Review: Velo Orange “Squeal Free” Brake Shoes and Pads

Brake pads. Those little devices are something we generally don’t think about until something goes wrong…squeaking and grinding against our rims or being unable to stop when needed. I faced both of these situations within my commuting fleet, and so it was with great interest that I agreed to test the “squeal-free” brake pads and V-brake shoes from Velo Orange.


VO wasn’t terribly forthcoming with details about the pad compound…they had some research documents as they were developing these products but didn’t share them with us. So, I don’t know anything about the compound used and the hardness rating (durometer). I can say that the pads feel about as firm (using the trusty “fingernail test”, which really doesn’t tell me anything) as other major-brand pads in my parts bins.

The black brake compound has tiny flecks of a tan-colored material mixed in…I don’t know what that material might be or if it improves braking ability; it’s just something I noticed. The pads have the required shape to fit modern Shimano-style pad holders, including the little scalloped depression at one end for the holder’s setscrew.


The V brake shoes have the same tan-flecked black material and come stock with orbital washers and spacers to simplify toe-in. These are the threaded-post models; straight-post models for traditional cantilever brakes are also available.


In the spirit of VO, I installed the pads on a genuine French bike…my 1971 Astra citybike. This bike is equipped with the original Weinmann sidepulls, which aren’t particularly powerful even on a good day. Luckily, I had some spare Kool-Stop pad holders and bolted the combination right on. Here they are installed and ready to accept a wheel:


I installed the V-brake shoes on the front end of the hardtail mountain bike I occasionally commute on — this bike was in DESPERATE need of new shoes as you can see here:


The VO shoes have a bit more overall length than the stock pads being replaced. I thought I might have some fork leg clearance issues, but didn’t. That extra length had a positive effect on braking performance, too…everything felt more solid up front.

The conditions I ride in are fairly flat, and at this time of the year very dry. Most of my riding consists of stop-and-go city riding and a good bit of “urban assault” riding in the green spaces, parking garages and city structures when time allows. Come summertime, I expect to spend a lot of time slogging through torrential rainstorms.

Well, how do they work? I’ve ridden both bikes for a couple months with pads and shoes installed, and I can honestly say that I’ve noticed a pretty big improvement in braking performance. Both bikes stop more quickly; in the case of the mountain bike, I don’t get any of the banshee-like wail I was used to with the old shoes. On my Astra, the anemic Weinmann sidepulls now feel like they’ll actually stop me in a panic situation! In both cases, there were no squeaks or squeals from the very first ride…some other pad/shoe brands tend to squeal for the first couple rides until the pad is broken in. I haven’t had an opportunity to ride either bike in the rain yet, though, and this is often the best way to truly test a brake pad for performance. I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to get wet with them.

Are they the best pads and shoes I’ve ever tried? Well, the jury’s still out on that…I do have a salmon-colored favorite that lives on many of my other bikes, but I would strongly consider these VO models as replacements when my other pads wear out. Besides, they’re a great deal whether you need the pad inserts or the pads/holders or the shoes — substantially less than a couple of the other big names.

The pads definitely work!

nose wheelie

You may notice that when visiting the Velo Orange product page, their pad compound is show as brick red rather than the black of our review pads. VO claims the compound is unchanged; the brick red is just a more appealing color to them.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.


  1. Andy May 18, 2010 12:36 pm 

    I bought 2 sets of these brake shoes myself, after reading a very positive review on the Epicurean Cyclist blog. Both of these reviews seem very similar, where the writer had used the pads for a very short period of time, and only in ideal conditions.

    My experience was very different. I used these in cold winter weather, hoping that these might finally be the pads I could rely on to make the noises end. That was true when they were new, but after 100 miles of use, the noises were much louder than any other brakes I’ve heard. I got one month commuting (about 200 miles) before the pads were completely worn down, when I can normally deal with 2 changes per year (I live in a very hilly area also).

