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Glazed and Confused

Poor Brake Performance

Poor brake performance got you baffled? It could be glazed brake pads and rotors.

Top braking performance relies on friction—in other words, the brake pad’s ability to grab onto the metal brake rotor. When that ability is compromised, brake performance can go by the wayside faster than that turn entry point you just blew past.

Healthy brake pads have a certain degree of designed-in flexibility. They are made to be soft enough to squeeze against a spinning brake rotor with great force. That pliability also makes them grip well at lower speeds and cooler temperatures. But if brakes are pushed beyond their limits, they can build up more glaze than a Dunkin’ Donut®.

What is brake glazing?

Quite simply, brake glazing or “crystallization” is hardening of the brake friction material due to excessive heat. To complicate matters, the hard glazing typically transfers from the pad surface onto the brake disk. That means the friction component is significantly diminished, resulting in reduced braking performance and often a noticeable brake shudder or vibration when brake pad material builds up unevenly on the disk. You may also see cracks or fractures on the brake pads.

What causes it?

Heat. Or rather, too much of it. Brake pads are engineered to work in a designated temperature range. Brake glazing occurs when the brakes are pushed beyond the temperature limits of the friction material. Riding or “dragging” the brake, or repeated hard, rapid braking from speed can overheat the brakes enough to cause glazing. A sticking caliper can also create brake drag that can overheat brake material. Sport riders or racers who place great demands on brakes can easily overcook stock, OEM pads.

So, what’s the solution?

There is no shortage of suggested techniques to salvage glazed brakes. But make no mistake; there is no saving brake pads that have become hardened through, cracked or show signs of crazing. Since brakes are critical components, it’s best to cowboy up and replace brake pads with new, high-performance pads designed for your bike and for your riding style. But take one important step first. Determine the reason your brakes are glazing in the first place so it doesn’t happen again.

  • Is it your riding style? If you tend to ride the brakes, overuse the rear brake or are being overly aggressive with panic stops, try smoothing out your technique.
  • Is it mechanical? This is a good time to check the function of your entire braking system to be sure all moving parts are, well, moving properly (such as caliper pistons and rods).
  • Is it the brake pad design? If you place high demands on brakes by riding competitively, riding in extreme conditions, or by carrying excessive loads, you may want to consider a higher performance brake pad that is designed to operate at higher temperatures. Whether you’re a weekend adventurer, a long-distance tourer or hardcore racer, you can find a broad selection of choices for your machine at Sunstar-Braking.com.

Need some help selecting the right brakes for your needs? Reach out to us here.

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