Brake pads are not exactly exciting, and for that I apologize. But excitement isn’t really the goal with anything brake related, is it? Mid-corner surprises should generally be spurned in favor of boring old durability and predictability.
As a result of their inherent dreariness, a brake pad has to be quite excellent, or dangerously awful, to merit its own story. Thankfully, Cole’s Pink pad is the former.
The Pink pad is designed for use with both carbon and aluminum rims, though it is optimized for carbon. This is a relatively unique feature, with most pads designed specifically for one material or the other and accompanied by a manufacturer warning that makes it clear that if you don’t follow the rules, your broken bones are all on you. SwissStop’s Yellow King pads currently dominate the small dual-purpose category, so much of this review will provide direct comparison between the two.
Cole’s Tom Petrie dropped off a few pairs of the Pink pads last fall, and we’ve used them with a crop of carbon wheels from Bontrager, HED, Zipp and Enve, among others, and with a wide variety of braking surfaces. Also thrown in were a number of aluminum rims, which all have nearly identical braking surfaces.
The most immediately obvious difference between the venerable SwissStops and the Pink pads is in durometer, or hardness. The Pink pads are considerably softer, and the material is more fibrous. A small clump of tiny hair-like bits sits at the front of the Pink pads after a technical decent. That means that when used on aluminum rims the pads attracted tiny metal shards more frequently than the harder SwissStops, but were also easier to clean out; a fingernail was a powerful enough to tool to do the job. Just be sure to check the pads before swapping to carbon wheels to avoid damaging their braking surfaces.
Absolute power on aluminum rims falls slightly behind the SwissStops, but modulation is quite good. The softer compound seems to squirm a bit under hard braking, but overall performance is not really affected.
Performance on carbon is significantly better, sitting among the best carbon pads we’ve ever used across a wide range of carbon brake surfaces. The squirmy feeling disappears and the compound is fantastically powerful, particularly on a good, stiff set of brakes.
The compound was almost too powerful when paired with the rougher brake surface of Zipp’s 303 Firecrest wheels. Braking on this surface, as well as on the rough Enve 6.7 surface, was a bit grabby at times. A bit of time to adapt our braking methods eliminated most of the problem.
On slick brake surfaces, like those found on the Bontrager wheels (Bontrager recommends cork pads), the Pink pads excelled. No longer grabby, they were supremely powerful with excellent, predictable modulation. We had a similar experience on the Hed Stinger 6 wheels.
Brake fade was never an issue, and Cole claims that their testing has shown that the Pink pads manage heat better than their previous pads, and equal with the Yellow Kings.
We didn’t have a chance to test the pads in wet weather with multiple wheelsets (it doesn’t rain much here in Colorado, particularly in winter), but performance in the one downpour we were caught in was significantly better than the SwissStops on Enve’s 6.7 wheelset. The Enve wheels, however, have an excellent braking surface and tend to provide adequate brake power with almost any pad in the rain. On wet rims, brake power with the Yellow Kings is about a 6 out of 10 (10 = dry weather brake power), with the Pink pads bumping that up to about 8 out of 10.
Durability was decent, about on par with most carbon-specific pads, even though we used them during the nasty winter months when the roads are often full of gravel and de-icer. Despite use on multiple bikes with multiple wheels over about 2,000 mountainous kilometers, the first set is only about half worn.
One set (two pads, for one wheel) will set you back $40, about $15 cheaper than the Yellow Kings.
The scoop: Cheaper than SwissStop Yellow King’s with better carbon-wheel performance and poorer aluminum-wheel performance, surprisingly good durability and easy removal of aluminum chunks. Not the ideal aluminum pad, but not terrible either, and excellent on carbon.