Kool-Stop, a Name You Can Brake On

by Chikashi

koolstop_bannnerThe recent experience of riding a rented Basso in Sicily reminded me that I wanted to say something about Kool-Stop brake pads. The full carbon Basso had an entry level groupset made up of Microtech and Shimano parts. The basic Microtech brakes were fine except the brake pads were basically useless during steep descents, as I found out on a somewhat scary approach to Modica. As a result, I decided to nix my plans to go up Mt. Etna as I would have had to come back down again at some point… (So much for my training plan in Sicily.) The ability to stop or slow down depends more on the quality of the pads than on the calipers.

My first experience using Kool-Stop brake pads is a bit over 30 years ago when I used to race BMX. With each heat being only a couple of hundred metres long, there is literally no room for getting deceleration and acceleration wrong. I used the Kool-Stop Continental pads with Dia-Compe calipers and Haro 2-finger levers on alloy, nylon and graphite rims. The stopping power is phenomenal.

When I picked up a 1960s Motobécane beater to rebuild a couple of years ago, I got 2 pairs of Continentals to install on the rather basic Weinmann centre-pull calipers. As it tends to rain rather more frequently around here than I would like, I got the salmon compound for wet condition. I was half expecting that Kool-Stop may have changed the compound over the years to economise on production costs, but I found the same, uncompromising stopping power.

One unique aspect of Kool-Stop’s assortment is that, aside from their products’ impressive performance, they offer replacement pads for current model Campagnolo and Shimano brakes, as well as for vintage models from Campagnolo, Modolo, Mafac, Weinmann and others. It is like a one-stop shop for all your brake pad requirements.

If you are the sort that is quite careful with bike maintenance, your routine probably includes a check of the brake pads to see if there are foreign objects, such as tiny fragments of the alloy rim, stuck in them. Kool-Stop claim that their pads are gentler on the rims. It seems counterintuitive to think that a brake pad can be powerful and yet be gentle on the rims, but it is true. I have never found bits of the rim stuck in any of my Kool-Stop pads. I’m still amazed, to be honest.

Last year I went to the French Alps with the Brunette’s bike that had a set of 20-year old Campagnolo brake pads that needed regular attention (getting rid of alloy shards) and were rather hard and dry. Somehow, I did not think of replacing them before the trip and found out the hard way on the way down from Col du Galibier. The next day, I opted not to descend from Cime de la Bonette because I was not confident about dealing with a technical descent whilst relying on suboptimal brake pads. The first thing I did when I got home was to replace them with a dual compound Campagnolo 8/9 pads from Kool-Stop. Sorted.

I then replaced the rock-hard, useless original 1980s Campagnolo Record pads with the Kool-Stop salmon compound old Campagnolo pads on the Little Brunette’s Peugeot. Sorted.

For alloy rims, the black compound is for dry condition, and the salmon compound is for wet condition. The dual compound is meant to deal with both types and give you a more controlled and smooth stop, but I haven’t quite discerned the benefit of dual compound over the salmon compound even though it is explained on their web site. Unless one is exclusively a fair weather cyclist, I think the salmon compound is just the ticket, in all weather conditions. One might note that the salmon compound is a bit too aggressive in the dry, but all one needs to do is to squeeze the levers a bit less. It may be pointed out that the salmon compound wears faster than the black compound, but it’s not as if the salmon version wears out after just a few thousand kilometres.

I have no experience with models made for carbon sidewalls, or any of the disc brake pads, but I trust that they are one of the best, if not the best, options available on the market.

If you have any questions about compatibility or anything else, the friendly staff at either Kool-Stop HQ or Kool-Stop Europe will help you. Just send them an email.

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