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Best bike brake pads

Best bike brake pads
(Image credit: Pangda)

Your brakes are undeniably one of the most important components on your bike. The brake pads you choose to fit to them are also crucial, playing a significant role in how well your brakes will work, particularly in bad weather.

Brake pads are consumable, meaning they wear down over time and need to be replaced. If left for too long, it will feel like your brakes no longer work, you’ll take much longer to stop, you might have to squeeze much harder, and maybe you’ll hear the horrible crunching sound of metal on metal. That last point means that actual damage is being done to your bike, so don’t let it go that far.

In the interests of safety it’s advisable to regularly check your brake pads for wear. Most pads will include a line on them, which indicates the point at which they’re worn out. If you can’t see that line anymore, they need to go straight into the trash.

Which type do you need?

Before you go ahead and order replacement pads however, you need to know the type of brakes you’re using, and consider additional aspects like the riding conditions you’re used to. It’s also important for rim-brake users to regularly check their rims for wear and tear. The surface should be flat, with the pads sitting flush against it when engaged. If there’s any curve to the rim, that feels concave, it might be time for a replacement.

Rim brakes

Rim brakes are located at the uppermost point where your wheel enters the bike frame (beneath the saddle at the rear, and the fork at the front). They use the rotating rim of the wheel as a braking surface, clamping brake pads directly onto the metal rim and pulling it to  stop.

There are three main kinds of rim brakes: V-brakes, cantilever brakes, and calliper brakes. It’s important to know which kind you have so you can get compatible brake pads.

Disc brakes

Disc brakes are located at the point where the frame connects to the centre of the wheels, and use a metal disc rotor (attached to the left-hand side of the wheel) as a braking surface. The rotor rotates through the middle of a brake calliper, and the brake pads are inside this.

Disc brake pads come in different sizes which are compatible with different brake callipers, so it’s important to know which you’re buying for. 

Riding conditions

Just like driving a car, wet weather can affect your braking distance. Rim brakes are more impacted by the rain than disc brakes, because their brake pads are out in the open and exposed to the elements, whereas disc brake pads are enclosed inside the callipers. This is why disc brakes are generally thought to be more effective in wet weather.

However to combat this, many rim brake pad manufacturers will offer wet-weather specific pads, formulated from a soft rubber compound that maintains grip when wet. They will often feature water channels to shed excess moisture and dirt away from the rim.

Rim compounds & compatibility

First and foremost, because there are a lot of compatibility considerations when it comes to matching brake pads to brake callipers, it’s always advisable to check with the manufacturer of your brakes to see which pads they recommend.

While standard alloy rims require little fuss in terms of pad choice, carbon rims need carbon-specific pads. On top of this, some lightweight rims from certain manufacturers might require special pads to prevent premature wear or damage.

You should also note that some brake models and manufacturers have specific requirements that mean you need to match like-for-like (for example, you must use Campagnolo pads with Campagnolo brakes). Always check with the manufacturer first.

Materials

What the brake pads are made of has a large impact on how well they work. For rim brakes, higher-end pads will usually come with a selection of rubber compounds to match varying riding conditions. Some of these may have dual- or triple-compound pads to suit a multitude of conditions like wet and dry weather.

With disc brake pads, you have a choice between organic pads (also known as resin pads) and sintered (or metallic) pads. Resin pads are constructed from a soft-compound, high-density ceramic. They generally have much better stopping power and dissipate heat well (which builds up over continuous braking), however they tend to wear out more quickly when ridden in wet and gritty conditions.

Sintered metal pads, on the other hand, use a compound with added metal shavings. They last much longer in wet conditions, however they heat up quickly and can be much noisier as well. The choice between the two largely depends on your needs as a rider.

Best for V-brakes

(Image credit: Hyacinth)

Hyacinth Premium Brake Pads (2 pairs)

Hard-wearing and very reasonably priced

If your bike has V-brakes, these hard-wearing Hyacinth brake pads are designed for durability and longevity. Each pad is marked with three white lines which indicate how worn down it is. While technically you have until the third, innermost line to get use out of them, it’s recommended that you replace them when you reach the second line so that you don’t risk causing damage to your rim, resulting in the need to replace your entire wheel.

The pads have an arc and drainage design to shed sand, dirt and debris, which helps prevent damage, and you receive two pairs in a pack, so you’ve got what you need to replace the front and rear at the same time.


Best for cantilever brakes

(Image credit: Kool Stop)

Kool Stop Thinline Non-Threaded Cantilever brake pads (2 pairs)

Supple brake pads from a market leader

Kool Stop Salmon pads are well regarded as possibly the best brake pads on the market. Salmon is the brand’s most aggressive compound, designed for extreme all-weather conditions. Grooves in the pads’ surface helps shed water during wet rides, so they provide superb stopping power in both wet and dry weather. 

These non-threaded pads are specifically designed to work with cantilever brakes, and feature Kool Stop’s patented angled tip, which optimizes surface area contact to reduce squealing. With two pairs included in the pack, you can replace both your front and rear brake pads at the same time.


Best for calliper brakes

(Image credit: Pangda)

Pangda Road Calliper Brake Blocks (2 pairs)

Great stopping power, come rain or shine

If you’re running calliper brakes on your road bike, combined with alloy rims, consider these Pangda brake pads for your next replacement. The hard-wearing rubber pads offer great stopping power, and feature deep water channels in a chevron pattern to shed excess moisture, dirt and grit in order to maintain powerful braking in the rain.

Each brake pad is marked clearly with an ‘L’ or an ‘R’ to help make the replacement process as simple as possible, while the manufacturer has also included the necessary 5mm hex wrench so you don’t need any additional tools.


Best for carbon rims

(Image credit: Swiss Stop)

Swiss Stop FlashPro original brake pads (2 pairs)

Unbeatable braking power that’s gentle on carbon

If your rims are made from carbon then you need to use carbon-specific brake pads. These calliper brake pads from Swiss Stop, in their striking bright yellow compound, are specifically formulated to provide effective stopping power without causing any damage to carbon rims.

They provide more liner braking performance, which means you don’t need to squeeze as hard on your levers to get the braking force you require. You can just gently ‘feather’ your brakes and come to a natural and progressive stop. Finally they feature deep asymmetrical grooves for improved performance in wet conditions.


Best for disc brakes

(Image credit: Corki)

Corki Disc Brake pads

Choose between sintered metal, resin, or a hybrid of the two

These disc brake pads from Corki are compatible with a large range of models from TRP, Tektro and Shimano Deore. The manufacturer has listed all the exact models that will work with them, so be sure to check yours is listed before purchasing.

These pads are available in organic resin, to provide quieter braking and better modulation, sintered metal for superior wet-weather stopping power, or semi-sintered for something in the middle.