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Can You Use Carbon Brake Pads on Aluminum Rims? (Answered)

Bicycle rims and brake pads come in different materials. The usability of those crucial parts depends on the weather, environment, and purpose. It is a hassle to keep track of the compatibility of different sets of materials. 

Today we answer if you can use carbon brake pads on alloy rims.

Can you use carbon brake pads on aluminum rims?

You can use carbon brake pads on aluminum rims, but you should not. Professionals and experienced bikers highly discourage it. You will not get good braking from carbon brake pads on aluminum rims as they pick up shards of the aluminum rim, making them wear out before the intended life span.

Alloy rims provide you the best value for your bucks as they are durable, less expensive, and offer better braking performance. However, they are kind of heavy compared to lighter carbon rims.

But as for road bikes or casual rides, aluminum rims triumphs over carbon rims by far for their cost-effectiveness. The different rims require brake pads specifically made for those rims only.

Brake pads come in different compounds. Now carbon brake pads are made of softer compounds that work excellent on carbon rims. Carbon rims produce much heat that carbon-specific brake pads can dissipate adequately.

But these carbon-specific brake pads are not as effective on aluminum rims. The carbon brake pads on aluminum rims tend to pick up tiny pieces of aluminum shards. The shards get embedded on the brake pads.

And when you use these carbon brake pads on carbon rims, the aluminum shards damage your expensive carbon rims. The carbon surface wears out much sooner.

The softer materials of carbon brake pads give you a tighter grip on aluminum rims. You get a grabby feeling, and the braking feels abrupt and uncomfortable. The safest thing would be to use brake pads as their intended use.

Three reasons why you cannot use carbon brake pads of aluminum rims

Both brake pads and bicycle rims come in different compounds and materials. The usage of brake pads on rims is specified and should be followed accordingly.

Various manufacturers even recommend using particular brake pads for their distinct rims to boost performance and longevity. The brake pads also vary depending on the weather type and riding style.

Mixing up the combination of brake pads with rims could cost you a lot of money and unforeseeable misfortunes. So, let’s see why you cannot use carbon brake pads on aluminum rims.


There is a reason why separate brake pads are made for separate bicycle rims. The brake pads explicitly made for carbon rims are much softer than other brake pads.

So, using those brake pads on aluminum rims will feel uneven and abrupt. It is reported that accidents often occur due to using such brakes that cause abrupt deceleration.

Product life:

As stated before, carbon-specific brake pads are much softer as carbon rims absorb more heat. Aluminum rims can better dissipate heat as opposed to carbon rims.

Using these brake pads on aluminum rims will collect tiny aluminum pieces as you brake. This tears down the brake pad materials and reduces its product life.

These tiny shards of aluminum graze against aluminum rims and cause even more damage.

Harmful for carbon rims:

You may well have changed the brake pads back to carbon rims. The tiny pieces of aluminum scratch and destroy the materials of surface rims. Carbon rims are costly,   so you do not want to risk damaging those.

Are carbon fiber brake pads good?

Carbon brake pads are new in the block. It has not been long since this new tech was introduced. Carbon fiber brake pads have their quirks, but they come with some disadvantages.

Carbon fiber brake pads will give you the best performance if used on carbon rims only. That is because carbon materials react differently compared to stainless steel or alloy.

Steel brake pads are heavy and cannot dissipate heat properly. When you brake, the brake pads and disc start to get hot, and they tend to release gasses as they get hot. The gasses form a layer between the braking surfaces.

This gas reduces friction which reduces your ability to stop in time. You will not face such issues with carbon fiber brake pads.

They are lighter and stop vehicles better than other brake pads. One downside of carbon fiber brake pads is they are quite expensive than their alternatives.

What are the best brake pads for aluminum rims?

The brake pads are made of various materials such as leathers, rubbers, steel, copper, and many more. There is no specific type of brake pads, but different types of brake pads that serve unique purposes.

If you are constantly switching between alloy and carbon wheels for training and races, make sure you change your brake pads as well. Because carbon-specific brake pads will not give the desired performance on aluminum rims.

Based on customer preference and satisfaction, here are the top four brake pads for aluminum rims. They are not in chronological order.

Kool-Stop Dual Compound Mountain Pads:

Kool-stop is a trusted brand for high-end brake pads. This series of brake pads have a curved shape that conforms to rim curvature.

The use of a dual-compound design makes the brake pad effective in both wet and dry seasons.

Hotop 2 Pairs V Bike Brake Pads:

The versatile v type brake pads are a suitable replacement for most v brake bikes. The brake pad is made of hard-wearing rubber and metal, giving an excellent overall performance.

AlritzBike Brake Pads Set:

The use of hard-wearing rubber and aluminum alloy makes these brake pads long-lasting and highly durable. They offer superior braking performance all-weather round.

Kool-Stop Bicycle Brake Pads with X Pad:

Made of rubber compound, these brake pads are close alternatives to the dual-compound mountain pads. The brake pads work in all weather. They offer maximum braking on ceramic-coated surfaces too.

What is better ceramic or carbon brake pads?

The purpose of ceramic and carbon brake pads varies. What you may use on the streets may change in the racetracks.

Metallic rims and brake pads produce a lot of heat. The purpose of rotor and brake pads is to change the mechanical energy to heat energy. Some materials can dissipate heat effectively while others cannot.

One downside of carbon brake pads is that it is not versatile like other brake pads. It does not perform as well in the rain or winter season. Performance dips in winter, so you have to change to different combinations.

For professional and heavy-intensive usage, carbon brake pads offer more value. But, it comes with higher cost and focused use only. On the other hand, ceramic brake pads provide the best deal at regular driving temperatures.

They are non-abrasive, like carbon brake pads, so they last longer. Ceramic brake pads are also cheaper than carbon-specific brake pads.

How to install brake pads of aluminum rims?

To install brake pads, you must first understand what sort of brake pads you are using. A brake block is where the pad is integrated with the mounting system. A cartridge pad is another type that is relatively easy to install.

Installing brick block.

Remove the wheel:

Remove the wheel to get proper access to brake pads. You will have quick releases that will ease your wheel opening process.

Use Hex key or 8mm spanner:

Keep the washers in exactly the same order. Use an Allen key or 8-millimeter spanner to tighten the brake pads.

Installing cartridge pads.

Remove the wheel:

Same with removing cartridge brake pads, the first step is removing the wheels.

2-3 mm Allen key:

Cartridge brake pad holders require a two-to-three-millimeter Allen key. Loosen the grub screw and simply slide in the brake pads. Tighten the grub screw with the Allen key.

The important thing that comes after installing brake pads is adjusting their angle. Make sure both the brake pads are biting on the rim at the same time you press on the brake.

Use a four-millimeter Allen key to adjust the brake pads’ angles. There should be a screw on the binder to adjust the angles of the braking pads.

Gently press on the lever, so the brake pads sit on the rim while you adjust the angles. This should give you the best idea of where the brake pads will hit your rim.

Final Thoughts 

Carbon brake pads are better known for their supreme braking. However, this does not mean that you should use carbon brake pads on aluminum rims. It reduces the product’s life span and damages the carbon pad if replaced after use. So, it is always better to use suitable brake pads on alloy rim.