A brake is a device that is used for slowing down a body or stopping its movement. Most brakes act on the rotation of mechanical elements and absorb kinetic, mechanical, hydrodynamic, or electrical energy. Hence, a brake pad is essential when getting a bike.
Mechanical brakes pads are the most common; they dissipate kinetic energy in the form of heat generated by mechanical friction between a drum or a rotating metal disc and a fixed friction element that is brought into contact by mechanical, hydraulic or pneumatic means.
The friction elements of the drum brakes can be bands or pads (blocks with a concave surface); while for disc brakes these could be plates or rings. The friction materials can be organic, metallic, or ceramic. Over the past decade, brake pads for basalt braking surfaces have been trending on the market.
What is a basalt braking surface?
Basalt is a natural, hard, dense volcanic rock that has become a leader in the consolidation of composite fibers over the past decade. Continuous fibers are extruded from basalt rock, and this basalt fiber has incredible heat dissipation properties that are optimized on the braking surface of the carbon surface.
In a bike wheel marketed as having “basalt braking surface”, the carbon fiber wheels have basalt fibers added. Basalt fiber binds to the braking surface to minimize heat buildup and improve the overall stopping performance of the wheels.
Manufacturers of bike wheels with basalt braking surface claim that it is resistant to high temperatures, which dissipates heat accumulation and ensures dependable and constant braking, even at prolonged temperatures. No aluminum braking surface is required, and less weight in the rotation means faster acceleration. The highest test temperature values it has recorded are 250 degrees Celsius (482 F).
Some brake pads suitable for a basalt braking surface
- SwissStop Flash Evo: Boasts superior performance in wet weather, and designed to fit on most road and triathlon bikes, even those with small spaces for brake pads
- Shimano Dura-Ace R55C4: Cartridge type brake pads designed to fit many Dura-Ace carbon wheels
- Alritz Bike Brake Pads: Features grooves to prevent damage by sand and stone; slightly curved shape to fit the wheel’s contours
Brake Performance on Aluminum vs. Carbon/ Basalt Braking SurfaceAluminum braking surfaces usually stop in all weather conditions and do not require special pads. Carbon braking surfaces require special brake pads, but do not stop for long periods in humid climates, and are more susceptible to overheating under severe braking conditions.
Carbon fiber wheels have replaced traditional aluminum wheels for racing, such as in Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, the last outpost of aluminum racing wheels. Carbon fiber wheels are trendy today, with more options and lower prices than ever.
If you’re competing and can afford it, carbon fiber wheels are justifiable to go with. However, if you’re not racing and you appreciate durability, braking performance, and affordability, then there is still life in traditional aluminum wheels.