12 October, 2009

VO Sqeal-Free Brake Pad Review

Mike is a serious randonneur who puts in tremendous mileage. He tested a set of prototype VO brake pads. Here's his report:

Thanks so much for allowing me to try out the “squeal proof brake pads” you had at Velo Orange.
These brake pads are GREAT! They are amazing! And I’m not usually impressed by most bike-part “breakthroughs.”

Let me explain:

What causes brake squeal? Search the Internet on this subject for Sheldon Brown’s, or, better yet, Jobst Brandt’s discussion of brake squeal on bicycle brakes. The fact is squeal is often an engineering consequence of the functional relationship of certain brakes/brake parts/frames/forks/wheels and other related components, which can cause brake squeal, *even when the brakes and pads are perfectly adjusted.* This is especially so for cantilever brakes on the front fork of a bicycle. Even when brakes are well-designed, and extremely stiff, like a Pauls, they can still squeal.

To test the pads I put them on both a Surly Long Haul Trucker and a Soma Double Cross front cantilever fork. I put the pads on low-end Tektro cantilevers (aka Avid or Cane Creek), and a low-end Shimano $15 V-Brake. The pads spent about 600 miles on the road, in all kinds of weather. The package the pads came in said install them flat to the rim with no toe-in, so I did. The rims they pads rode on were worn: a Mavic Open Pro; and a newer but still grooved and worn Velocity Aerohead. The brake levers were Tektro; the cables new, but the housing old.

The pads NEVER made a peep! Not a single chirp or squeal. I’ve had brakes that squeal during initial, easy braking but become quiet when the braking becomes hard; and vice versa. I’ve had brakes that don’t squeal under light braking or heavy braking – but do squeal under moderate braking! This is particularly annoying as this kind of braking is done often.

No matter the conditions – rain or dry; or blazing hot, from dragging the brake down long hills (2-plus miles) – the brakes never squealed. Amazing.

And, last but not least, the braking action is good, as good as Kool-Stop Salmon pads (although this is a much more subjective claim than whether they squeal or not).

I was SO SKEPTICAL that these brake pads would work. But they do. Can I buy ten pairs of these pads? Where can you get more of these?...

Kyle has only had his set for a few days, but I was interested to know if he had an immediate reaction.  He writes:
As much as I enjoyed literally screeching to a halt at every stop
light, these new pads are definitely worth the upgrade. In addition
to being completely silent - whether the rims are dry or wet - they
seem to have better stopping power than the standard Tektro pads. I
highly recommend the upgrade... you might even start to enjoy stopping
as much as going.


Anonymous said...

Encouraging reviews! Maybe it's because I'm not a big canti brake guy, but I've never had chronic squeal issues, and other than 20 year old dried up pads I've also never had any complaints about brake performance that I could pin on the pads (though I do think Kool Stop salmons are better in the wet). What I have experienced with every pad compound out there other than the famous fish is small bits of sand that become small bits of galled aluminum in the pad. I suppose no news from the testers about this is good news, but when it comes to brake pad performance that's what I'm mostly interested in.

David Fishasaurus said...

My Kool-Stops never squeak. And there Kool, and they stop me.

Anonymous said...

How about a vintage style frame w/mechanical disc brakes? God forgive me for suggesting this....

Anonymous said...

My salmon only squeak when I squeeze REAL hard.


Anonymous said...

As any bike shop mechanic can tell you, the real test for any brake pads are the steel rims and Mafac centerpulls that are seemingly omnipresent on a huge number of 1970s Frenchy 10-speeds. If the VO pads can work on those - then CHAPEAU !

Anonymous said...

A review section attached to each and every product would greatly aid the consumer. I have found that to be the case in many of the online vendors I use.

antbikemike said...

Wow, very glad to hear this news. If they can make a Paul's canti brake not squeal or chatter, then I will buy lots of these.

Joshua said...

I am very interested in hearing reviews of these pads with centerpull brakes. I have a set of Racers sitting in a parts bin, which I never use because I can't stand the sound the brakes make (no matter how I toe them or whatever new pads I use). If these really do away with that, I'll buy a pair.

EBEEP said...

Yay Ant Bikes!

Raiyn said...

@ Anon 10/12/09 11:40 PM

That, or a Schwinn Varsity with stock brakes and steel rims. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for switching back to the white background!

