Best rim-brake Tech

Ok, here we go: I allways worry that my rimbrake setup could be better. So I want to tap the swarm-knowledge regarding your experience with rim-brake-tech.
First things first: I ride a Steel-Frame, Alu-wheels with short-lever V-Brakes and regular (no-name?) pads. In general I wouldn’t be interested in Carbon-rim+pad, because I always read that stopping-power is sub-par, which is not acceptable to me.

So here are my main questions:
What is the best type of Brake?
Mini-V-Brake, Direct-Mount, Center-Mount, Side-Pull, Center-Pull, etc.: I think aligning the pull-motion with the braking-motion of the pads is benefitial for best stopping power. What is your experience in this?
Which type of Pads?
Do you think there’s lots of marketing hype regarding branded Pads like e.g. Kool Stop salmon or are they really head and shoulders above the rest?
Lever reach: short = more power (Lever physics) or not noticeable difference in real world application?

Oh, one more thing: I think discs are fine, haters can play in the “stone-age-thread” - I just don’t happen to have a disc-brake-bike. Or rather go setup a discussion-thread about after-market components for discs - wouldn’t that be fun?

First things first: If your current frame is set up with cantilever studs, then your choice of caliper types will be automatically limited to cantilevers or some type of linear-pull arms (like your current short-arm V-brakes – TRP CX-9s, perhaps?).

With that out of the way, I’d say you’d find the biggest benefit in switching pads and rims, since those have the most direct effect on how much friction is generated at the braking interface.

I haven’t found much difference in terms of braking performance with conventional aluminum sidewalls. However, the latest developments in ceramic coatings and/or textured sidewalls have been exceptional, such as the AForce Al33, Boyd Altamont Ceramic, Mavic Exalith, and HED “Black” models. When combined with the matching recommended pads, braking performance is truly exceptional (almost rivaling disc brakes, in my opinion) and without the headaches of hydraulics.

But unfortunately, the rise of hydraulic disc brakes has pretty much killed off most of your choices. Boyd is hoping to be able to offer the Ceramic stuff again some time this year, AForce no longer produces the Ai33, and although Mavic still offers some Exalith options, the Mavic Open Pro Exalith standalone rim never made it to market.

As far as I can tell, HED is the most viable option for what you’re asking about as they still offer some wheelsets with the Turbine brake track.


I have Chorus (12 speed) rim brakes (conventional mount). With blue (I think?) swiss stop pads, on alloy rims, they offer me all the stopping power I will ever need for riding locally (plenty of short, steep hills, but no genuine mountains).

When I put my Vision trimax carbon rims on, I use their supplied brake pads. In the dry the braking is 90% as good as alloy. In the wet they’re ok - not dangerous - but you do need to think a little further ahead and resist the urge to grab harder in that first second of braking when the water is clearing and nothing happens. Because if you do that, all of a sudden the water clears and your brakes grab, hard. That IMO is where discs have the advantage. It’s not so much they stop better in the wet (though they do), it’s that the response is much more linear and predictable. That said, I’ve only ever had an issue descending on roads I didn’t know.

James is of course the expert, but the Mavic CXP carbon rim (which was still available as a standalone rim in October 21) offered exceptional performance when I tested a demo set built by a local wheelbuilder.

However, the latest developments in ceramic coatings and/or textured sidewalls have been exceptional, such as the AForce Al33, Boyd Altamont Ceramic, Mavic Exalith, and HED “Black” models.

I have a pair of Altamont Ceramics and Hed Jet Blacks. The Heds have awesome braking. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I honestly don’t think the Altamont Ceramics were worth it, and I couldn’t differentiate the braking from regular aluminum rims.

Also, I am not sure that Boyd is intending to offer the Altamont Ceramics again. They are doing a new version of the Altamonts without the ceramic coating. The site you linked doesn’t seem to indicate an intent to offer the ceramic coating again, and Boyd did post on the Paceline forum that this was his intent. The paragraph at Boyd’s site reads:

Sorry fans of the ceramic coating, but we have decided not to continue offering rims with the coating into 2021. When we had a rim produced with the ceramic coating it had to move between multiple vendors and multiple times, exponentially raising the risk of a part that we couldn’t sell. With this, the cost of production was extremely high and the quantities were even higher. It just didn’t make sense to sit on 2 years worth of inventory just to bring the coating to market.

I grant you, “into 2021” is a bit of an odd turn of phrase, and it might be read as referring just to 2021, but I’m thinking my interpretation is correct. Tangentially, this reminds me of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Spanish translation of her announcing her run for President. She got some flak for the Spanish translation of her annoucement, which could be read as stating that she was making the announcement from inside the Mississippi River. Which, fair. But the original English phrasing was also a bit odd, opening with

On a cold February day in Minneapolis on the mighty Mississippi River …

I guess we know what Sen. Klobuchar meant. I am thinking that I know what Boyd meant as well, but who knows.

