GUIDE TO THE RIGHT PAD: DON'T UNDERESTIMATE IT OR YOU'LL REGRET IT

12/11/2019

 A guide to choosing the right pads for my bike: Choosing the right one, Sintered or organic? Track or street? High performance or low wear? Effective when cold or aggressive when hot?

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Anyone who owns a bike or scooter knows that their vehicle needs care and attention: brake pads are one of the components that are placed under the most strain and are stressed the most when you use your two-wheeler, so in addition to replacing them at the right time, you need to know how to choose the brake pads that are the most appropriate for your bike.​

To navigate through the various compounds, colors, abbreviations and types of pads, we are offering this in-depth technical information which we hope will be useful for all riders, not only during the maintenance phase, but also to help you better understand the secrets that lie behind certain performance or abnormal responses that may be encountered in the extreme use of a braking system.

The intention is to provide as thorough a guide as possible to help you choose your future Brembo pads. This is not as trivial a decision as you might think, because navigating through the numerous alternatives available on the market is anything but simple. In fact, as is also the case with discs and calipers, there is no universal solution. In other words, no single solution is better than the rest for every bike and in all conditions.

The compounds that are normally used in braking systems are classified in just two families - ORGANIC and SINTERED. The chemistry of the friction material naturally differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but in any case, the composition of the two families of compounds can be described in broad terms:​​


 

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Sintered pads are made up of metallic powders agglomerated through an adhesive-free sintering process: the friction coefficient depends on the metallic powders used. The lubricants added to the initial compound ensure consistent and jerk-free braking while the abrasives keep the discs clean, removing deposits from the braking band. ​
The organic pads category includes any pad that is not sintered, and this explains why both carbon-ceramic and carbon-tech pads are in this class. The bonding resins are their main element, but organic pads also contain lubricants and abrasives in order to ensure the same benefits the sintered pads offer.

The main reason a pondered decision must be made is that each compound is designed and tested to provide the best, not only in terms of performance, but also in terms of wear, comfort and stability in certain conditions of use.​

Each compound has its own specific field of application. This depends on the different situations a brake pad will encounter. Brembo has an answer for every need.​

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The performance of the compounds, which are very different from one another, can be described using two main parameters: efficiency and wear.

Efficiency (in other words, how much the pad brakes): this is expressed through the average friction coefficient and the stability of the friction measured at the main elements that characterize braking (speed, deceleration and temperature). This is detected through specific tests on the bench and on the vehicle.
Wear: this is expressed as the quantity of worn friction material (in mm of thickness or in volume) with respect to the number of braking operations executed (bench) or miles driven (vehicle). Efficiency and wear are generally correlated: the more efficient a compound is, the quicker it will wear. ​

The other aspect to take into consideration has to do with variations of the friction coefficient depending on the operating temperature. In fact, not all the compounds have the same efficiency at all temperatures. For example, the track compounds have a very high hot friction coefficient, but only after they reach temperatures like 660°F – 840°F can they be considered to have reached normal operating temperature.

Street compounds, on the other hand, are designed to work best at medium/low temperatures, more specifically around 570°F. So the latter, if used on the track and therefore excessively stressed, will suffer from the “fading” effect, in other words, deterioration of the friction coefficient: beyond a certain temperature, they will tend to lose efficiency.

Conversely, if you use Racing compounds on the street (and therefore with cold discs), the grip will not be very good and your braking distance may be a bit longer. The intermediate compounds are naturally a compromise between the situations described above. They will provide good performance in all conditions, although they will not excel at the two far ends of the operating temperature range.​

Therefore, before choosing the right pad, you need to think about how you use your bike and ask yourself what you want to get out of your new brake pads. ​

Brembo has structured its range of pads into five macro categories based on the use and type of the vehicle they will be used on: from Racing (for track use) to Road (for everyday street riding), from Off-Road to Scooter (no explanations necessary) all the way to Genuine (pads with the same material chosen by the bike manufacturer and developed for that specific application).

