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Bargain pads? No panic when it comes to Disco

Cheap pads but will they hold up?

Heading into winter in the UK means one of a few things for most people, most notably: 

1: It’s the end of the riding season
2: I’ll only ride on a nice day, on my terms, with the sun shining and no rain for a few weeks (go get a lottery ticket if you are waiting for that)
3: Bring it on this is what I bought the bike for!

UK winter is notoriously harsh on all the wearable parts of your bike. Bearings, brake pads and drive trains take a beating. If you have had summer on your pads, most likely they won’t see you through the whole winter. 

In any case, if you’ve been riding your bike more than you’ve been seeing your nearest and dearest lately, as is the case with any eMTB, it’s probably about time you checked your brake pads for wear.

Now, most people opt straight for manufacturers own brand for max compatibility and peace of mind. There are of course many other aftermarket brands to choose from. You, of course, pay a premium for SRAM’s own pads but these are a good brake pad that performs generally very well.

What a lot of people don’t realise about the bike industry and in fact many industries now is that most ‘branded’ components come out of the same factory as OEM parts. 

Enter Disco Brakes. These are quite simply the cheapest pads available at what seems like no degradation in quality from the other more expensive ‘branded’ equivalents. For example, Nukeproof ‘make’ brake pads when in fact it would seem they come from an identical supplier as Disco Pads, with nothing other than a packaging and price difference.

Cédric Gracia, enduro superstar and all-round Mountain Bike legend approved

I took my Levo this summer on the famous Coast to Coast ride from St. Bees near Whitehaven to Robin Hood Bay near Whitby in Yorkshire. A ride of over 225 miles with some very long, steady (and sometimes very fast) descents where I was hard on the brakes. One descent was so fast we could all smell the distinctive smell of brakes burning…

I was sent a pair of Disco Brakes’ most basic set of Semi-Metallic pads priced at £6.75. The only SRAM Original pad available is £17.99.  That’s a huge saving, but they are far from the same. All that was in stock with Disco, at the time they supplied me, was the cheapest pair of Semi-Metallic pads from Disco. SRAM does not offer Semi-Metallic so comparing on price and performance isn’t possible, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are the same. 

A Sintered pad from Disco is £8.79. So for a comparable SRAM pad from Disco, you save around £10, you save even more if you buy multiple units. 

Fitting the pads required a lot of fiddling as you get a bucket load of ‘pad’ for your money. This meant for me, even pushing the pistons right back using a piston tool I had to sand the pads quite considerably to get them to fit and not snag the rotor. Both on the front on the rear I would say it took me an hour to fit them. Now with a SRAM original part, whilst you get ‘less pad’ it slipped right on and needed no fettling. So whilst I got extra pad thickness from Disco, I had to remove a lot of it to get it to fit correctly. It was a pain in what is usually a simple job. It took me 10 minutes to change back out to a SRAM part.

The steed on the Coast to Coast ride

So onto the performance. They worked fine. That’s it. Please bear in mind these were Disco’s cheapest option so I felt they simply stopped the bike. Nothing more or less. There wasn’t much feel or modulation compared to the SRAM original brakes but here, of course, we are not comparing like for like. I only make the comparison I changed out my old pads as I was offered these as a test for review so the SRAM original pads are my benchmark.

If you’re expecting good feel and stopping power from the pad then these aren’t the pads for you, but they have many that will be. I needed a lot of power through my fingers to stop with virtually no modulation or bite. I lost a lot of the feel I had from my old SRAM Pads but then both were different compounds. Hence why I state I didn’t love them, and wouldn’t buy this compound. 

Looking through the Disco range the Sintered pads which compare to SRAM fitted pads these come in at £8.79 and Nukeproof £11.99 

Nukeproof SRAM pads look exactly the same from the same factory just branded differently and priced accordingly.

In summary, don’t swap out your existing SRAM pads for Disco’s cheapest option and expect it to perform the same. If you match the compound I am sure they would perform similar, only you save money. How much fettling to fit them I don’t know. You may have no issue, it may take you an hours sanding and fiddling time. 

In terms of the first try of a set of very affordable replacement pads heading into Winter if you’re on a budget it’s certainly worth looking at. I guess it comes down to how much you value your time and are prepared or able to modify them or the pistons if pads are too thick and need adjusting. You local bike shop are unlikely to fit these for you for free negating the cost-saving so it’s down to you, and how handy you feel. 

Heading right up the pricepoint and performance charts on Disco’s website they beat Manufacturer’s hands down every time on price and most other comparables bigger ‘branded’ replacement pads which, by all visual inspections, seem like they have come from the same factory. 

https://www.discobrakes.com/?s=0&t=10&q=compounds&

They have multiple different compounds suitable for any taste, I just tried the most basic one so it’s hard to give a balanced opinion on the other compounds but they were a very cheap set of pads that got me through a long week of varied riding. I just never felt like these were anything more than cheap pads, but then these aren’t trying to be anything more. In essence, they did as they promised it was just a little bit of a faff to get them onto the pistons without rubbing the rotor with everything fully released. 

