Ask a Mechanic: Organic vs. Metallic Brake Pads

Bill asks: “I need new disc brake pads, but as I’ve never bought them before, I don’t know whether to buy organic or metallic pads.”

Great question Bill! At the end of the day, using organic or metallic pads tends to be more about personal preference, but here are a few general guidelines and reasons that you might look to one type of pad over the other.

First and foremost, organic pads, also known as semi-metallic or resin pads, are made of a much softer compound. This means that the pads will be quieter and will certainly not last as long as metallic pads. A major concern in using resin pads is their ride characteristics in wet conditions. Organic pads should not be used in wet conditions because they will offer very little, if any, braking power once wet. Organic brake pads will offer more initial bite during braking, but don’t deal with heat as well as metallic pads. Resin pads will fade faster than metallic pads on long descents, and under heavier riders.

For those looking for a bombproof, do-it-all option for brake pads, the answer is always metallic, or sintered, pads. During the winter months, or any time conditions are wet or muddy, metallic brake pads are a must. Even in the wettest and nastiest conditions, metallic pads still offer bite and power. Also, with the burgeoning “enduro” market, one reason to consider metallic pads over organic pads is because they resist brake fade under heavy braking loads and heat, making them very good for gravity-oriented riding. Aside from handling heat, these brake pads also last longer, meaning you’ll be buying brake pads less often.

Once you’ve settled on a brake pad that best suits your needs, simply pop out the old ones, and install the new ones. If you need help installing your pads, please reference our video on replacing disk brake pads. After all is said and done, all that’s left is to hit the trail.