How do I remedy brake mush?

Q: I have a 2013 trek stache 7, it came with Avid Elixir 1 hydraulic disc and I’m not to happy with them they seem cheap and mushy. Was wondering what would be a great upgrade that’s reasonable, need something that has a awesome feel.

– Nate, who is tired of the mush

A: Is the feeling of them being cheap and mushy a new development? If so, it could simply be that the brakes need to be bleed, or possibly that the pads and rotors need to be cleaned. We recommend you do the following before shelving out the couple hundred dollars on a new pair of brakes:

  • Remove the brake pads from the calipers. They may seem shiny on their braking surfaces. Sand them lightly with 200 grit sandpaper.
  • Clean the rotor with a cloth and a residue-free degreaser. Finish Line makes a god product for about $8 a bottle.
  • Go out for a couple rides and see if the braking performance increases. It’ll take some extended descents to break the pads back in. This is called burnishing.
  • If the brakes feel mushy at the lever, have a local bike shop bleed them. Leave it to the professionals.

All that being said, in the end you may want to get new brakes. Shimano XT brakes are a great bang for your buck. They aren’t the cheapest, but certainly not the most expensive. They have great modulation, are durable, have more stopping power than Fred Flintstone’s bigger foot, and brake levers that seem to be more ergonomic than anything else out there.

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