Bike disc rotors are a crucial component of a bike’s braking system and play a vital role in stopping and slowing down the bike. Proper maintenance of the rotors is essential to ensure that they are working correctly and efficiently. However, like all bike parts, rotors will eventually wear out and must be replaced. This article will discuss key signs that it’s time to replace your bike disc rotors and provide sizing information. Let’s get into it.
How Often Should You Replace Bike Disc Rotors?
In general, bike disc rotors should be replaced every two to three years, depending on how often you ride and the type of terrain you frequent. If your bike is subjected to extreme conditions such as mud or gravel, it may need to be replaced more often. Additionally, if you ride your bike frequently or do a lot of downhill biking, rotors may need to be replaced as often as once a year.
When It’s Time To Replace Your Disc Rotor?
Several situations may indicate that it’s time to replace your bike disc rotors. If you notice any of the following signs and scenarios, then it’s time to purchase new rotors:
1. Worn Out Disk Brake Rotors
Treating disc brake rotors as ‘fit and forget’ components is understandable since they typically last long. They do, however, have minimum thicknesses as recommended by manufacturers. Shimano’s rotors begin at 1.8mm thick and should be replaced when the braking surface has been reduced to 1.5mm – you can find this information on the rotor itself where it reads “Min.TH=1.5”.
For SRAM rotors, the initial thickness is 1.85mm, and some 140mm rotors are 1.9mm. It is time to replace them when they reach a minimum of 1.55mm. If you are unsure of the recommended minimum thickness for your disc brakes, then check the details provided by the manufacturer.
A visual cue that your brakes are overdue for a replacement is if you can cut ham with them. This indicates that they are far too worn down to be still used. For your safety, replacing them before they reach this point is better. So pay attention to the condition of your rotors and always make sure to have replacements ready when needed.
Another sign that your disc rotors could need replacement is the presence of a small step between the braking surface and the rest of the rotor. However, we suggest taking accurate measurements with a micrometer, vernier caliper, or disc brake caliper to ensure. This is the most effective way to tell whether it needs changing.
Estimating the mileage of a disc rotor is not easy because the wear and tear it experiences depends on many variables. These include the type of rotor, the kind of pads used, the rider’s weight and braking habits, terrain ridden, typical conditions, maintenance, and more. Therefore, replacing your rotors as soon as they reach minimum thickness is important, as safety should always come first.
2. Bent Disc Rotors
If your disc rotors are bent or warped, you must replace them as soon as possible. A bent disc rotor can drastically reduce braking power and cause the brakes to vibrate when applied. It is also important to check the alignment of your bike’s disc brake calipers in case they suffer from misalignment due to a worn-out disc rotor.
For bent rotors that were caused by crashing, it’s important to replace them. However, if the rotor has been bent in other ways, you can consider straightening it. This isn’t a difficult task, and there won’t be any downside to trying. A truing tool or an adjustable spanner can bring the rotor back into shape.
You can also try to reshape your disc rotor while it’s still on the bike. Look for any bent spots and then push them back in the opposite direction, taking extra care not to overdo it. You can also place the wheel within disk brake calipers and listen if any rubbing could indicate a bend.
Also, the disc brake rotor may degrade due to heavy use. If your rotors start vibrating, it could signify that they are worn out and need replacing. The vibration is caused by the rotor’s uneven surface, which can occur due to frequent braking.
A bike rotor can become warped if it gets too hot, usually due to prolonged braking with great force. This is especially common in downhill and off-road biking, where riders may be applying heavy pressure to their brakes for extended periods of time. Also, if your bike has been ridden in wet or muddy conditions, it is important to check the rotor for signs of overheating regularly. If you notice warping, discoloration, or any other sign that the rotor may be damaged, it is time to replace it.
4. Upgrading Bike Disc Rotors
Sometimes, you may want to upgrade your bike disc rotors, either because you want a higher-grade product or if the ones you have can’t provide the same level of performance as before. If that’s the case, it’s time to replace them with a better set. It’s important to pick one that will fit your bike and provide you with the needed performance.
Cheaper rotors are one piece, but higher-end ones may have two or three pieces, including a floating disc and an anti-vibration system. All these features work together to provide maximum stopping power and less noise while riding.
You must invest in quality resin disc brake pads that will fit your new rotors. This will ensure your braking system is working efficiently, and you can get the most out of your new rotors.
Another aspect to consider when upgrading your bike disc rotors is weight. Lighter ones are usually more expensive, but if you’re going for a performance build, they can help you shave off unnecessary weight from your bike.
Changing Rotor Size
Using the same size rotor is usually best, but in special circumstances, you may want to opt for a different size of bicycle disc brakes. This only makes sense if your bike can support it and you have the correct adapters. It’s worth noting that all other factors being equal, a larger rotor will slow you down faster than a smaller one.
The size of the rotor you will need is also dependent on the type of braking system fitted to your bike. Mechanical brakes use a cable’s simple ‘pull’ action to actuate a brake caliper. In contrast, hydraulic disc brakes use hoses filled with brake fluid (generally DOT 5.1) and require specific components compatible with each other. Check the manufacturer’s specifications before buying a new rotor, as some brake systems (such as Shimano and SRAM) are not cross-compatible.
For road and cross-country riders, the most common size of the rotor is 140mm. This allows plenty of clearance for fast-rolling tires and provides enough braking power to stop you quickly when needed. If your bike has a hydraulic braking system, you may want to look at larger rotors such as 160mm or 180mm. These will provide extra heat dissipation and the added stopping power of a larger surface area.
Disc Brake Rotor Maintenance
If you ride your bike frequently, it’s important to stay on top of disc brake rotor maintenance. Regularly inspecting and replacing disc rotors is necessary for safe braking. When you’ve upgraded to disc or rim brakes, ensure your riding style, terrain, conditions, and brake pad selection are compatible with your rotors.
Also, ensure you clean your disc rotors regularly. This can be done using a designated brush or rag and rubbing alcohol. If you’ve been riding in wet or muddy conditions, it’s important to take extra steps to keep the rotors free from debris.
Keep an eye on the brake pads and brake lever as well. Worn brake pads can cause damage to the rotors, so be sure to replace the pads as needed. Avoid hard braking whenever possible, as this can cause excess wear on the rotors. Try to anticipate stops and brake gently to preserve the life of the rotors.
Follow up with a quick check to ensure the rotors are straight and there are no visible signs of damage. Look for any noticeable warping, deep grooves, or uneven wear. Maintaining your disc brake rotors will ensure a safe and responsive ride.
It is important to regularly inspect your bike’s disc rotors and replace them if necessary. Signs that your rotors may need to be replaced include excessive wear, warping, or cracking. It is generally recommended to replace your rotors if they have worn down to the minimum thickness specified by the manufacturer or are severely damaged. Replacing your rotors can help ensure the safety and performance of your bike and is an important part of regular bike maintenance.