Condensed Answer: Technically, the attachment mechanism of V-brake pads allows users to install them on caliper brakes.
However, V-brake pads are significantly longer than the models designed for caliper brakes. Subsequently, the pads may fail to clear the fork blades. This creates clearance issues preventing the use of wider tires and fenders.
In most cases, it’s wiser to avoid using V-brake pads on caliper brakes.
The Differences Between V-Brake and Caliper Pads
- Attachment System
V-brake and caliper pads attach differently to the brakes.
V-brake pads come with a protruding bolt (stud) part of the pad’s body and a retaining nut. To mount the pad to the brake, the user has to slide the stud through the brake and then tighten the nut.
Caliper pads use the reverse combination. The body of the pads has a threaded portion designed to accept a small bolt. To mount the pad, the user has to slide the bolt through the brake opening and tighten it into the pad.
Note: Some old-school caliper pads (e.g., Weinmann Brev) use a threaded stud and a nut too. However, the threaded stud is much shorter than the one on a V-brake.
Ultimately, both attachment methods are similar enough to allow the installation of V-brake pads on a caliper brake.
V-brake pads are much longer than caliper pads. This guarantees compatibility issues when using V-brake pads on road bikes due to the limited clearance.
The image below illustrates how close caliper pads are to the blades of a road fork. If the pads were any longer, the user will not be able to install them because the fork blades will get in the way.
The only solution would be to close the brake even more so that the pads can get between the fork blades.
If that’s done, however, the brakes shoes will greatly limit the fork’s clearance. If the fork is particularly narrow, which is the case for most road bikes, the user might fail to fit the wheel even without a tire.
If the fork is somewhat wide, then the user may successfully install a wheel with a narrower tire.
Nonetheless, the clearance issues do not end here. Even if the pads can fit on the fork, the user will have a difficult time removing the wheel because the blades will not allow the brake to open sufficiently.
To remove the wheel, the user may have to fully deflate the tire first. This creates yet another level of inconvenience.
FAQ: What about the rear wheel?
The seat stays of a road bike offer a bit more clearance than the fork. Thus, it will be easier to install V-brake pads on the rear caliper brake. That said, the user may still experience clearance problems when installing and removing the wheel.
Note: The problems mentioned above will not take place if the fork and frame offer plenty of clearance. That said, caliper brakes are most commonly found on road bikes and thus, the clearance issue is very common.
FAQ: Will V-brake pads offer greater stopping power than dedicated caliper pads?
In theory, the longer body of V-brake pads should result in extra friction and thus more stopping power. In practice, this doesn’t always happen. V-brake pads may be longer but they’re also narrower than caliper pads. Thus, the overall contact area is not all that different.
At the end of the day, the material that the pads are made of, their positioning and technical state are the qualities that determine stopping power.
A set of quality caliper pads will offer just as much stopping power as any V-brake model.
Another downside of using V-brake pads on caliper brakes would be appearance. Since the studs of V-brake pads are much longer, they tend to stick out of the brake significantly. People who care about the aesthetics of their bike may not like that.
Is it worth it?
Running V-brake pads on caliper brakes is a practice that creates many problems without offering value worth talking about in return.
Caliper pads do not cost much and can be found in just about any bike shop. It makes more sense to stick with them than experiment with V-brake pads.