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replacing the front brake pads

what you'll need:
Time needed: a half-hour or so

  • 14mm socket
  • #2 Philips screwdriver
  • needlenosed pliers
  • new front brake pads
Note: The SVS has two front rotors, and takes differently shaped pads for each. The front left pads are a mirror image of the front right pads. Make sure that you're buying the correct set.

Brake pad maintenance is one of those things that totally sneaks up on me. One minute, I'm checking the pads and they look fine; the next, I'm rounding a hairpin on Mines Road and wondering why I have to emergency brake in order to slow down. Don't be a complete putz like me. Stay on top of your brake pad maintenance. Remember to replace the brake pads as a set: there's one on each side of the disc. A new pack of pads contains two pads for a reason. Replace them both.

One final word of advice: my bike had three years of crap nested in amongst the brake pads, making this an extremely dirty procedure. Don't wear your favorite dress suit.

The front pads are a snap to swap. The SVS has two front rotors, and therefore two sets of pads, but I'll just describe the process for replacing one set. The other set will be replaced in exactly the same manner.

First off, remove the caliper by unbolting the brake caliper mounting bolts with a 14mm socket.

Turn the caliper so that you're holding it parallel to the ground. On the righthand side of the front left caliper (or the lefthand side of the front right caliper), you'll see a vertical pin with a cotter pin at its base. Remove the cotter pin with needlenosed pliers.

With the cotter pin removed, the vertical pin will slide out.

Once the pin is removed, the top pad will fall right out. The bottom pad fits around a post on the caliper; simply slide the pad off.

Before you throw out those nasty old pads, you'll need to remove a metal clip from the backside of the old top pad. It's held onto the pad by three little tabs; light outward pressure on a tab will pop off the clip.

Assemble all of your little metal brake bits -- the clip, the pin, the cotter pin -- and clean them off with some brake cleaner.

Once it's sparkly clean (or some reasonable approximation), snap the clip onto the backside of the new pad, making sure that the tabs line up poperly.

When I wrote up the procudure for swapping out the rear brake pads, a few Astute Readers wrote in to suggest removing the cap from the brake fluid reservoir. This, they told me, releases the vacuum on the brake fluid and makes it much easier to compress the pistons into the caliper. As always, my Astute Readers are spot-on.

So, the next thing you'll want to do is to remove the cap from the brake fluid reservoir. Be sure to lay a rag down, too -- you don't want fluid spilling onto your paint.

Carefully compress the pistons up into the caliper. If you push too quickly, brake fluid could spit out of the reservoir -- of course, you put your rag down, so it's not a catastrophe, but it's still inconvenient.

Once the pistons are seated back in the caliper, it's time to put the new pads in.

Slide the new bottom pad onto the caliper post and pivot the pad into place.

Next, fit the top pad into the caliper. Use the posts on the caliper and on the pad to line the pad up properly.

Once both pads are in place, slide the vertical pin through both pads and the caliper. Don't forget to replace the little cotter pin.

Bolt the caliper back onto the fork with your 14mm socket. Once it's tight, use a torque wrench to tighten the bolts to 39 newton-meters.

Now, go around to the other side of the bike and do the exact same thing to the other set of pads in the other caliper. After you're replaced both sets of pads, replace the cap on your brake reservoir. Give the front brake lever a couple of good squeezes so that the pistons pop out of the caliper and press against your new pads. I always walk the bike forward and backward a little bit, squeezing the brake lever periodically to make sure that the brakes do, in fact, stop the bike.

Again, remember that new brake pads are somewhat glazed, and won't have their usual emergency stopping ability for the first 50 miles or so. Ride cautiously during that break-in period.