Within each category there are two to four alternatives, depending on the machining processes the various models are subjected to and the friction material that is used: the main division is between sintered and organic pads.​​


 

SCOOTERS

Brembo pads for scooters (2 and 3-wheelers) guarantee long life and operating stability in all conditions of use. They have been designed specifically for this type of vehicle, use in the city and the typical braking that comes with that, which is different than a bike. ​​​


 

 

 

 
  


The Brembo compounds available for scooters are the XS and CC: the first is sintered and designed specifically for maxi-scooters, in other words, higher performance scooters. The benefits are the high power, modular characteristics and high mileage, despite the fact that the friction coefficient is milder than the one used on bikes: its value is 0.48 at 122°F and it goes as high as 0.5 at 392°F before dropping back down to the original value. A further advantage of the XS is how easy it is to break in.​

The CC, on the other hand, uses organic material suitable for all scooters, therefore including small fifty cc scooters: it is preferred by those who do not need great braking power, but want good performance and, above all, want to ensure low wear. The longer life of the pad, combined with a low price, explains its mass popularity on the market. Unlike the XS, the CC uses the same organic material as the other Brembo pads for bikes.​

The dangers of the wrong choice​


What would happen if we were to use an XS pad on a small scooter? Having been designed for much heavier and faster vehicles, it would provide an overly abrupt response and would lose all of its modular characteristics. Wear would also increase disproportionately, forcing the owner to replace the pad after only a short time.​
Conversely, using a CC pad on a scooter with a large engine would result in a significant increase in braking distances: the pad in question was neither designed nor tested to sustain all the braking power that medium-large scooters need. ​

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THE ROAD​

On the other hand, for those who ride bikes, but only on the road, there are four pad variations: three are sintered, whereas the CC is organic. This latter variation is used by owners of more "docile" bikes, generally with engine displacement smaller than 400 cc: since they don't have to rein in a ton of horsepower and torque, they don't need great braking power. The friction coefficient is the lowest of the four. On the other hand, the CC is perfect for those who want softer and modular braking.​


Of the sintered pads, the only one specifically for the rear is the SP: one of its benefits is its consistent performance both cold and hot. This is demonstrated by its friction coefficient, which stays constant, despite the fact that the temperature varies between 122°F and 752°F. ​
For the front, on the other hand, you can choose between the SA and LA: the first, identified with red paint, has the highest performance of all the pads for road use. ​
For anyone who considers performance to be their lodestar, this pad is a must, also because it performs just as well for the occasional track day. The value of its friction coefficient increases as the pad heats up, surpassing that of the other pads for road use from 572°F to 752°F.​


 

If, on the other hand, you are a rider who places less extreme and more touring use of your bike ahead of pure performance, devouring tens of thousands of miles every year, the ideal choice is the LA pad: the good performance and stability characteristics come with an exceptionally long life. Suffice it to say that at the same mileage, the LA pads are still intact when the SA are already on their last leg. Confirmation comes in the form of the friction coefficient which is basically unchanged at 0.55 throughout the range that goes from 122°F to 752°F.​​

The dangers of the wrong choice​​


What would happen if we were to mount an SA pad on a small engine displacement bike, used only on the road? Having been designed to ensure top performance, two problems would arise: it could struggle to reach optimum operating temperature, generating spongy braking, or it could provide an overly abrupt response. In both cases, pad wear would be abnormal.​

Conversely, using a CC pad on a supersport bike would result in difficulty braking, especially from high speed: the pad in question is not suited to sustain all the braking power that these road rockets need. You would therefore find yourself with a bike that only performs halfway, despite having paid a high price for it: excellent in acceleration, deficient in braking.​

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OFF-ROAD​

Those who use their bikes on dirt and sand do not need great braking power, since they are unable to unload it all to the ground due to the lack of a stable surface. The three available compounds are designed to provide a good response without excessive braking action, and they can be used both on the front and on the rear.​


The Brembo compounds dedicated to off-road riding are made of material designed to guarantee maximum efficiency in the various conditions of use for off-road bikes, so cold, hot and in particular conditions (water, sand, mud) that require braking even at low disc temperatures. This is why the material’s resistance to external agents is particularly important.​
For those who practice sports like motocross or motard, the ideal solution is the SX, a sintered pad designed for racing: high aggressiveness and resistance to high temperatures are two of its strong points. On the other hand, for those who practice enduro or simply want a sintered pad that provides good performance and excellent modular characteristics, they'll need to opt for the SD.​


 

These two sintered pads are joined by an organic pad recommended for those who place high mileage ahead of absolute performance: the TT is made of semi-metallic carbon-ceramic and works just as well in the dry as it does in unpleasant atmospheric conditions. The friction coefficient always remains lower than the SD, but the difference never goes beyond 2 hundredths of a point.​

