I have Carbon Tubeless wheels ZIPP 404 Weaponary 10 speed, which I have bought on my used Pinarello Ultegra rim brakes. Now I hear that Carbon wheels should / must have special brakes.

Question is: How do I determine if I have right brake pads? and

Is it MUST to be special pads for carbon, what if not?

4 Answers 4


You need to identify the brake track on your rims - is it carbon fibre, or is it an aluminium brake track bonded into the carbon? This determines if you need brake pads for CF or for AL.

From https://www.zipp.com/support/identify/wheel-timeline

In 2001 - New decals with red background, white ZIPP with yellow Speed Weaponry. M2CM process allows for the first structural carbon rim with machined aluminium.

Weaponry is mentioned in 2002 and 2003 and no later. Not a complete confirmation, but it does look like Al.

You should visually inspect both your wheels and look for the brake track.

This is a carbon fibre brake track on a Zipp branded rim: Notice the texture, and the carbon fibre cross-hatching look, and a plastic colouration: From Zipp's website

This is an Aluminium brake track on a Zipp 404 rim: It is a dull or matt silver, and will not attract a magnet. From https://university.trisports.com/2011/12/07/zipp-404-5000-mile-torture-test/

Your last resort is to get the serial number off your wheels, and email Zipp's customer support and ask them exactly what you have.

Good luck !


Yes, you need special pads. Every manufacturer of carbon rims has their own recommendations for what pad to use, which you should follow. Zipp makes their own pads.

Normal brake pads are harder, and can wear away the carbon rim surface. This is very bad, of course. Brake pads for carbon rims are softer and wear down more quickly so that they preserve the rim.


As others have mentioned, you must use carbon rim brake pads on carbon rims with carbon braking surfaces.

One of the main reasons is that carbon rims have a lower thermal capacity than aluminum rims. That is, carbon rims will heat up much quicker than aluminum rims under prolonged braking. This article by Bicycling Magazine interviewed Christian Heuele, a representative of SwissStop, which makes various brake pads. Heuele reported that they designed the carbon pads to operate at up to 320 degrees Celsius, versus 180 degrees C for aluminum rim pads.

The carbon rim pads also have a much harder rubber, and they don't brake well on alloy rims. Logically, we might expect pads for aluminum rims to also not brake very well on carbon up to their normal operating temperature limits (which, remember, are a lot lower than the carbon pads!!).

Additionally, brake pads used on aluminum rims can sometimes have aluminum fragments embedded in them, particularly if they're cheaper brake pads. This would damage the carbon rim. This point is rather moot for the question, as you should be changing the pads anyway, and you should not be using the same pad type on different rims.

I tried a set of carbon rims (with carbon pads!!!) in the early 2000s, and the braking was rather grabby and it wasn't that strong overall. The brake performance of good carbon rims has improved significantly since then, but the inherent limitations of carbon do mean that aluminum is a better brake surface. I would normally urge rim brake riders to strongly consider sticking to aluminum braking surfaces - this can entail mid-depth alloy clinchers or deep section hybrid rims (alloy brake track and structure, with a non-structural aerodynamic carbon fairing bonded on). However, this is a point on which reasonable adults can differ, and a good carbon rim should be usable by most riders who want one. Many good carbon rims may have textured braking surfaces, like the Zipp rims shown in the Cyclingtips article I just linked.


Yes - you need the right pads for your brake-track.

If you know that your pads are "SwissStop" brand then the colour of the pad will show if they are for Carbon or Alloy rims:

  • White wording/label = alloy
  • Yellow wording/label = carbon.

From https://www.swissstop.ch/support/faq/

Other brake pad manufacturers will have a colour-coding scheme too, but may vary across brands.

  • This doesn't answer the question if the OP needs carbon-specific pads.
    – DavidW
    Jul 22, 2023 at 22:49
  • 1
    Welcome to the site - I've tweaked your answer to address the question that OP asked directly and left the other useful info as supporting paragraphs. OP never mentioned a brand of pad, so that dropped in priority. If you could take a moment to browse the tour then that shows how the Q&A format of stackexchange is a little bit different to a common chatty forum; it's a bit unusual. Do have a go at answering other questions, or posting your own question.
    – Criggie
    Jul 22, 2023 at 22:57

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