The 15 Shimano Disc Brake Pad Alternatives

Written by : Mr Mamil
Last updated :

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Shimano road bike disc brake pads are popular among cyclists, offering reliable stopping power and durability. However, there may be times when you need to find an alternative to Shimano brake pads, such as when they are unavailable or when you want to try a different pad type.

In this article, I’ll list the alternatives to the standard Shimano road bike disc brake pads.

Brake pad alternatives to L05A, L04C and L03A

All Shimano road disc brake calipers use the same brake pad shape. Hence, they are compatible with each other. The differences lie in the year of release, brake pad compound, back plate material, and cooling fins.

Most cyclists use the Shimano L05A, L04C, or L03A brake pads on their bikes today. Older models, such as K05S-RX, K04S-MX, and K03S-MX, are discontinued.

The table below shows the popular alternatives to Shimano’s disc brake pads.

BrandModelCooling finsPad compoundWhere to buy
Absolute BlackDisc 34YesResinAbsolute Black
AMPCarboneNoCeramicAMP Carbon
BBBDiscStop HP (BBS-561S)NoMetalAmazon
BBBDiscStop HP (BBS-561)NoResinAmazon
GalferFD496 G1053
FD496 G1455
JagwireSport (DCA004)
Sport (DCA102)
Sport (DCA704)
Elite (DCA804)
JagwireSport (DCA504)NoMetalAmazon
SwissStopDisc RS34NoResinCompetitive Cyclist
SwissStopDisc 34ENoResinCompetitive Cyclist
SwissStopDisc 34 EXOTherm 2YesResinCompetitive Cyclist
Third-party brake pad alternatives for Shimano road disc calipers

How to read Shimano brake pad model names

Shimano uses a system of letters and numbers to identify their brake pads, and understanding this naming system can help you choose the right pads for your bike.

Here’s a brief explanation of how to decipher Shimano brake pad model names:

The first letter in the model name signifies the material of the pad:

  • L : Narrow Type L
  • K : Narrow Type K
  • G : Narrow Type G
  • J : Narrow Type J

The second letter in the model name signifies the generation:

  • 01 : First generation
  • 02 : Second generation
  • 03 : Third generation
  • 04 : Fourth generation
  • 05 : Fifth generation (current)

The third letter in the model name signifies the back plate material:

  • A : Alloy
  • S : Stainless steel
  • Ti : Titanium
  • C : Composite (alloy and stainless)

The fourth letter in the model name signifies the pad material:

  • R : Resin
  • M : Metal

The fifth letter in the model name signifies the presence of radiator fins.

  • F : With fin
  • X : Without fin

Note : L and K models are cross-compatible although they have different shape. The difference is all K brake pads have no fins.

For example, the L05A-RF which is the default brake pad for 12-speed Shimano groupsets, is a fifth-generation, resin brake pad with fins.

The table below shows the difference between all the brake pad models.

Brake pad modelCooling finsPad compoundStatus
Shimano road disc brake pads models (current and discontinued)

Shimano brake pad FAQ

The L05A-RF is the latest (fifth-generation) disc brake pad that comes with the 12-speed Shimano Dura-Ace, Ultegra of 105 Di2 groupsets. It has a resin pad material with aluminum back plate and radiator fins.

The L04C-MF is an older (fourth-generation) disc brake pad that came with the 11-speed Shimano Dura-Ace, Ultegra of 105 groupsets. It has a metal pad material with composite (alloy and stainless steel) back plate and radiator fins.

Both are compatible with all Shimano road disc brake calipers.

The L03A-RF and L05A-RF brake pads are similar, except that the L05A-RF is the latest version that comes together with the 12-speed Shimano road groupsets. The L03A-RF came with the 11-speed Shimano road groupsets.

Both have a resin pad material and radiator fins and are cross-compatible.

More reading : Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200) vs Ultegra Di2 (R8100)