Review: SwissStop Black Prince Carbon Rim Brake Pads

SwissStop Black Prince bicycle brake pads for carbon fiber rims

SwissStop released their Black Prince brake pads last summer, putting them at the top of the heap in their carbon rim brake pad lineup.

Compared to the highly visible Yellow King, the Black Prince claims to have a more linear braking force at the rim in relation to the force you’re applying to the levers. That sounds great, but since I hadn’t been riding the Yellow Kings prior to this, I couldn’t compare. What I could tell was this: These things stop on a dime.

I tested them on Culprit’s first gen wheels, which admittedly use open-mold carbon rims, and ENVE’s Smart 6.7 rims. With both wheels, I went from using ENVE’s brake pads to the Black Prince, and the effect borders on dramatic for normal riding. I also tested them in a range of temperatures, from pleasant to almost freezing, and in dry and wet, drizzling rain conditions.

Click through for overall impressions and details…

SwissStop Black Prince bicycle brake pads for carbon fiber rims

Physically, the pads have deeper grooves than some OEM pads (like SRAM’s) that are made by SwissStop. This provides better airflow off the rim surface, but also tends to collect brake dust and other gunk:

SwissStop Black Prince bicycle brake pads for carbon fiber rims

While I didn’t notice any undue noises or scratches from the collection of stuff in the grooves, it’s probably worth cleaning them out frequently to both maintain air flow (particularly if you have long, fast descents) and to keep any small, scratchy things from damaging the brake surface.

About heat, SwissStop claims a roughly 35% reduction in maximum heat generated during 60km/h-to-zero brake tests. That’s about 37.3mph, which is easily attainable going downhill. On the descents, I performed a few emergency slowing practices, and I dragged the brakes while pedaling down some moderately long (1/8 mile) descents to simulate longer, harder braking efforts. In no instance did I feel like any power was being lost, even when stopping hard at the base of the descent after dragging them for a long time. That’s incredibly confidence inspiring.

For normal riding conditions on flatter land, which involves feathering in a paceline and occasional stop lights and reacting to traffic, the brakes are phenomenally grabby. And I mean that in a good way. The braking comes on predictably – not too abruptly, but you know they’re working instantly. And lever force does indeed seem to translate into predictably more intense braking force (using the new SRAM Red brakes for the test).

Basically, I noticed improved braking across the speed spectrum immediately. The pads did stick to the ENVE rims for a fraction of a second when squeezing the levers hard at a standstill, but I never noticed any abnormal behavior during riding. Even in a light rain, they stopped the bike reliably and in short order. Overall, I’m very impressed.

MSRP is the same as the Yellow King, $50 for a 4-pack, which isn’t bad compared to what some other high end pads cost. They’re distributed in the US and Canada by Helvetia Sports, which has a dealer locator on their website. If you can’t find a local bike, check Competitive Cyclist, Glory Cycles, Excel, Art’s and World Class Cycles, who either have them in stock now or should soon.

Comments

TT - 01/15/13 - 10:59am

Why are these called SRAM by SwissStop? Is it SRAM’s design and SwissStop’s production? Or is it just 100% SwissStop design and production made exclusively (?) for SRAM brakes?

In other simple words: has SRAM anything to do with these pads?

TT - 01/15/13 - 11:05am

By the way, there are many more examples like this one: Oval by Fuji. Bottecchia (wheels) by Gipiemme. Fuji (my old saddle) by Velo. And so on. I don’t understand it…

MW - 01/15/13 - 11:06am

If you read close enough, you would realize that it talks about the grooves of SRAMs pads made by Swissstop not being as deep as the Black Prince, hence the image for comparison…

Jon MacKinnon - 01/15/13 - 11:07am

@TT it’s more likely that they come as pre-packaged with certain bikes which are equipped with a SRAM groupset, hence the “SRAM by SwissStop”

TT - 01/15/13 - 11:16am

Sorry for so much Spam by Me but in my opinion this is one of the most spectacular examples: Shimano (chain) by KMC. So is it Shimano or KMC??
Do they (at Shimano) have any idea what the chain for 2014 will look like? It’s by KMC after all…. Extremely confusing for me….

