Join Date: Jun 2006
Bikes: Cannondale: '94 R400; Lemond Poprad '06; Specialized Epic Marathon '06; Specialized Stumpjumper '89; Redline Proline Pro Cruiser '10
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Softer brake pads are not necessarily better. Depends on the sort of riding you're doing.
Tricks requiring immediate stops at relatively low speeds DO benefit from the sticky, grabby soft brake pad compounds (most, if not all, clear pads are the softest). Softer pads wear faster. Much faster.
Racing would require a more "conventional" brake pad compound like the black or "salmon" colored pads from Kool-Stop. For higher speeds you want more control and modulation, not super grabby skid-prone braking.
20" wheels might curve too much for some of the longer v-brake pads, whereas a 24" wheel wouldn't present much of a problem in regards to compatibility.
Kool-Stop's "Thinline" series of pads work well with v-brakes. They also sell a line of inserts that are compatible with Shimano-style brake pad cartridges.