Anonymous said...

which model would I use for stock Raleigh sports style brakes?
Very interested in trying these out.

Anonymous said...

What about longevity? If they don't squeal does that mean that more material is being deposited on the rims?

I've got those mentioned Tektro cantis with Kool-stops. If I spend some time tweaking the toe-in I can get the squeal to go away...for about 30 minutes.

I'm ready to just ditch the whole mess and go with disc's.

Joel said...

Anon 12:22: Discs can be a good choice but are not without their own problems.

Most obvious, you need to have a bike that will accommodate the set up. Discs warp more often than they ought to. At best, you get a chattering when you brake. Turning discs requires special equipment, usually meaning a trip to the LBS.

You may find yourself longing for the occaisional squeal.

Nathan Backous said...

I find with proper adjustment, appropriately cleaned rims, and some other tricks, I can get rid of squeal on any brake set up except on cheap linear-pull brakes on cheap forks, changing out cheapie Tektro pads for Shimano pads sometimes does the trick but I feel that Shimano pads destroy rims. Is this compound similar to Shimano compound? If so, I'd rather deal with some squeal every-once-and-a-while than deal with wearing through my rims every winter.

Skewered Left bicyclist addict said...

Darn if they do work. I installed your pads on a set of XTR V brakes calipers that were squealing no matter how I adjusted the pads(kool stop).
Out of desperation I purchased your pads and other than a little hum when brakes are first applied the sound fades away as the pads take hold.
I went from using Cantis on my Soma DC but couldn't get rid of squeal so I switched to the XTR V brakes and still had a squeal even with kool stop.
Could be the fork and rim combination ( Mavic cxp"33")but your pads did the trick.

Anonymous said...

I'm the Anon who questioned the grit-catching, galling properties of these pads. I bought a set, put them on the bike, and 10 city miles later I have the tell-tale gritty sound (it sounds like a quiet version of how disc brake always sounds), a polished stripe on my wheel's braking surface, and a nice collection of fine aluminum dust on the brake pad and a pit in the pad surface with more galled aluminum in it.

I'm not a materials engineer, but I've seen this flavor of brake pad before. Brake pads are basically some kind of ceramic particulate matter baked into rubber. The rubber isn't doing much but holding the particles together, and the particulates can be pretty much any hard stuff, sometimes a ceramic. Aluminum oxide is common, kool stops use iron oxide (aka rust, which is why they're red), and these use some kind of non-oxide ceramic particles.

These pads have been available in the US before under other labels, some people like them and some find they wear way too fast. Personally I would say they're fine if you're willing to accept that they're going to kill rims faster than normal, but I'm switching back to iron oxide pads. I will say they squeal less than harder pads and the braking performance is very good, but this comes at quite a cost.

Anonymous said...

in rsp. to the review above:

only Velo Orange would know what the pads are made of, but the crucial, crucial issue here is: how many miles and in what conditions will these wear-out rims faster? how do you define faster?

as for the pads themselves, theyre five bucks. five bucks! if they last -- on the front, where most the braking is done -- for 3000 miles, well...

Rick M. said...

I have Tektro R556 (extra long) calipers on my old sport tourer. When the original front pads wore out I replaced them with Salmon Kool-Stops. The Kool-Stops squealed horribly under hard braking.

Adjusting, cleaning etc. didn't help. I put on a pair of the VO pads last week and no more squealing. We'll see how they work out through a winter of wet commuting, but for now, I'm happy.


Parker said...

Thanks for making these brake pads available! My daily ride is a nondescript aluminum-frame MTB with V-brakes and alloy rims. I experimented for years with various pads and adjustments - they all squealed. Your pads silenced the problem effectively, and in all weather. They stop well also. Thanks!

Rick M. said...

Follow-up to my 11/18/09 post. Those front pads never did squeal, but by March 2010 they were worn out. That bike gets ridden 300-400 miles per month with a lot of hard braking.

Andrew Jung said...

Based on reviews for squeal-free bike shoe pads, I bought a pair of the VO pads to replace the squeal prone Kool-Stops (front) on my Giant Iguana SE. The VO pads are quiet but not as effective as the Kool-Stops and very abrasive to the rims in heavy downhill braking. As mentioned by another reviewer I noticed the aluminum dust buildup on the pads and decided to stop using the VO pads after two rides.