The dangers of the wrong choice​​


​​What would happen if we were to use an SX pad on an enduro bike at max cargo capacity (in other words, with all the bags loaded up and a passenger on the back)? Having been designed for more light and agile vehicles, it would struggle to slow down such a beast. Furthermore, while in competitions this pad provides its best performance once it reaches operating temperature, in touring, the long gaps between braking generates a drop in temperature which has an impact on braking efficiency.​

Conversely, installing a TT pad on a bike that is stripped to the bone, like those used in motocross and motard championships, would result in a mild braking response: at every braking section, the adversaries would have an advantage of a few yards because the TT lacks the braking power of the SX. Of course, the pad would need to be replaced less frequently, but in the race, winning is what counts, not saving.​

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RACING​

The main characteristics of this type of material are high friction and consistent performance, especially with high disc temperatures. These characteristics guarantee excellent and uniform braking for the entire duration of the race, making it less likely that the fading phenomenon will occur. This is why efficiency at low temperatures takes on less importance and, consequently, they are not recommended for street use. ​


Unlike the LA and SA pads, the versions for use on the track ensure high coefficients that increase with the operating temperatures. This means that they fall just below the Z04 pads, used by many riders in the World Superbike Championship.​
The highest performance version of this group is the organic RC pad, in carbon tech. The exceptional friction coefficient when hot guarantees powerful and stable braking, without the occurrence of the fading phenomenon (increased lever or pedal travel). This compound is available for all supersport bikes and for the most aggressive naked sport bikes.​


 

Similar to the RC but one step below is the SC: like its sibling, this pad is also manufactured exclusively for the front, because great power at the rear brake is not necessary. The SC is also stable in all conditions of use, but it is recommended for “light” track use and “sporty” street use. While the friction coefficient of the RC increases as the temperature rises, the SC friction coefficient is subject to highs and lows.​

The pads with Brembo Racing Z04 compound, on the other hand, are worthy of an entirely different conversation. These pads are used in the World Superbike and Supersport Championships and are now also available for street-legal applications.​
The range of high performance Brembo pads was developed exclusively for racing and designed to provide maximum performance in the most extreme competitions: more braking control, stability of the system, increased braking power, resistance to high temperatures and reduced wear.​


Brembo Racing Z04 pads are a true “Factory Pad” also available for the most common supersport bikes. This is why efficiency at low temperatures assumes a lower value and this pad is therefore not recommended even for occasional street use.​
The main characteristics of this type of material are high friction and consistent performance, especially with high disc temperatures. ​
These characteristics guarantee excellent and uniform braking for the entire duration of the race, making it less likely that the fading phenomenon will occur.​

The dangers of the wrong choice​


 

What would happen if we were to mount a CC pad on a supersport bike and use it on the track? From the very first braking section, all the other bikes on the track would fly past you because they would have a higher friction coefficient than yours by more than 40 percent. And, as if that weren't enough, with each passing lap, the system would overheat excessively, resulting in longer and longer braking distances until the system would fail entirely.​

In the opposite case, if you were to use an RC pad on the road mounted on a bike with limited weight and power, the result would be just as disappointing: braking response would be decidedly too abrupt, with the risk of flipping over at any time, and the on-off effect generated would take all the fun out of the ride. In addition to the disappearance of the modular characteristic, there would also be exaggerated wear which would force you to change the pad after a very short time. ​

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Now that you have a clear idea of all the differences between the different Brembo compounds that are out there, all that's left is to see which Brembo brake pads are available for your bike or scooter and where you can purchase them.​

 

Just go to the configurator (www.moto.brembo.com) and enter some simple information about your motorcycle such as brand, engine displacement, model and year. The configurator will search through the entire Brembo line and quickly indicate which Brembo products are available for the selected bike, even including the pad compounds.

 

Before you throw a leg over your bike with newly mounted Brembo pads, don't forget to break them in.​

The breaking-in period is extremely important for all compounds, and for the RC compound it is absolutely fundamental. This operation is performed through a series of light braking operations, leaving some time between them. ​This will complete a correct system heating and cooling thermal cycle. The break-in period depends on the type of compound: the break-in period for organic pads is longer than it is for sintered pads.

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Brembo S.p.A. | P.IVA 00222620163

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