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Brake Pad Compatibility

So we get asked this one a lot.

Can I use <BrandX> brake pads on PL wheels? or Can I use PL brake pads on <BrandX> wheels?

Braking performance affects two elements equally. One is the brake pad. One is the braking surface.


During braking, the kinetic energy of your momentum is changed by means of friction into heat energy.


On an aluminum rim, much of this heat is conducted away through the natural properties of the metal.

On a carbon rim, there is no conductivity. The heat will just sit there on the braking surface.


Under heavy braking, the heat will build up very high. This can damage the rim materials. Additionally, it can melt the brake pad. If the pad actually melts, it can coat the braking surface and cause surface damage. Although the cause of damage is different, both can make the rim unsuitable for use and both can void warranties.


There are only two ways to deal with this: 1 - conduct heat away or 2 - use materials with higher heat tolerances.


Since metal bonds very poorly to epoxy polymers, adding a metal surface in most cases will add too much weight to the rim to be practical. Further, just adding a tiny strip of metal won't really help because the heat has nowhere to go. The heat will still build up very quickly unless you add a heatsink and/or cooling fins. This just adds more weight and lowers aerodynamic performance.


Hence the alternative is to use different materials. Not all of them work in the same way.


On PL wheels, the braking surface is made of a layer of basalt fiber.



This gives a heat buffer that protects the epoxy polymer of the rim from damage.


That just leaves the brake pad.


If the brake pad melting temperature is too low, it will melt.

If the brake pad melting temperature is not too low, there are other ways that it can cause damage. One way is to be too hard. This will cause physical damage to the braking surface. Alternately, the brake pad can be made softer. This will increase the 'grabbiness' of the brake pad. However, this will increase friction and therefore will increase temperature buildup.


Hence, the characteristics of a brake pad lie in a very fine balance.


What works on one rim may not work on another.


We cannot say what works on a Mavic rim or a Campagnolo rim or whatever, since we don't make Mavic's rims or Campagnolo's either. We do make rims for some other companies, but we don't disclose which ones and even when we do, they are always made to their specifications, so compatibility is always their call.


If you have another brand's wheel and want to use our pad on that rim, you could ask them if our brake pads work on their rims (we have tested other brands pads on our own wheels, but the results are invariably worse, not better), but given the cost of a set of brake pads compared with a new set of rims, it is difficult to see any practical benefit to not just using their pads for their wheels.


It's not a case of 'better/worse', simply a case of balancing the characteristics of the pad to match the heat handling characteristics of the rim.

What about aluminum rims? Can I use <XX> pads on <XX> aluminum rims?
As observed above, aluminum rims are much more forgiving, so heat buildup is not generally an issue. You may use whichever brake pads you choose on pretty much any aluminum rims.

Having said that, the primary difference from pad to pad will be braking performance. Some brake pads do work better than others, so you may wish to experiment to find your favorites.

PL Blue brake pads have been tested for use with aluminum rims and offer good to very good performance. Easily better than average.

If you have no carbon braking surface equipped wheels, you can feel free to try the blue pads out on your standard aluminum rims and know that you won't suffer any performance penalty.

They were not designed for an aluminum braking surface, so you might find other high performance pads that you like better for this usage, but you won't be disappointed with the blue pads either.