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…
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:
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.