The lower price option
Sintered Brake Pads
The higher price option
Semi-Sintered Pads
Higher cost than organic—These brakes are a happy medium. They tend to be more expensive than organic but cheaper than sintered. However, you won’t need to replace them as much as you would replace your organic brake pads.

BRAKECRAFTERS TOP CHOICES

EBC BRAKES—EBC Brakes is a world leader in motorcycle braking and technical innovation. All its sintered pads are manufactured in their fully ISO-compliant Ohio plant. While almost all other brake manufacturers still employ antiquated and cheap “Steel Fiber” based technology, filled with dirty and dusty carbon and coke granules, EBC leads the way in clean and advanced brake formulations.

Blending compounds with Aramid fibers give endless flexibility in a formulation unheard of with cheap bulky steel fiber competitor products. EBC’s large distribution center in Nevada ensures constant supply with up to 4000 parcels shipped per day.

GOLDFREN—Owned and developed by Spacek Product in the Czech Republic, the Goldfren S33 range offers the greatest amount of performance/price ratio in the industry. While motorcycles are its primary focus, Goldfren also produces brake pads for cars, race cars, aircraft, and industrial equipment such as cranes and other heavy machinery.

Utilizing a ceramic carbon to bind high ratio copper content gives a superb feel and feedback for a sintered pad and less wear on rotors than conventional sintered pads.

What we recommend

At the end of the day, every rider is different, so the brake pads you choose will also be different. For older ‘classic’ motorcycles and smaller-sized motorcycles for speeds slower than 70 mph we recommend the ORGANIC compound. EBC Brakes has used the E327 grade compound for 15 years, and it is their best-selling product - Both are ECE R90 approved and inclusive of the Nucap NRS hook retention system.

For riders looking for a little extra bite and more speed, EBC Brakes™ Semi-Sintered V-Pads™ is a new blended semi-sintered brake pad that combines the best qualities of an organic brake pad with the endurance of a sintered brake pad. The V-Pad range is designed for the heavy cruiser/street bike market as a replacement brake pad.

For the heaviest and fastest machines, either the Goldfren S33 or EBC HH-rated pads are the way to go. The greater performance and longer life make these pads a wise choice for faster street riding and OEM equivalence. EBC Double-H motorcycle brake pads are manufactured here in the US in their state-of-the-art Ohio plant. The Sintered Superbike Brake Pads perform well in both wet and dry weather conditions and have excellent longevity lasting for many miles.

Upgrade your ride today

When you upgrade your brake pads, you’re also upgrading the quality and feel of your ride. This means you’ll get more out of the experience every time you hit the road. If you are ready to get more out of your ride and upgrade your brakes, you’ve come to the right place. We have a wide selection of brake pads to choose from, suitable for every style of rider.
Shop our selection of brake pads today to get started.

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