I changed the Disco’s out for SRAM for the MEGAVALANCHE just because I wanted a fresh set ready for the whole week. As soon as I did I could feel the difference, I had the SRAM fitted as part of a bike service rather than insisting on them, but at the next change or if I get offered anymore, I’ll probably try one of Disco’s other compounds as £9 as opposed to £18 is a good discount if they perform, but I will report back on that.

Now I won’t go into compounds, feel, the applicability of each compound to each use case, but needless to say, did these work as advertised? 

In a word, Yes. 
Did I love them? No. 
Would I buy them? Yes. But not this set, but Disco Pads yes, when I need a new set.

4
Conclusion
All in all four stars out of five simply due to value. Loss of 1 star as they weren’t the easiest to fit. This compound was a budget one but their other compounds are well worth a look if you don’t mind changing your own pads and fancy a punt on a bargain. If you just want to grab the handle and stop as cheaply as possible then this is the pad for you. If you want a bit more, it’s only cost you a bit more...and a lot less than SRAM.
  1. I’ve been running Disco pads on all my bikes recently and agree completely with your review.
    Yes, they’re a little bit too fat, but honestly it doesn’t take me any longer to fit them. I just put up with a tiny bit of brake drag for the first couple of rides, then they’re perfect.
    Performance, as you say is average and wear life is good for the cheapest semi-metallic compound, and for the price I’m not sure you can beat them.
    I recently tried their kevlar compound (because they’d run out of my go-to semi-metallic cheapskate option), and they do offer a decent chunk more stopping power as advertised, with no noticeable downsides.
    I don’t look for a pad to give me more stopping power, as going up 20mm on rotor size is guaranteed ~10% more power, whereas getting performance pads might cause inconsistent performance (I’d rather have consistently average, than occasionally brilliant), however if you do want more performance, then the Kevlar option does seem to work. I would quite like to try Ceramic Hard, but they never have them in stock.
  2. It comes as shock to some people that rotors do wear out. But even for those that know they wear, it can still come as a shock just how fast they can wear.

    On my Norco Sight 1 clockwork bike, I had original equipment Shimano XT IceTech RT-81 discs with finned resin pads, 180mm & 160mm.

    I have a "G" type micrometer so I can measure into the centre of the area of the disc that is swept by the pads. After just over two sets of pads, the front disc was worn down to the limit of 1.5mm on a 2.5mm thick disc (ie 40% wear). After about two and half sets of pads, the rear disc was worn down to below the 1.5mm level and was scrap. That was after 2306 miles on the bike. I replaced both discs.

    I only thought to measure the discs because I could feel a ridge with my thumb nail that was much bigger than I thought it should be. The "F" type calipers would be useless for this type of measurement.

  3. Apparently the ceramic pads have low rotor wear:

    Red Ceramic Compound – Hard

    Also known as Compound D (Ceramic Hard)

    Harder than ordinary pads. This is the highest density, hardest, ceramic compound for performance and longer lifetime. These organic disc brake pads contain a high amount of ceramic fiber, which insulate the brake system from friction heat up to 400oC.

    Advantages: Better performing and longer lasting than medium pads

    Details
    Upgrade on original fitted pads
    DIN 79100 Standard Approved
    Organic Compound contains no metal material
    Reduces damage to rotor
    Carbonized compound reduces brake fading
    Ceramic Fiber insulates brake system from friction heat

    Advantages: Longer lasting than Black Ceramic pads
    Disadvantages: More expensive than Black Ceramic pads and not as grippy
    Suitable For: XC, DH (low brake use)
    Conclusion: Advantages of a Ceramic Pad with Longer Life

    Rotors: Ceramic pads cause less damage to rotors than metallic compound pads.

  4. Apparently the ceramic pads have low rotor wear:

    Suitable For: XC, DH (low brake use)

    :unsure:.. wouldn’t any pads, have the same effect, with the above usage? Why specify low brake use? Is this to stop the rotors from glazing, or warping, should you hang onto them for too long? They may create less brake dust, however do they create less ‘rotor’ dust?

    Personally, I wouldn’t use anything ceramic, whether it be black, red, or even sky blue pink, given what ceramic does, within bearings. Ceramic is more durable, as it eats whatever it is, surrounding it, in terms of races etc. I appreciate, bearings and rotors, are completely different entities entirely though..

  5. I have some Noah and Theo "ceramic" pads waiting to go on when I’ve finished my "ScReAM" testing.

    I skipped my usual weeks of procrastinating and research and just clicked "Buy" … it was lovely.

    Apparently they’re semi metallic ceramic sintered pads … so they might be crap .. and they might destroy my disks … but in this case, I’m going for ignorance is bliss :)

  6. I have some Noah and Theo "ceramic" pads waiting to go on when I’ve finished my "ScReAM" testing.

    I skipped my usual weeks of procrastinating and research and just clicked "Buy" … it was lovely.