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Thanks James, great to read your opinion :slight_smile:
Yeah, I know I’m limited with this one - but I think along the lines of: if I have to get a new one - would I stick with what I got? Or would it be even better to go with a different brake-setup apart from discs?
Actually I’ve got Tektro sth. from the LBS, as I bought the frame knowing nothing and have just switched to riding tarmac in greater lengths with the added rabbit hole of tech nerdiness I enjoy…

Great post. I spent 7 years mucking around with Tektro CR70 cantis, swapped out for $30 Deore V brakes with Dia Compe 987 levers with the correct mechanical advantage with massive improvements. No more dicking around with front end shudder on steep descents, and greater power and modulation. Braking power does not deteriorate with pad wear. I don’t find any difference in sidewall surface - I have a pretty polished VO front and a daggy machined-surface AlexRims rear and there’s no difference. The best pads are Kool Stop salmon, no question.

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If you are used to a normal, unsurfaced rim brake with moderate stoppping power, be careful on your first ride with the Al33s or HED Blacks. While not quite as radical as going from old-school cantis to V-brakes, it’s a surprising improvement.


TRP CX8.4’s or CX 9’s use road style brake pad shoes, which opens up your options. Get whichever matches your brake lever pull the best.

As for pads, I’ve done TONS of testing of almost every brake pad out there - stock and aftermarket. I’ve tested Campagnolo Red, Campagnolo Blue, Shimano, Swisstop BXP, GXP, Koolstop Salmon, Black and a bunch of others.

For aluminium wheels, including those with ceramic/textured brake tracks, the answer is simply (and always) SwissStop BXP. Best overall power, best (very linear) modulation, kindest to rims.


Actually, I think Swiss Stop Flash Pro (the blue “BXP” pads) are pretty good, certainly as good as KS salmon, on my bikes at least.

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But is the salmon dried, smoked, baked… ?




(running for cover)


KS Salmon pads can generally be picked up in the UK for half the price of Swiss Stop ones which was a big factor for me, both provide great braking performance with a decent aluminium rim in the wet.

I must say though, in the dry I was always happy with Shimano brake blocks.

Going to take a break now.



BXPs have been quite good in my testing but eventually no match for Koolstop Salmons. Not with regards to stopping power and also not with regards to the tendency to “pull” little chips out of aluminum rims.
For some reason I also need to clean the BXPs more often in order to keep them working at their best.

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If you’re ready to buy a new frame I’d suggest Cane Creek’s eebrakes are the best performing calipers out there. Their “lower” construction - the one between the pivot points and the pads - is so stiff, that it doesn’t really matter whether you use the Direct-Mount or the conventional mount version whereas calipers which are less stiff usually benefit from using the Direct-Mount version as they benefit from the additional stiffness of the fork crown respectively the seat stay assembly they’re attached to.


In Japan, the prices are virtually the same, thus, negates the earlier statement that I replied to that suggested that the salmon pads were the ‘best, no question’–they aren’t–they’re at best equal to the blue pads, in this area of the world, while many have argued, better, in other areas.

Hmmm - do you mean to say the recipe is different in Japan or are you refering to the riding conditions? Serious question - I’m in bad need of the best braking I can get without ripping this apart: For the love of steel - #246 by ulrich.albrecht - and pricing is pretty much same/same in Germany as well)

Riding conditions…and I wasn’t referring specifically to Japan in that regard but to the different conditions around the world that the members here represent.

For Japan, the main issue for brake pads is sand, being an island nation–the sand gets on the pads most often when it rains–many folks here use the blue pads since the sand does not seem to become stuck into the pad, but moves off, however on occasion, it does get stuck, and is very easy to clean off when it does. Of course there are others that use the salmon to good effect–point being, both are good, not one standing “without question” above the other.

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Echo this and would add that I find the regular black pads are fine for braking. I do much prefer the salmon but it is mostly because they’re better at not picking up grit. IDK. Brakes are critical but the goal is to use as little as possible. Given clean, well-adjusted pads on alu, there are other matters to fuss over, or optimize.

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As a guy who lives in the rainy climate of great Vancouver and has trained long hours outdoors for over 20 years every winter, I will say in my rim brake days the Kool-Stop salmon pads are by far and away the best rim brake pads for wet weather riding. They provide good stopping power, but as il_falco describes, they do not pick up metal and debris and they will vastly increase rim wear.

SwissStop BXP blue are great for stopping power and occasional wet weather use. Same with the latest Dura-Ace level stock pads. But both will pick up more debris and cause a lot more rim wear for a bike that sees a lot of rain miles.