MC Garage Video: Motorcycle Brake Pad Options Explained

Organic, semi-metallic, or sintered—which brake pads are right for your motorcycle?

When it comes time to replace your brake pads, you’re going to be faced with a decision. What kind do you get? When it boils down to it, you have three different compounds to choose from: organic, semi-metallic, and sintered pads.

Sintered metal pads are far and away the most common, and they’re what come stock on the majority of modern streetbikes. The term sintered refers to the production process, which uses extreme heat and pressure to fuse a powdered bronze puck to the backing plate. Sintered pads offer strong bite, loads of stopping power, and excellent fade resistance, making them ideal for aggressive street and track riding. Sintered pads tend to be more expensive than semi-metallic or organic pads, but with better performance and longer life, the cost is usually worth it. Sintered pads also require a little heat to perform their best, but even so they offer the best performance and work well in a variety of conditions.

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How To Ready Your Rotors For New Brake PadsPhoto: Spenser Robert

At the other end of the performance spectrum are organic brake pads. Unlike sintered pads, which are entirely metal, organic pads have very minimal metallic content. What little metal organic pads do contain is going to be non-ferrous stuff like copper, tin, or aluminum, and it’s sprinkled in there to improve wear and friction stability. The rest of the puck is a blend of rubber, glass, or aramid fiber mixed with a heat-resistant binding resin.

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Brake Fluid Grades ExplainedPhoto: Spenser Robert

Organic pads are fairly soft, so they offer a gentler initial bite, lots of feel at the brake lever, they’re really quiet, and they’re exceptionally easy on rotors. They’re easy on your wallet, too, because unlike the organic eggs at the supermarket, organic brake pads are quite inexpensive. However, organic pads have a shorter service life compared to semi-metallic or sintered pads and tend to fade with aggressive use. Organic brake pads are most commonly found on older (pre-1990s) bikes, but you might slot them into the caliper on the back of your sportbike if you want gentler response.