Friday, November 2, 2012

New Shoes ... For My Brakes!

Wow ... is it really November already?  It feels like summer just began. Let the updates begin ...

In my last post, I showed you some new shoes ... well "new" was a relative term since I'd been wearing them for quite some time before writing about them.  In any case, while we're still on the topic (over a month later, since I haven't written about anything else since then), let's talk about more new shoes ... this time for my brakes!

I ordered my Hunqapillar (a.k.a. Funqapillar) with the new-at-the-time Shimano CX-70 cantilever brakes, and have been very happy with them ... but always felt the pads were a bit lacking in the "grabby-ness" department.  I wanted to give the system plenty of time before making any changes, though ... for two reasons.  First, brake pads always have a bit of a break-in period as they lose the shiny surface, after which they tend to perform better.  Second, the Velocity Synergy rims on my wheels do not have machined brake surfaces, which means they aren't perfectly smooth initially ... but become smooth with regular braking over time as the pads work like light sanding blocks to even out the rough spots.  I'm not exactly heavy-handed on the brakes, so for me, it takes a little time to break in the rims.  So I left the factory pads on the brakes and let them do their job until such time as they needed replacement.

Well, after several months of riding, I realized it was time for a thorough bike cleaning and full routine maintenance checkup.  Bikes get dirty, especially if you explore dirt roads and trails, and ride in salty air along the coast.  The "not being shiny like new" part isn't a big deal for me.  I just see it as a sign of a bike that's well-loved and well-used.  But what I do care about is making sure everything is kept in proper working order, which means looking at everything from top to bottom, cleaning, lubricating, making adjustments, tightening anything that might need it, and replacing anything that shows signs of excessive wear, breakage, or malfunction.  I decided I'd change out the brake pads, even though they were still in good condition, since I wanted to see if different pads would improve the performance.  I removed the black factory pads (remove the little retaining screw and slide the pad out of the holder), and replaced them (slide the new pad in and replace the screw) with new Kool-Stop Salmon-colored road pads (had an extra set in the tool box).  These are my favorites, at least from past experience, and seem to be the preferred pad of many shop people I've talked with.  The salmon pads are actually designed as one of Kool-Stop's "most aggressive compounds for extreme all weather conditions especially in the wet, but still superb in the dry."  I've found them to be very effective on any rim brake system I've used.

Kool-Stop Salmon pad installed on Shimano CX-70 brake

So did they improve the performance of the Shimano CX-70 brakes?  Why, yes, they certainly did!  As always with these pads on cantilever or V-brakes, the first ride included a couple of miles of extremely poor braking accompanied by the loudest screeching known to man.  But a quick stop for minor alignment and toe-in adjustment, and the noise is gone, replaced by a solid grip on the rim when squeezing the lever.  Even when new, these pads work better than the factory Shimano pads.  After a month of riding and wearing them in, they perform WAAAAAAYYYYY better.

Kool-Stop continues to perform for me.  I've now used them on road calipers, V-brakes, center pulls, and cantilevers, and they have been great in every system.  Give them a try ... but go easy when you squeeze the lever the first time.  You don't want to be learning to fly while riding your bike ...


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