First off, hello all. And second, apologies for the fact that this thread is partially redundant- a fair bit of searching has revealed some related discussions in the past, but my dilemma here is slightly different. I'm shopping for a whole bike, not just a set of brake pads.
I've been commuting by bike for about three years now, but most of that has been in SoCal, where weather is not a factor. I recently moved to NYC, and while this is a great bike town, I'm finding my brakes to be woefully inadequate in the rain and snow.
My present daily ride is a cheap Schwinn Admiral, mostly because I don't want to leave a more expensive bike chained up outside overnight in the bicycle-theft capital of North America. And for a Walk-Mart bike, I must admit that I'm hugely impressed. In the past I've been a LBS bigot, but this one has opened my eyes.
After getting tired of the crappy black pads it came with, I tried a set of Grey Matter pads on the advice of a friend, and found them to be far worse than stock. When wet, I had virtually zero braking with them. Right now, I'm running Swissstop green pads, and even these I'm not real happy with. They are very slightly better than the OEM black pads when wet, but not much. Couple that with them being so damn loud that I'm embarrassed every time I hit the brakes, and I'm not real happy. (And yes, I've fiddled with the alignment on them until I can't stand it anymore.)
One thing which occurred to me just recently is that the rims on my bike are painted (came like that stock), and that perhaps stripping them down to bare aluminum might help. I'll be trying that out shortly to see...
But what I need is a braking solution that works just as well when cold and wet as when warm and dry. I've spent the money on good tires which work well in the wet, and I want my brakes to match. If I could find a simple, cheap, non-suspension 700c bike with disc or drum brakes, I'd buy it immediately.
I've found a lot of posts where people gush about the Kool-Stop salmon pads, but then I run into posts like this Kool Stop Salmon vs. Swissstop GHP which claim that the Swissstops are even better. Well heck, I have the Swissstops, and I'm not happy with them already, so...
What it boils down to for me is this: I'm getting ready to buy another bike anyway, as I need one I can leave in Hoboken NJ and one I can use in Manhattan (bikes aren't allowed through the Holland Tunnel.)
If I can find a working rim-brake solution, I'll buy another Admiral. This bike fits me well, comes standard with fenders / rack / chainguard / kickstand, and at $160 is cheap enough that I don't mind replacing them when they get stolen / smashed / stripped. If I can't, and there's just no choice, then I'll spend the $400 on a Schwinn FourOneOne and live with the anxiety of it walking away despite the best lock Kryptonite makes.
So that said, I'd appreciate some real-world input from people who actually commute in snow, ice and rain. Is there any rim pad which is even close to a disc or drum in terms of consistency vs. weather, or do all rim brakes really just suck, with some merely sucking slightly less than others?