Collin - 01/15/13 - 11:18am

Zipp also has brake pads that say zipp but on the package, say made by either swiss or kool stop (forgot who)

My problem with these pads, and every other Carbon pad which is black is they are a pain in the butt to find when your going through your parts box, then having to carefully inspect a pad to see if its for carbon or standard. Since every brake caliper manufacturer has black pads for standard aluminum rims, make the pads a diffrent color for carbon ones. That’s what I like about the yellow swiss stops. You can easily find them in a box of pads, and quickly check a bike that you haven’t ridden in a while which pads you have on there.

Jmg - 01/15/13 - 11:43am

Some carbon wheel manufacturers say to only use their specific pads with their wheels (I’m thinking of my Reynolds 32′s here). Would it be harmful to not use their pads and instead switch up to something like this if the stopping power is really that much better?

TT - 01/15/13 - 11:46am

You’re right MW. Now I can see it.
But still, what about the – how to call it… – intelectual property? SRAM by SwissStop (white name) are made by SwissStop. BUT. Are they designed by SwissStop too? Or by SRAM? Are they a child of collaboration between SRAM AND SwissStop or are they solely (I mean 100%: design + manufacturing) SwissStop’s product FOR SRAM brakes/bikes with SRAM groupsets?

Wow, really sorry for this mess…

Simon - 01/15/13 - 12:16pm

I look forward to try them after using the yellow for years. Hopefully I will get better grip on my Easton EC90 Aero that have the worse stopping power of any wheels I have ever used.

PS: Tyler, I hope you did not take the first picture (the one showing the pads mounted on a bike) after your test as they are mounted backward !!!!!!!!

Poser Patrol - 01/15/13 - 12:50pm

Simon–you sure thats not the rear? Isn’t that a fuzzy chain below.

Greg - 01/15/13 - 1:15pm

Simon, I just bought a set of the EC90 aeros so I hope that issue has improved. Do they ship with pads? I forgot to find out…

vectorbug - 01/15/13 - 1:56pm

Jmg – I would probably stick with reynolds blue pads (or whatever manufacturing requirements you’re under) until the rims are out of warranty, or if youre the 2nd owner.

Max - 01/15/13 - 2:11pm

Well SwissStop is know for very good up to the best Brake Pads for rim brakes and Disc. So RAM decided (like other Brands too) to sell their products with SwissStop Pads. Take a look:

http://www.swissstop.ch/OEMbrakes.aspx
http://www.swissstop.ch/OEMwheels.aspx

@TT: I think the know how is provided from SwissStop ;)

@JMG: If you use good Pads for Carbon you will not harm your rims

Psi Squared - 01/15/13 - 2:52pm

I question the effectiveness of the grooves for cooling and tend to think that’s not their purpose. I reserve the right to be wrong on that, however. Could you talk more about the pads “sticking” a bit to Enve wheels? That description doesn’t promote happy thoughts about Enve wheels with these pads.

Tyler (Editor) - 01/15/13 - 3:45pm

All – Couple of points to add:

1) SwissStop’s pads use WHITE printing on pads for alloy rims, and are either YELLOW pads or have YELLOW printing for carbon rims.

2) After everything warmed up (ie. mid-ride) and I was stopped at a light, if I squeezed the rear brake really hard, the pads would stay closed on the rim for a fraction of a second, then pop open. It never stuck or had any negative effect on normal riding performance.

3) SwissStop emailed us after this posted to say the grooves are mostly designed to shed water off the rim.

FM - 01/15/13 - 4:33pm

So are they good enough to convert someone accustom to the braking power an consistency of aluminum rims with swissstop greens to carbon wheels? Someone that rides in the wet a lot on steep twisty backroads with tons of road grit?

Steve - 01/15/13 - 4:37pm

@Tyler – Any word on why they are called Black Prince, but say Flash Pro??

Ryan - 01/15/13 - 5:03pm

Ummm, aren’t those mounted backwards?

Tyler (Editor) - 01/15/13 - 8:32pm

Simon & Ryan – no, they’re not mounted backwards. That’s the rear brake, and the pads have both “left & right” and “forward” indications on them, making it pretty easy to install correctly. That, and the grooves for the lock screws to keep them in place.

Steve – The “Flash Pro” indicates they are for SRAM/Shimano brake shoes. There are different monikers for pads designed to fit Campy shoes and for complete SwissStop pad/shoe combos. It’s spelled out on their website if you need to see which one fits your bike.

