Mario is local legend, he is one of those People's Champs that can muster a motley crew of riders any day of the week. He'll lure you into hills and then give you a good blasting. He has been riding rim brake G4's since their release. He has written up a brake pad review based on his experiences using 3 different brake pads.
OK I’m starting with my disclaimer, I know the Curve team as friends, but they’ll be the first to tell you that I’ll call things straight, as such I’m comfortable providing my personal wisdom based on my first-hand experience reviewing 3 carbon brake pad sets.
While my review is focused on braking performance, here is the quick and short on my Curve G4 25mm hoops mated to Chris King R45 hubs; I love them and am most happy with my wheels from both a performance and visual perspective. Not too stiff but just right given I can ride them all day and accelerate as quickly as my "engine" will allow. For the record I’m a 50 something (very) long time rider and whilst I may be slowing on the hills now that I qualify for Australian Pensioners Insurance, the hills are where I am most happy, be it with a group of mates or on a solo jaunt which is why I like nice things like my Curve hoops to keep me company.
Braking capability on carbon hoops is typically compared to that of alloy rims and I’m adopting that approach. Previously I have owned alloy rims from Campagnolo and Mavic. As a benchmark for this review I will adopt the standard that my expected alloy rim braking performance measure is 10 / 10 and I will compare the carbon pad performance accordingly.
The pads I tested over the span of 12 months were:
- Curve Cycling Factory Issue Carbon Brakepads (Gigapower) – 3 months
- Swisstop Black Prince Carbon Brakepads (Campagnolo) – 5 months
- Campagnolo Red Carbon Brakepads – 4 months
My riding consists of chasing hills followed by chasing hills, so I do need to be able to brake confidently and effectively on descents in weather ranging from dry to sopping wet sheets of water splashing over your rims whilst riding (typically if I got caught out). A breakdown of the weather conditions I actually did ride in was 70% totally dry, 20% constant drizzle to rain and wet roads and 10% I really should have stayed home conditions.
Typically Carbon rims require special brake pads specially designed for such use as opposed to any old pad which may see us regretting that decision later especially in wet weather. Now I know plenty of riders who don’t follow this rule and they anecdotally respond across the spectrum from “it’s all good” to “they damaged my rims” to “I had zero in the wet”. The main fallout for amateur punters using one set of pads across carbon and alloy wheels is the small alloy flecks that build up in the pads which when used on carbon braking tracks end up damaging that track. How could this happen you ask, well for the multitude of riders using alloy rims for training and general riding who then bring out the carbon hoops for race day or a trip to the hills and they can’t be arsed changing out the pads? My call is to use carbon brake pads if the brake track is carbon as the compound is different and is constructed to reduce heat on the rim in order to stave against rim delamination.
You will note that all these brake pads have grooves cut into them which depending on the ride conditions will clog up at various frequency so I advise cleaning them out frequently to both maintain air flow especially to aid braking on fast and long descents plus increase the ability for the pads to grab / contact the braking track better and to keep any small particles from damaging the braking track. My cleaning process consists if using a small flat head screwdriver to push out the gunk from the grooves followed by a light sanding to remove any glazing which may have formed then wiping clean. Also worth noting is that many (carbon) brake pads are recommended by rim manufacturers with the occasion that sometimes they are made specifically for the rim with the view to provide the best / better braking, feel and a reduction in wear.
Installation of all pads was simple and I did not experience any squealing nor any burning waft ensuing from heavy braking.
Curve Cycling Factory Issue Carbon Brakepads (Gigapower)
Dry weather braking comparison against my alloy benchmark is 7 / 10 as on a couple of occasions of long fast descents the braking began to struggle.
Wet weather braking performance was as per my preconceived expectation that I would need to brake quite early to scrub the braking track of excess water, which was the case 5 / 10 but I could stop and there was no shock factor.
Pad wear was as expected but increased in wet conditions so nothing unexpected 7 / 10.
Swisstop Black Prince Carbon Brakepads (Campagnolo)
Dry weather braking was initially phenomenal, wow, this was a step up and just what I had been looking for, noticing improved braking performance immediately. Later on though I did notice some stickiness in that I would release the lever whilst stationery but there was a noticeable grab lingering but nothing I could not live with in this scenario 8 / 10.
To say that wet weather braking was disappointing is overstating how poorly these pads performed. I do put this down to the composition of the specific pads against the composition of the rims. It is the only time I have experienced fear in the wet as witnessed by mates riding with me on those occasions I had 4 finger grab on each lever and was still moving in excess of 20km per hr not noticing any slowing 0 / 10, yes zero. This was further evidenced by the boys at Curve along with a few riders I consider blue-chip, that is, A-Grade and above on any given day (much better than this fussy old bloke that’s for certain).
Pad wear was a little quick from dry condition riding but exponential in the wet but it doesn’t matter if you can’t stop 6 / 10 if you’re riding in the dry and fugazi / 10 in the wet.
Campagnolo Red Carbon Brakepads
Dry weather braking performance is, well, most welcome, great modulation, snappy, and if you engage 2 finger braking you need to be careful not to lock things up. I love them 9 / 10.
Wet weather braking is better than expected. Yes you prepare earlier and scrub off the excess water but I found the ability to brake could be controlled accordingly against the conditions, that is, don’t expect to hightail into a sopping wet corner expecting to slowdown but measure accordingly to conditions and you have a solid 6.5 / 10 performer. I call this pretty good.
Pad wear to date has been pretty good 8 / 10 (note the pads may have an impact to wear on the rims themselves due the pads appearing to have a slightly more aggressive compound).
My review was never intended to be exhaustive but more a recount of my personal journey that now may hopefully save you some time if you’re looking to swap out the Curve provided Gigapads looking for any braking performance gains albeit they are pretty good in comparison but as I found you can equally find a better mating pad as one that is inferior. I’m lucky that I experienced the poorly performing example quickly so metered my speed, braking, awareness and approach in order to safely descend and make it home in one piece, yes it was that dire.
For me the Campy Reds are my friend and I’ll take any future recommendations from the Curve Cycling team as their premises always have visitor beer available.
Thanks Mars, follow his antics on insta via @mars_rides