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!
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.
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