Hydraulic MTB brakes have better performance than their cable counterparts but come with a bigger demand in maintenance, this roughly translates to brake bleeding. Most mountain bikers will postpone the bleeding but this will end up costing them braking performance.
The more experienced mountain bikers that are shredding the more technical trails or ride downhill a lot need to bleed their brakes at least once every 6 months while the less technical riders can do it less frequent like once every year if they are riding often or once every 2 years if they don’t ride as much.
In this article, I will tell you the recommended intervals to bleed your MTB brakes taking into consideration how often you ride and the style of riding but this is not all, so keep reading!
Do New MTB Brakes Need Bleeding?
New brakes come with a factory bleed but most often the cables will be too long and need to be trimmed down so they can properly fit the bike in which case you will need to bleed the brakes after installing and trimming the cable to the right length.
Sometimes even if you don’t need to trim the cables you will see that the levels are still too squishy, this can be the result of poor factory bleeding or air getting in afterward, so bleeding is advised in this case.
If the brakes are new you don’t need to do a complete bleeding, just get the air out and complete the oil and you are good to go.
How Often Do I Really Need to Bleed My Breaks?
As a general rule the more you ride your MTB the more often you need to bleed the brakes. If you are an experienced rider that rides a lot, you would need to bleed your brakes once every 6 months. For medium-level riders, once a year would be enough, and for casual riders once every 2 years would be recommended.
Many mountain bikers don’t give their brakes the proper maintenance and are losing a lot of the performance and benefits of having hydraulic brakes.
If you are a downhill or enduro rider then the performance of your brakes is crucial and you should not overlook their maintenance, you may end up needing to bleed your brakes 2 or 3 times per year.
If you mostly ride on forest trails and cross country then probably a bleed once a year will be enough.
Keep in mind that you can do a complete bleed or just a quick one. A complete bleed means that you completely drain the oil from the brakes, this is the most beneficial bleed that will give the most performance enhancement.
When you ride a lot it makes sense to do a quick bleed which will give your brakes a quick burst in performance, practically you get the air out and complete with the necessary oil. This is quicker and cheaper than a complete bleed.
|Riding frequency||Riding style||Barke bleeding frequency|
|1-2 times a month||cross country, trail||once every 2 years|
|1-2 times a week||cross country, trail||once a year|
|1-2 times a month||downhill, enduro||once a year|
|3-5 times a week||cross country, trail||once every 6 months|
|1-5 times a week||downhill, enduro||once every 6 months|
(even 3 times a year)
In the table above you can find the recommendations on how often you need to bleed hydraulic brakes to enjoy the great performance that they bring and to be sure that you have the required stopping power to ride safely.
Don’t overlook the bleeding if you have hydraulic disc brakes, reliable brakes are very important and can get you out of nasty situations.
Do I Need to Bleed My Breaks If I Don’t Ride a Lot?
Even if you don’t ride a lot you still need to bleed your hydraulic brakes but you can do it after a longer period of time, the recommended interval is once every 2 years but you can get away with doing it once every 3 or 4 years.
Keep in mind that the properties of the oil in the brakes will change over time and will become less uncompressible, practically you will lose brake performance with time.
You need to ask yourself the question: Why should you buy expensive brakes if you aren’t prepared to properly maintain them?
If you don’t bleed the brakes at least once every 2 years they will be less performant and practically you will end up with an expensive brake system that will perform similar to an inexpensive one. There is no point in this, bleed your brake once every 2 years and you will have more enjoyable mountain biking rides.
Signs That You Need to Bleed Your Breaks
If you don’t bleed your hydraulic brakes after a while it will become noticeable. Here are the signs that your brakes need bleeding:
- They feel spongy: if pulling the brake lever feels squishy then air most surely got into the system and it needs to be drained out
- Possible to pull the lever back to the handlebar: there is too much air in the system and brake bleeding is mandatory so that you can enjoy a safe ride.
- Leaking brake fluid: the seals are damaged and you need to fix this to have reliable brakes.
I must mention that it is better to have a set interval on which you bleed your brakes than to wait until the signs are too noticeable to ignore, yes you can save a little bit of money if you wait but you will have more enjoyable rides on a well-maintained mountain bike.
What Happens If I Don’t Bleed My Breaks?
If you don’t bleed your MTB brakes after a while they will feel spongy and you will lose much of the performance for which you pay when you buy them.
If enough time has passed without you bleeding your MTB brakes then your bike’s stopping power will be greatly reduced and it will become unsafe to ride.
If you can pull your brake lever close to the handlebars brakes are in need of complete bleeding as soon as possible, it is recommended that you do it until your next ride.
Better brake performance means better stopping power for your bike and this will decrease the risk of crushing and will increase your safety. I think that by now you realize what is the biggest downside of not bleeding your brakes, the risk of crashes due to poor braking power.
Regularly bleeding your MTB brakes will increase your safety on the trails and will let you enjoy the great braking performance for which you paid.
Experienced riders will benefit the most from increased brake performance and for this reason, it is best that they bleed their brakes at least after six months but if you ride a lot then you can do it more often.
Newbies can bleed their brakes once every 1 or 2 years because they aren’t able to ride the more technical trails yet.
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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.