I have recently have purchased my first ever bike with disc brakes, I wanted to know the basics, the dos and don'ts, and to understand stuff I hear like contaminating disc brakes, what does this, how can I stop this and any other things I should know about my hydraulic disc Brakes?

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    – Criggie
    Aug 22, 2021 at 9:43

2 Answers 2


I feel like some bits are missing from the previous answer. To give you a bit more perspective, I'll try to order them by importance:

• Don't get oily contaminants (hands or lube), onto the rotors or pads. This is fairly obvious, but as mentioned in the comments v-brakes will be more resilient to oily grime than discs. It also means that you should not just use any kind of chemical to clean your discs. I personally clean mine with rubbing alcohol and am wary about additives that might degrade the pads or leave a coating.

• Break in your pads properly. I am surprised this one did not come up. If your pads are new, do not overheat them. You could otherwise "glaze" the pads: A mirror like finish at the surface, which reduces stopping power. More about this

• Depending on the quality of your brakes be mindful of having them get too hot in general. Some brakes will lose stopping power when they get too hot (a brake is a device than turns kinetic energy into heat). Some other brakes MIGHT STOP working because of extreme heat (brake oil starts boiling resulting in mushy levers). To mitigate this, brake in "bursts" when possible.

• Don't actuate the lever without a rotor or a spacer in, the brake caliper pistons could come off or leak some oil.

• Good disc brakes do not require much maintenance, but you might need to bleed them every once in a while. This depends on so many factors (oil kind, usage, humidity) that it is difficult to predict when this could be a necessity. Keep in mind that if your levers get mushy or get too close to the handlebars, you will probably need to do it/have it done.

Disc brakes are truly amazing provided you pay attention to the aforementioned points.

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    Of course, issues with hydraulic fluid (especially it boiling, causing brake fade) are totally eliminated if you use mechanical disk brakes. :)
    – Armand
    Aug 25, 2021 at 7:27
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    @Armand Yes and no :) You won't get mushy levers, but braking efficiency could still be greatly reduced if the brake becomes too hot. Aug 25, 2021 at 11:30
  1. Don't bend the rotor (unless it's bending with a proper tool to unbend some earlier bending damage)
  2. Don't touch the rotor when hot
  3. Ideally don't touch the rotor braking surfaces even when cold as skin oils can slightly degrade braking
  4. Don't let any oils or other nonvolatile liquids on the brakes
  5. The pads wear out very fast, many times faster than on rim brakes, so you'll need to learn how to change them yourself (you may find some information about the differences of organic resin pads vs sintered metal pads)
  6. If the front wheel has a quick release as opposed to thru axle, check that it's tight before every ride
  7. Don't actuate the lever with the wheel off the bike. When transporting the bike with the wheel off, use a pad spacer.
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    At #5: Simply NO. #3 and #4 are true with any brake as well as #5 for checking the wheel fasteners.
    – Carel
    Aug 22, 2021 at 19:35
  • @Carel #3 and #4 are fair in my opinion. Due to the high forces and hard braking materials, oil seems to contaminate disc brakes worse than rim brakes. The sintered or bonded pad construction is also much more porous than a solid rubber block (rim brake pads).
    – MaplePanda
    Aug 23, 2021 at 0:23
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    3 and 4 are fair, but 5 is a plain nonsense. Aug 23, 2021 at 4:43
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    @Carel: I’ve had chain lube get on the rear rim brake surface plenty of times. Maybe I just have enough dirt on my braking surfaces to soak it up :D
    – Michael
    Aug 23, 2021 at 11:06
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    @Zeus it has been documented that the asymmetric torque from disc brakes can cause QR wheels to come out of the dropouts. Riders with QRs + discs should exercise more caution. With rim brakes, braking by itself won’t loosen the QR. the answer is not wrong on this score.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Aug 24, 2021 at 11:39

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