Cheap brake blocks are rubbish, they either seem to be made of solid plastic and don’t grip the rim that well or are made of a soft rubber and wear away quickly.
The pads that my previous bike came with (from new) only lasted 2,000 miles and this more or less fit inline with previous cheap pads I’d had experience of. I was wondering if I needed to spend a bit more and get superiour braking performance and longer life. I splashed out on some multi compound pads and at just under £20 x 2 they weren’t cheap:
Now they have worn out I can give my true verdict, and that is 10,000 miles! They were adequately looked after and swapped from front to back and back again a couple of times so they wore evenly. I have now bought replacement pads (which are only slightly cheaper than the pads and blocks together) and will continue to do so as they are far better than the cheap ones.
To increase life there are two main things I try and do as often as I can be bothered:
– Remove aluminium shavings that get lodged in the pad surface, these are caused firstly by grit then by the shaving scraping more braking surface away. Use a pin or knife point (etc) to carefully “dig” out the shavings. Some people file the surface down, but that removes too much of it. Doing this will increase both rim and pad life.
– Clean those rims regularly! In winter and dirty weather all that dirt grinds away your pads and rims.
Lastly, if your brakes are adjusted and maintained suitably you will be safer as your stopping distance will be reduced. I’m not going to go as far as saying the pads I have stop better than any other pad, but my like for like comparison when I got them was that they really did reduce my stopping distance compared with cheap pads.
For ease of adjustment I would recommend parallel push v-brakes, they require less tweaking as the pad wears. Standard v-brakes and cantilever brakes swing at the rim in an ark, so as the pad wears they hit the rim lower and lower each time so they require adjustment to ensure they hit the middle of the rim. Whereas parallel push brakes hit the rim horizontally each time so only a barrel adjustment is required. At the moment I have a parallel push v-brake on the front and a standard v-brake on the back, I wish I could get the Shimano XTR v-brakes like a friend of mine, but I’m also saving up for other components and they are low on the priority list (for now).