    I emailed Velo Orange, and their response was poor. They simply said that these don’t always make the squeeling go away, and didn’t address my concern about how quickly they wore down. I would not recommend these to anyone unless they only ride in ideal conditions with few hills. The stopping power is very poor, and the life of the pads is pathetic.


  2. Ghost Rider May 18, 2010 12:42 pm 


    odd…the writer for Epicurean Cyclist (Russ) used to write for us, but I can assure you that we didn’t crib each other’s reviews of the brake pads. πŸ˜‰

    And, although I’ve had them on my bikes for just 3 months or so, that equals hundreds of miles (400+; I don’t own a car). The pads still function beautifully with no noises, squeals or undue wear.

  3. Logan May 18, 2010 3:40 pm 

    Hi Jack! :)

    Thanks for the review! :) I also had these VO pads for awhile I gave up on them. The pads did indeed prevent squealing but for some reason, unlike other pads I’ve owned, the VO pads seemed to pick up alot of metal bits from the rim. The accumulation of this metal in the pad caused hissing when the brakes were applied. I had to routinely pick out the metal and file-down the pads every 300 miles or so to prevent excessive rim wear.
    This phenomena seemed to be rider independent (my wife vs me), climate independent (Portland, OR (wet and cool) to Sacramento, CA (dry and hot)), and occurred on different rims (Alex adventurer rims and Mavic 720s).

    Like Andy mentioned, Russ also wrote a glowing review on these however I noticed he and Laura swapped out the pads when they reached Texas. I’m not sure if it was due to just trying new gear (Russ switched to linear pull from cantis) or another issue. πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, I hope they work great for you! I’ve put mine in the spare parts pile. :)

    Cheers! :)

  4. Ghost Rider May 18, 2010 5:10 pm 

    @Logan…I’ll have to keep my eyes out for metal bits embedded in the pads — one of the reasons I am so fond of the salmon-colored Koolstop pads is that they are virtually immune to such things. Thanks for reporting this consideration. The last thing I want is my rimwall all torn up!

  5. Andy May 18, 2010 8:50 pm 

    I had a similar experience with metal bits. It picked several out, but they were always coming back. I since switched to Koolstop pads, and while they make a little noise, they were generally quieter than other generics I’ve used, and they wear at a normal rate.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Russ ditched cantis because he thought the stopping power would be better with linears. That’s certainly been my experience, although the terrible stopping power of the VO pads might lead people to falsely believe it’s the brakes that need replacing when it’s really the pads that’s the issue.

    I’m not sure where you are, but if you went 400 miles including some winter riding with no undue wear, than I don’t really know what to say. These suckers literally wore down to the base in just 200 miles for me, which is a problem I hadn’t seen the previous winters I’ve been riding. I know my combination of slushy roads and significant hills is a recipe for fast wear, but these pads were the worst I could imagine. YMMV!

  6. Raiyn May 18, 2010 10:55 pm 

    Hrrm. I think I’ll stick with My Kool Stops for the time being as I’ve already had an issue with the previous set of Jagwires snagging some metal and scarring my rims.

  7. Ghost Rider May 19, 2010 2:19 am 

    @Andy, I live in SW Florida, where winters are…well…not so bad. And it’s dead flat here, so no heavy braking on the downhills. We do have a lot of stoplights, though!

  8. Andy May 20, 2010 6:55 am 

    Sounds like we have major differences in how we use(d) these pads then! It would be really helpful to explain that sort of thing in your reviews. Knowing what kind of conditions you ride in makes a significant difference in a review about brakes.

  9. Ghost Rider May 20, 2010 10:54 am 

    Duly noted…an oversight on my part. I’ve just added a brief description of my riding conditions.

  10. Raiyn May 20, 2010 11:41 pm 

    Perhaps a location line could be added to the blog posts to help clarify such matters? A “Boston” winter is certainly different from a “Tampa” winter.

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