    Apparently they’re semi metallic ceramic sintered pads … so they might be crap .. and they might destroy my disks … but in this case, I’m going for ignorance is bliss :)

    Oh man.. Why didn’t you opt for the, semi organic metallic ceramic sintered pads, that were (probably) only one click away, from your lack of procrastinating, choice above? :rolleyes:

  7. Oh man.. Why didn’t you opt for the, semi organic metallic ceramic sintered pads, that were (probably) only one click away, from your lack of procrastinating, choice above? :rolleyes:

    I probably should have … But I thought they said "semi orgasmic" and I have enough trouble staying on the bike as it is 😀🤩

  8. You might have done well to consider, that with the added enhancement of your semi, it may prevent you going OTB, when you are next venturing out? Given that the weather is also on the turn, it well be just enough to act as an impromptu handlebar ‘anchor’ & save you, from getting your glasses knocked off, mid flight..
  9. You might have done well to consider, that with the added enhancement of your semi, it may prevent you going OTB, when you are next venturing out? Given that the weather is also on the turn, it well be just enough to act as an impromptu handlebar ‘anchor’ & save you, from getting your glasses knocked off, mid flight..

    You are wise OB118 !

    At least semi orgasmic pads won’t be as messy as fully orgasmic pads. I’ll have to give this more thought, maybe bringing my 5th limb into a more proactive riding role could, as you suggest, save me from a few off’s !

  10. been riding with disc brakes for years at least 15 and never thought to check the rotors for wear TBH. Oh well new thing to get paranoid about :)

    Haha. Join the club. To be fair if you’re running solid steel rotors you’ve got a lot less to worry about than IceTech which contain Aluminium cheese in the middle.

  11. :unsure:.. wouldn’t any pads, have the same effect, with the above usage? Why specify low brake use? Is this to stop the rotors from glazing, or warping, should you hang onto them for too long? They may create less brake dust, however do they create less ‘rotor’ dust?

    Personally, I wouldn’t use anything ceramic, whether it be black, red, or even sky blue pink, given what ceramic does, within bearings. Ceramic is more durable, as it eats whatever it is, surrounding it, in terms of races etc. I appreciate, bearings and rotors, are completely different entities entirely though..

    It’s true that things just don’t add up…
    Is it just an insulating layer of ceramic near the backing plate? Maybe that would explain why it is advertised as kind to the rotors.
    I don’t get why they advertise the superior heat insulation properties when the use case is XC/light DH. I’ll stay clear of them and stick to the semi-metallic ones which have never let me down.

  12. I use the sintered because they seem to last way longer especially in the wet. I have bad technique and use the rear more so the sintered work well for that. On the front the kevlar are stronger and more responsive, currently i have the soft ceramics on the front and they are fine, both are quiet. It does require fiddling to install, but i just bleed and clean/move the pistons and it works with no sanding
  13. Lol, i buy mine sintered (gold) from AliExpress brand “Bikein”. They are good for regular trails and the cheapest ever. Not suited for enduro/DH.

    The sintered doesnt make any noise, brake good in all conditions and last pretty long.

  14. The comments on Ceramic pads are interesting. There are many different formulas for ceramic pads just like there are for conventional pads, and again if one was to look at carbon fibre pads they too have different compounds.
    MTB pad technology is really not too different from what is currently used in many other sports.
    We tried CF pads and disks on GP motorcycles years back and found they were not a viable option as they did not keep enough heat even with disk covers (today with the heavier MotoGP bikes that is not as much of an issue. However with CF pads and carbon-steel rotors we achieved significant gains over the conventional pad materials. At that stage ceramics were slightly more powerful than conventional materials but had less feel. Today that is not the case and ceramic pads have power and feel. Ceramics are actually used on many automobiles today so you don’t get the horrible brake dust on your nice, shiny mag wheels.

    With MTB I think there is a lot of misinformation around pads.
    I see organic, sintered and semi-metallic listed and while that is mostly correct there is often little explaination.
    All conventional brake pads are based on ‘organic’ material. Sintered are basically organics with fine metallic ‘dust’ (or grains) included in the compound. Semi-metallics are a blend just like sintered, but use a much higher percentage of metal and the grains are of a much larger size. It is not uncommon for some semi-metallics to be referred to as Metallics as they use the larger metallic grains added to the sintered compound.

    With Ceramic pads, instead of adding metal to achieve a harder and more wear resistant pad they change the compound to allow higher temperatures.

    With brake pads the basic guidelines are:
    Organic: Softer material that gives better ‘feel’, however they wear a lot faster – especially in winter conditions.
    Sintered: A harder material that gives slightly less feel that organics, but give much better performance when doing lots of braking from high speeds (such as downhill … or using a heavier bike such as an eMTB).
    Semi-metallic: Harder then sintered these tend to squeal a lot more, but are much better in gritty, muddy conditions.

    Remember – the harder the pad the quicker they will wear out your rotors.

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