First Impressions: Shimano Dura-Ace Brake Pads

When I built up my Black Mountain Cycles frameset, I pretty much knew that I would be replacing the stock pads on the Shimano BR-R650 brakes before the bike left the repair stand.  In the past, I’ve espoused the virtues of Kool-Stop (salmon) and Yokozuna pads, but being the curious type, I wanted to try something different.

Customer reviews on various online retailers’ sites consistently praised the Dura-Ace (7900) pads.  Despite not being thrilled with other stock Shimano pads, I decided to give the Dura-Ace pads a try.  The 7900 pads–officially designated as R55C3–are rather unassuming looking.  The black compound doesn’t exactly scream top-of-the-line, and there are no visual cues denoting their status in the Shimano hierarchy.  In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would have easily mistaken them for the stock units that they would be replacing.

Dura-Ace 7900 pads fitted to Shimano BR-R650 47mm-57mm brakes.

The Dura-Ace pads fit any Shimano-compatible holder.  Since I was using the stock R650 holders, a 2mm hex key was the only tool necessary to complete the pad swap.  To insure the best possible performance, I cleaned the rims’ brake tracks with rubbing alcohol, and lightly sanded the pads to remove any mold release or “shine.”

Remember what it was like when you rode a bicycle with really good caliper brakes for the first time?  That’s how it felt with the R55C3 pads.  Grippy, but not grabby.  Plenty of modulation, and absolute silence from the get-go.  Braking was so good with the Dura-Ace pads that I was able to adjust the brakes to allow for more lever travel while still having plenty of power for panic stops.

Shimano claims that R55C3 pads have twice the wet-weather stopping (and durability) compared to the company’s R55C2 pads.  I wasn’t able to verify that claim, but I can say that the C3 pads performed much better than I expected in wet conditions.  In dry weather, the Dura-Ace pads offered some of the best performance that I’ve experienced to date.

Fresh from a mixed-terrain ride, and no signs of embedded grit or metal.

In my previous experience, I found that Shimano’s stock pads had a tendency to pick up and retain pieces of road grit (and occasionally, the rim material itself).  This lead to poor, noisy braking, and caused accelerated rim wear (and scoring).  I’m pleased to report that the 7900 pads are far more rim-friendly than other Shimano pads I’ve used.  Pad wear has been more noticeable with the Dura-Ace pads, but the increased stopping power and control is well worth it, in my opinion.

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