With over a century of experience in the development and production of cycle braking systems, Fibrax has accumulated a wealth of specialization in the design and manufacture of braking solutions, providing an expert service throughout every aspect of brake block and pad production. Very much like tires to traction issues, brake pads play a definitive role in determining braking performance. Big S users will no doubt be familiar with the disappointing performance and the rim eating characteristics of the XT and XTR pads. For V brake users, the aftermarket pad of choice has always been Koolstop, with its wide range of colours and compounds to choose from. To this reviewer who has always been a die-hard Koolstop convert, how did the Fibrax fair then?
First things first, the braking compound came in navy blue – meant for standard (non-ceramic) rims. The unique pad pattern differentiates it from other similar products out there. Instead of having the more common arrow shaped and vertical pattern cuts along the whole pad, the rear half incorporates a dimple pattern very much like what one can find on a golf ball. A neat but simple feature is 2 small blind holes at either ends of the pads on the non-braking side that acts as a pad change indicator once daylight shines through. The threaded low profile mount design allows the pads to be installed on any V brake system. High quality bolts and alignment washers accompany the pads. Installing the pad was tricky: the pads refused to stay aligned once the bolts were tightened. A closer inspection revealed that Fibrax provided an additional washer on each pad, causing the contacting surfaces to slip more easily. Removing the additional washer solved the problem, but the curved edge of the pads made it a chore to align as compared to more rectangular profiled ones used in the XT and XTR cartridge shoe pads. To be fair, other pads with similar profiles are just as difficult to align.
Once fixed up, the Fibrax pads felt harder than the Koolstops that were just removed. As such, the reviewer had to significantly alter the amount of pressure to apply on the brake levers. Right out of the box, the brake ?feel? & modulation of the pads was not exactly satisfactory, but locking the wheels is possible, whereby one has to put in that extra effort to do so.
The wet month of April provided plenty of opportunities to test the pads in the wet. In the first such ride, the Fibrax pads only suffered a slight loss in modulation. Whereas for other V brake pads, more often than not one would find themselves either hanging on with no braking force or locking the wheels very often in the wet. With that the wet weather performance of the Fibrax comes close to that offered by ceramic rims. Carbon shed is also noticeably lesser than what was previously experienced with other brands. Throughout the test period, the pads remained screech-free, despite less than perfect alignment at times and in all weather conditions, something that not many brake pads out there can boast of. Towards the end of the test period, modulation in the dry improved steadily as the pads began to brake in, while maintaining minimal pad wear. Longer riding time would be needed however, to determine if the brake compound is as rim friendly as the benchmark set by the Koolstops.
Readers would like to know that the test pads have been superceded by newer models which incorporate more conventional braking patterns in racier colours and compounds for ceramic and non-ceramic rims. For XT and XTR V brake users, Fibrax pads also come in the cartridge insert type which are more convenient to align.
To sum it up, the pads did perform admirably, most surprisingly is its performance in wet weather with non-ceramic rims, although for dry condition this reviewer still preferred the response of Koolstops. All these however, come at a premium over its competitors, plus the prevalence of high performance budget disc brakes, makes the Fibrax pads a tough choice. But for consistent braking in all weather conditions, quality bolts and washers that does not succumb to the elements, without having to make the jump to ceramic rims or disc brakes, this might be a premium worth investing in.
Sidenote: The Fibrax pads were mounted on a pair of 2003 XTR V brakes running in the front, mated with 2002 XTR STL Brake Levers. Rims used during testing included the Mavic 517 and Shimano M540 wheelset.