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Product Review No. 1-SwissStop Brake Pads

So I want to do a year end review of all the various products I tried this year and provide some feedback. I am insane about my equipment (should probably devote more time to the engine but I digress) and want to share with you some of the observations I have had with stuff that I pay my hard earned money for. Nothing I review is given to me.

First up: SwissStop brake pads.

From the land of financial obfuscation and bank account trickery comes this wonderful pad from SwissStop.

Where Purchased/Cost/Story:
So this season, I rolled on some fast FSA 488 full carbon wheels. (I’ll do a review of these later but net:net…TOTALLY AWESOME WHEELS!). I picked them up dirt cheap during the summer and when it came time to build up my Rock Lobster Scandium Team, the issue I had was the brake pad issue against these full carbon wheels. I have run Empella FroggLegs for years and refuse to run anything else. Unbelievable power and clearance with my Dura Ace levers. The set up is a wee bit tough but once dialed, nothing beats them and all others (Spooky, Pauls, etc) try to emulate this design. So the dilemma was finding post-style brake pads meant for carbon rims to slip into the Empellas as they require post mount pads. I had been told by many many people not to run traditional pads, even if new, as the compound would be horrific if the weather turned sour (read: absolutely no braking power) let alone the squealing and stuttering issues experienced by using pads with compounds meant for aluminum or ceramic coated rims.

My first stop was to talk to my guru in Brandon D at Boulder Cycle Sport. I know he’s tried lots of combinations of equipment before and he faced the same dilemma with a new set of full carbon Zipps he was running for them this year. He located a company BBB Parts who ’sell’ something called the CrossStop from BBB. This product is a post style cartridge system which in theory would be perfect as I could swap out carbon fiber compound pads for aluminum ones (e.g. like you have on your Dura Ace road brakes more or less) if I want to train on the same bike with shitty old wheels. The issue was one of delivery. These guys at BBB could never come through for Brandon and deliver product. The unthinkable alternative was to lose the FroggLeggs and use Avid Shorty's or some like system which you can find carbon pads for. So back to my search...

Days passed and literally I’m thinking I need to sell these FSA wheels as it’s too much hassle. After a long search (and I should have started here!) our peeps at Cyclocrossworld just sourced these pads this year and were exactly what I was looking for. Stu at Cyclocrossworld walked me through the SwissStop Yellow Rat’s for Carbon Rims.

Cost was $50.99 for a set of 4.

Set up:
Simple. It’s a post mount. But, note on the pads that there are small indicators in English for Front/Right, Front/Left, Rear/Right, and Rear/Left. This I assume does some level of toeing in so to speak. The distance from the post to the front of the pad and the post to the rear of the pad is asymmetrical and thus need to be used differently on the front or rear.

How did they Work?
Delicious. Here are my observations:

1) They modulate beautifully. When the heat up, they feel just like my normal pads on aluminum or ceramic rims.

2) Little chop: After a few rides, the pads and front fork (an 06 Alpha Q) would chop under heavy power-braking. I started to get a bit peeved but literally washed the rim and the pads with soap and water and it re-set them back to their original state. No chop.

3) No build up: I experienced virtually no build up on the rim of pad residue. A barely noticeable trace of yellow streaking.

4) Dry Performance: Excellent.

5) Wet Performance: Excellent. Nearly identical feel to dry in wet conditions.

6) Mud Performance: Excellent: a bit slippery but would hook up fairly nicely once heated.

7) Cold/Snow conditions: I raced these extensively in 45 degree and below weather and met with perfect results. The cold carbon and cold compound did not seem to adversely affect performance. I did not race these in snow unfortunately because I blew a tubular at the 2nd to last race (the last two races were in snow/mud) and was not going to go and repair them for two races left in the season.

8) Use on aluminum rims: I never used this pad or compound on aluminum rims. I decided to preserve the pads for exclusive use on those carbon wheels. Last time I checked, I do not have a contract with Fidea and need to buy these things myself! I don’t need aluminum shavings in my bling carbon fiber, yo!

I hope this helps anyone in search of solving this problem next year. More reviews to come…

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