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Why MTB Brakes Get Hot and What You Can Do About It

While mountain bike brakes are designed to withstand intense riding conditions, they generate significant heat during braking. If you've ever bumped your leg onto your rotor after a long descent and ended up with a painful new tattoo, or even splashed some water onto your rotors to hear the sizzle after a long downhill, you'll understand just how hot they can get.


If your brakes get too hot, you can get glazed pads or burnt rotors. In ther short term, you caould heat up the fluid and lose pressure, or lose braking altogetehr. And some brake "pump up" or feel more solid as they get too hot.


mtb brake power temperature brakeace app
The BrakeAce app has a brake temperature feature, where it calculates the temperature of your braking surface based on your brake power.


But what makes MTB brakes get hot? Is there anything you can do to reduce brake fade or lever pump? Well, as it turns out we can change some components or even alter our riding style to make sure out brakes don't overheat all the time.


Here are 5 reasons your MTB brakes get hot, and some quick pro tips to get more out of your brakes:



Purple Hayes with BrakeAce on Sam Blenkinsop Bleny Crestline bike
Blenky's Crestline training bike with the BrakeAce PF2 and Purple Hayes


Rider Speed

When you squeeze your brake levers, you convert the kinetic energy of your moving bike and your body into thermal energy. The higher the speed at which you are traveling and the more energy you need to dissipate and the more heat will be generated. All this heat needs to go somewhere, and in the case on MTB brakes it's the rotors, pads and calipers that take the brunt of it. Big hills generally mean more speed and more braking, so if you ride big mountains regularly or travel to them for riding holidays, you'll want to make sure your brakes are up to the job.


PRO TIP: Some have said that bigger riders are more prone to excessive heat build up in their brakes, but the physics of braking highlights that faster riders can still get excessive heat build up, regardless of how big they are or how much their bike weighs.



Braking Technique


After any braking, the heat generated needs time to dissipate. Continuous braking without allowing sufficient intervals for cooling can lead to excessive heat buildup and potential brake fade. Skilled riders generally separate short, hard braking with longer periods of time off the brakes compared to beginners. When you ride while the brakes are off, air travels past the rotors and caliper, taking heat away along with it. In that case, speed can help your brakes cool faster, so long as you're not constantly using them.


PRO TIP: We've found that riders can begin to separate braking events in their Key Opportunities by practcing to concentrate their braking or taking smoother lines, rather than riding their brakes through the entire section.