Braking with Carbon Rims

Full carbon rims have come a long way in terms of braking performance. I’ve just started riding 2011 Hed Stingers on the road, in the past having generally reserved similar wheels for track use because of the poor brake feel and also the mandatory tubular tires. The new wheel’s braking felt surprisingly smooth, not shuddering and uneven. I have yet to ride them in the rain, but I was feeling at ease in the dry after one ride. I’m using Swisstop yellow pads, and I felt satisfied with their performance and how they treated the rim surface. For brake pads, they seemed shockingly expensive to me at first, but hell the wheels retail for $2200 for the pair so I guess that’s just part of the game.

One annoying thing about the current generation of toroid-shaped rims is that the brake calipers on the market currently were clearly optimized for 19-20mm wide rims as opposed to 23mm+ of newer Hed or Zipp. As a result, you have to run those calipers, like this SRAM Red, at full open, and perhaps the caliper doesn’t contribute any spring resistance back to the lever to keep the blade from rattling.

Giant TCR Advanced SL


Whenever I smell cork burning during a race, I wonder who was the first test pilot for those?

Braking performance might have improved, but they still sound like nails on a chalkboard.

@champs—not so much anymore if you get the toe-in right and Shimano’s pads are surprisingly the best in the wet. Other cork-based pads are f’ing scary in the wet. I’ve melted a set of “carbon” pads in a hilly race too and when I heard the scraping the rim, had flashes of that stage in the Tour when Jan flew into a ditch cause his brakes failed.

i wouldn’t say “his brakes failed”....jan was never a great descender; riis chaperoned his descents for his 1997 tour win.  more like he failed to adapt to his equipment on the descent that famous time he went into a ditch.  the point being that the equipment has improved to the point where technique and margin for error are closer to that of standard wheels.

and my swisstops are silent on my new hed stinger6 (at least for the 1st ride) but a bit of a howler on my 2yr old stinger9.

His brakes didn’t melt on those Lightweight wheels?

I’ve had alloy rims that howled like a pack of wolves, and that was worse, but the the last pro CX race I went to sure wasn’t musical.

Do you mean Beloki? That guy’s tubular peeled right off.

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