My son is new to comuting by bicycle. He brought a brand new bike and after just one week was having problems with the brakes. He only rides approximately 6–8 miles a day. Halfords advised that his brakes need replacing. Is this right?
On Rim Brakes:
I'd be surprised if you managed to wreck a set of brake pads in a week (or even several hundred miles in nasty commuting weather). Off road riding (MTB, cyclocross, etc.) can chew through a set of pads within a ride or two though depending on the terrain and the technicality of the ride. If they're trying to sell you new pads on a bike (instead of possibly adjusting them), I'd be very suspicious.
You can tell if you need new pads by either (a) the pads have been on there for a few years and the rubber has hardened up and they aren't working or (b) if its due to wear,
new pads look like the top , old pads look like the bottom [the grooves should be nearly gone] (Image from here).
[The bottom pads have a lip on them, which indicates that they weren't aligned properly to begin with. If your pads have just developed a lip, you can cut it off and use the pad as normal after re-aligning the pad.]
If they want to replace the whole brake, then there may be something wrong with the brake that you haven't mentioned (bent brake arm, or something).
On Disc Brakes: If the bike has disc brakes, one reason why the pads may need to be replaced is if they have gotten oil on them, in which case they do need to be replaced (and the rotors cleaned).
In all cases: You should really go back and ask them why they want to replace the brakes/brake pads to begin with. Pictures of the situation would help too.
Just to give you a boundary case on how quickly pads can and do wear have a look at my current bike:
I replaced my rear brake pads in Nov 2012. It is now almost March 2013 - so 4 months have passed. My rear brake pad is totally worn and riding metal on metal. I am going to replace it next weekend.
Here are my stats:
- 4 Months Riding
- 30 Days/month
- 1.1 KM commute (each way)
- Work 5 days a week
Distance due to commuting: 95 KM
It is possible that I have ridden an equal distance running other errands, but I would think that I am over estimating the "Other distance".
So, Total Distance on a single pair of brake pads: between 100 and 200 KM.
Circumstances making the pads wear out faster:
Winter - The roads are sandy/snowy/slushy and wet. I assume that (despite having fenders) that my pads are getting lots of shit on them. I assume the rims are picking up the crap and dumping it on the pads.
Intersections - I cross three major intersections on the way to work. I (almost) always need to come to a complete stop at these and usually track stand for several minutes until the light changes. I am wondering if locking my back brake during track stands is causing excess wear.
Low quality Pads - I am not sure if I bought cheap pads. Bought them at MEC (Canadian equivalent to REI). They only had one choice in stock.
Lack of maintenance - Rather than cleaning pads or my rims on my beater winter bike, I prefer to do a full bike service once or twice a year. I guess that if I cleaned the pads more frequently they may last longer. I am not convinced however. I think as soon as they hit the road they would be full of salt again. My city loves to layer salt onto the road.
Just to be clear I would expect pads to normally last longer. I am merly saying that it depends on a variaty of factors including:
- Amount of stops/KM
- Quality of Pads
- Quality of Rims (smoother rims may make pads last longer?)
- Road conditions
- Other things - track stands using rear brake?