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I use the plain self-centering side-pull cantilever brakes found on 99.9% of road bikes. (Well, it's a road bike. ;) ) I've got alloy rims. Both my current internship location and back home are moderately hilly areas, which force me to "ride" the brakes quite a bit. I "pulse" the brakes a bit in order to reduce heat build up and all that jazz, but it seems I go through the pads themselves quite quickly -- my last rear pads lasted less than half a season, and the ones I replaced them with look to be on their last leg now.

I don't have any issues with braking performance -- I just would like to find something that will last longer.

What should I look for? Am I out of luck (e.g. have to switch to something like a center-pull brake design?)

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Move to the flatlands? My brakes last forever... Have never used up a pair yet. Just they eventually get hard/brittle and need to be replaced! :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Jun 20 '11 at 14:07

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Frankly, unless you are willing to swap to a disc brake bike, you are out of luck. I assume that you are riding the bike regularly, but I would not expect to get more than 1-2 months out of a rubber or cork road brake pad (Cork is typically only used on carbon fiber rims). Especially in a hilly area. You can extend the life slightly by ensuring your rims are clean and dry, but only by a small percentage. A bike ridden in wet weather can use up a set of rubber brake pads in one ride. 1/2 a season or more is an excellent usable life for this type of pad.

A disc brake pad will last much longer, because the pads are made of sintered metal, like the pads in your car. Average life is 1 to 2 years, with variation in riding style and weather. That requires changing at minimum your wheels and brakes, but most likely would require a new bike. Not something I would consider cost effective solely to save money on brake pads.

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Close as I can recollect, my cantilevered brake pads have about 10K miles on them, most of it commuting. I replaced them once when the bike was fairly new (the originals were too hard for my taste) and haven't done so since. (They are about due, though.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 5 '11 at 1:09
    
You can't be serious. Or you never use your brakes. But you don't seriously expect me to believe that your canti pads, essentially rubber eraser on a stick, lasted 10,000 miles of friction on aluminum rims... and then you say you swapped them for soft pads, too? –  zenbike Jul 5 '11 at 5:20
    
I said I can't recall ever changing them -- certainly have not in the past 5000 miles. But they're not "soft", they're "medium" -- the original pads were really hard. The terrain around here is not flat, but I'm definitely not a gonzo rider, and little of my riding is on city streets, so that may have something to do with it. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 5 '11 at 11:25
    
For what its worth, I go through 1-2 pairs of brake pads a year on my commuter. Rain+snow+dirt tend to ruin them pretty quickly. –  Batman Oct 18 at 17:53

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