Brandon - 01/15/13 - 8:33pm

It’s a rear brake guys, they are not mounted backwards.

Brandon - 01/15/13 - 8:33pm

Beat me to it….

Khai - 01/15/13 - 11:57pm

What this review / comments should have focused on is how these perform in wet conditions, comparatively to the yellow ones.

Devo - 01/16/13 - 3:00am

ditto on Khai’s comment.
ditto on FM’s comment.

KK - 01/16/13 - 6:45am

I use the yellow on my Reynolds DV3K and find them on the money and haven’t let me down. The blue pads that Reynolds give are not great, especially in the wet, the swiss yellow are brilliant in the wet. So I’m going to try the black prince next time. Good write up, cheers.

Hell Yeah! - 01/16/13 - 8:35am

Soon friends disc brakes!!!!!

Simon - 01/16/13 - 9:44am

Tyler,

My bad. I did not notice the out of focus chain in the lower part of the picture. Sorry !!!

Greg: as far as my Easton, I hate to give out my negative opinion, but it is the truth. They came with Yellow Swiss Stop pads. I have called Easton explaining the issue and they offered to convert the wheels to a different aluminum rim. Kind of defeats the purpose as to why I bought them.

As far as I can tell you, I sure hope they have taken some action in regard because they are a dangerous set of wheels in some circumstances. Great everywhere else though.

At least in my case and for a friend that has the same wheels, there is a large amount of material that is transferred on to the pads surface. The heat generated by the friction turns it into a shiny glazed layer that no longer has any mechanical grip. The braking surface on the rim becomes smooth as glass as well diminishing any possible friction to a minimum.

I have a set of Campagnolo Hyperon and there is no comparison. The hyperon stop virtually as good as anything else I tried or better. The Easton do take possibly twice the distance if not more with the same amount of braking pressure. In my humble opinion is a serious flaw but I obviously could not get the manufacturer to admit it.

I only use them on my TT bike (where I ride mostly on my own) as I came too close and too many times to crashing into whatever is in front of me (riders, cars, SUV, anything that requires me to come to a sudden stop). Be very careful and try to anticipate any slowing down as much as you can or you will be in one of those …. “oh boy” ….. moment.

Good luck

Simon - 01/16/13 - 9:51am

I forgot to mention that I am using the Yellow Swiss Stop pads on my Campagnolo Hyperon and they have by far a fantastic product, they never let me down in either dry or wet condition.

Sorry if I went off to a different subject with my Easton wheels, but I felt it was important to mention as I hope it will help to push the manufacturer to a possible solution and some buyer to know all the facts.

It should not be the burden of a pads manufacturer to try and fix a design flaw of a wheel, however if Swiss Stop has indirectly come up with an alternative that can improve my wheels under braking, I am for sure very appreciative.

Regards,

CC - 01/17/13 - 10:12am

Anyone know how these compare to the Zipp Tangente Platinum Pro pads? It appears the Black Prince are about $15-$20 less for a set of 4.

Adrian - 03/29/13 - 3:51pm

Great review Tyler. I am at the point of buying new pads for Enve 45s I just picked up. Would you recommend these over Enve specific pads? I will not be covered in the warranty since I am the second owner of these wheel (great deal on them).

Thanks

Tyler (Editor) - 03/29/13 - 5:54pm

Adrian – if warranty’s not an issue, I think you’d be pretty happy with the SwissStop pads. ENVE’s work well, too, but I was really impressed with the power the SS pads seemed to add to several different carbon rims I tested them on.

Jeremy - 06/18/13 - 11:50am

I am trying to get ahold of Simon– I use a set of EC90′s with the Yellow Swiss Stop and he couldn’t be more right. They have roughly 500 miles on them and they are awful for stopping. Makes riding in a pack almost scary. Was curious if the Black Prince’s made that better? And how to deal with the glazing effect these wheels give.

Paul - 12/01/13 - 8:27pm

I have a pair of bontrager aerolus 3 carbon rims on my trek and have blown tubes twice on long downhills with the bontrager pads. I am a 225lb guy so I pick up speed quite easily and try to do my best not to drag the brakes…..black prince my savior or do I sell the carbon rims and go back to metal?

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.