Galfer Brake Pads and Rotors

It was the option for bigger rotors that drew my attention to Galfer in the first place. The Hayes Dominion A4 is an excellent, powerful brake, but I’m still able to overheat them on the most demanding descents — my favorite local brake torture test drops almost 3,000 feet in just over two miles, and features few sections where you can’t fully let off the brakes for any kind of extended period. And if you’re riding that kind of terrain regularly, anything that’ll help keep your brakes cool can really help.

Adding brake power can help there, too — if you’re able to do your braking in stronger, shorter bursts and let off the brakes between them (even briefly), that slight respite gives the brakes a moment to cool, and can often keep things overall cooler than if you’re having to drag your brakes down more extended sections of trail to keep your speed in check.

But that increased heat capacity is a bit of a double-edged sword, depending on whether or not you’re riding terrain that really demands it. Brakes do work best when they’re in their ideal operating temperature range — and if you’re wildly over-braked, it’s absolutely possible to struggle to get the brakes up to temperature, too. And so, this is yet another case where it’s best to know thyself, and honestly assess if you’re overheating your brakes (bigger rotors will help), or will be better off staying a little more moderate in your sizing.

Daryl Simmons, of Galfer, also offered a really excellent insight on relative rotor sizing between the front and rear wheels when I spoke to him in Ep. 81 of Bikes & Big Ideas a few months back: pay attention to how quickly you’re wearing out brake pads on the two wheels. If you’re getting relatively even wear between the front and rear, that’s a good sign that you’ve got the balance between the two about right. If you’re going through pads on one end of the bike much more quickly than the other, increasing the rotor size there (relative to the other wheel) might be the way to go, or vice-versa, depending on your needs.

Running the front rotor one size larger than the rear (e.g., the 223 mm front / 203 mm rear combo tested here) tends to work well for me, personally, though running equal size rotors is also common. A larger rear rotor is a more unusual choice, but isn’t entirely unheard of — and in fact, World Cup Downhill racer Troy Brosnan has been known to go that route. So there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, but it is worth doing a little experimenting to figure out what works for you.

So how about the Galfer rotors, specifically? In short, they’re very good. For my purposes, the 223 front / 203 mm rear rotor combination is a substantial upgrade over the 203 / 203 or 203 / 180 mm combos that Hayes offers, both in terms of outright power, and especially when it comes to heat management. The added weight, while non-zero, feels negligible on what is a fairly burly Enduro bike. And the Galfer Wave rotors have been quiet and stayed true in the six months-plus that I’ve been on them now. Saying that they haven’t given me any trouble might sound like faint praise, but what more do you really want from rotors? Galfer’s are high-quality, come in a big range of sizes, and are all made in their own factory in Spain. They’re absolutely a worthy replacement for any OE options out there, especially if you’re tempted to experiment with bigger sizes.