Brake Pad Performance In The Wet

Last Updated on May 10, 2021

Can Rain Affect Your Brake Pads?

Rim brakes and water aren’t known for going well together. When the rims and brake pads get wet, almost zero bike-stopping friction is created no matter how hard you squeeze the levers which can make riding in the rain very risky. In which case it’s useful to know what happens to your brakes and how you can prevent any accidents.

The trick is to anticipate the need to slow or stop and be much more alert than you normally would be. Apply the brakes much earlier than normal so water is wiped from the rims and pads and be sure not to squeeze too hard. Just hold the rubber against the metal like a squeegee.

Tips For Braking In The Rain

Road safety is obviously important and so we think it’s important to have some rough guidelines to follow next time you’re out cycling in the rain:

Slow down at a steady pace

As it takes longer to slow down in the rain you should accommodate this by slowing sooner than you normally would. Especially as slamming down your brakes won’t make you stop as quickly as you’ll need.

Make sure you have enough brake pad

Your brake pads will wear away in the rain so you should try to maintain a decent amount of rubber before riding. You can also buy brake pads especially suited to wet conditions.

Ditch the carbon

We’d recommend opting for rims with an aluminum braking surface. While it’s true carbon performs just as well in the rain, the cork brake pads needed for carbon rims aren’t ideal.

Drag brakes lightly on the rim

Doing this helps clear any excess water off the surface of your rim.

Replace brake Cables

Old brakes aren’t as big of a deal when it’s dry but you’re going to notice the difference once it starts pouring. Brakes become significantly less responsive and so replacing old brake cables is going to make you feel a lot more ease knowing you won’t keep rolling down that steep incline when you need to stop.

Braking on painted lines

The white lines become much more slippery when it’s raining so avoiding this is the way to go.

Stay careful once the rain stops

Once there’s no more water on your wheel your braking performance is going to improve tenfold but just because the rain has stopped it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. the ground will still be wet and potentially slippery so practice everything above until you can see that it’s bone dry.

Common Misconceptions

Riding in the rain is much different from when it’s dry and so over the years, there are some misconceptions that have arisen about how to improve brake performance.

Soft and Hard Pads Have a Lot of Differences

First off, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ aren’t actually terms that are used, at least not commonly. The closest thing to soft and hard is the compressibility of the pad. A pad’s compressibility is tested at the factory when it’s manufactured and it can impact the feel of your brakes, but it is by no means a measure of braking ability. ‘Soft’ and ‘Hard’ are more likely to refer to the type of friction a brake pad creates when it comes in contact with the rotor.

Brake Pads Need A Warmup

The brakes on your average street vehicle produce enough friction to stop your car even at cold temperatures so this one just isn’t true. It doesn’t matter if they are cold or hot; your brakes will bring your car to a stop either way.

Wet Rotors Increase Brake Time

On average you’ll take around three times longer to brake on wet roads than on dry roads, but contrary to popular belief, this isn’t down to any part of your brake system being damp. Any water on your rotor is going to be chucked away by the spinning wheels. As rain falls and mixes with oil, grime, and water, the roads become slicker, and you lose traction. So, your braking time is down to the roads as opposed to your brakes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do bike brakes work in the rain?

Stopping safely is trickier in the rain. The roads are generally more slippery so braking distance shoots up, and your brakes won’t work as well. Among other things, your rim brakes can deteriorate rapidly in the rain.

Can brake pads get wet?

So, can brakes get wet? Of course! But it’s generally not a problem, especially with most modern bikes. Getting wet brakes while you’re cycling will usually be sorted naturally by riding as the spinning of your wheels is enough to get rid of any unwanted water. It’s the surface you’re riding on that you want to be warier of.

Why do bicycle brakes not work well in the rain?

In the wet, rim brakes are not as effective as disc brakes. That said, remember that the coefficient of friction between your tire and the wet pavement is about half of that in dry conditions. Wet rim brakes can compensate for that.

How do you brake in the rain?

You want to avoid slamming on your brakes when it’s raining. So you should break with less force, but be sure to keep plenty of distance between you and any cars, people, or turnings as you never know if your bike is going to respond in the way you want.

Why are disc brakes better in the wet?

Disc brakes are more effective as they are designed to be compact and shielded, thus are less exposed to rain falling from above, unlike rim brakes which will have rain falling directly onto them.

Summary

So, there you have it. A brief guide detailing the differences between riding in dry and wet conditions but more importantly, how it affects your braking performance.

While you may think there are tons of precautions to take before going for a ride while it’s soaking wet, there are only a few things to bear in mind:

  • Make sure your brakes work and aren’t old or faulty
  • Slow down and be aware of what’s going on
  • Brake sooner and more carefully

While there are other factors that play a role in your safety these are the easiest and most effective things you can implement.

So, next time you go out. Be sure to check your brake performance and stay safe on your trails.

Keep pedaling!

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