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Wanted: A Real Brake

Discussion in 'Tech' started by Andrew Deane, Sep 25, 2007.

  1. Andrew Deane

    Andrew Deane Speeding Up

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    My Trek 1500 came with generic brakes and I have not been too happy with their performance. They have little progressive response, have mediocre stopping power, and the pads spray black graphite (?) over everything.

    I want to replace them, and the two choices I've cme up with in my price range are:

    a) Shimano Ultegra BR-6600
    b) SRAM Rival

    I already run some Ultegra on the bike (rear derailleur, pedals), so should I stick to Shimano? Don't know SRAM, but hear more and more in mags, etc.

    Any pointers from the mechanically-minded out there?

    Actually, while I'm here, perhaps I can ask one more question. The Trek 1500 is an alluminum frame mid entry-level bike with low-end Bontrager triple drive train ($1400 Canadian). Is it worth upgrading the drive train to a mid-level Shimano (Ultegra) double (perhaps a compact?), or would it be best to save my money, ride this machine for a year and then buy a new bike?
  2. Phil

    Phil Maximum Pace

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    Re: the brakes issue, have you tried changing just the brake pads yet? Upgrading the pads can often improve braking performance considerably at a lot less expense than replacing all the brake hardware.

    Lots of folk seem to swear by Kool Stop pads, though I've never used them myself:


    As for your other question, buying a new bike is always the correct answer... :)

    (But seriously, whenever I'm in doubt about an upgrade I put it off for as long as possible and sometimes I find the "problem" turns out not be such a problem after all. Sometimes.)
  3. evan06

    evan06 Warming-Up

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    i'm currently using kool stop pads...love them. As far as brakes, I would say there is no real need to be searching in the high-end. I use Shimano Ultegra on my bike right now, no problems at all. I have had them for about 6 years now. I just replace cables and pads regularly. However, when I procure my new bike next year I will make the shift to SRAM, though the newest Ultegra line is pretty sweet.

    As far as your bike. If you are happy with the frame, upgrading components is a viable option. As for your drive train, I guess the defining question is "does the drive train show considerable wear? If not then keep what you have. It is a tough decision, one I am battling with right now. My current bike, Pinarello Opera, is great, though it has some decent wear on the frame. The components need to be replaced as a result of wear. Yet, after seeing the latest frames by Ridley, Kuoata, and Orbea I am now leaning to taking the plunge to procure a new bike.

  4. Andrew Deane

    Andrew Deane Speeding Up

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    Phil, yes, I've heard a lot about Koolstop pads, and even visited their web site. Changing out the pads is good idea.

    Where can one get Koolstops in Tokyo? Does Y'sRoad carry them? I know they carry Dura-Ace pads at about 4,000 yen/set. Are these any good?

    What you say about upgrades rings true: often it's a spur of the moment sort of thing.

    The back of the buses in Vancouver have little red waving hands with the words "Thanks for the brake!" So, "Thanks..."
  5. Andrew Deane

    Andrew Deane Speeding Up

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    James, Thanks for the info. Why are you planning to switch to SRAM on your new set-up? I am hearing more about SRAM.

    I hear you on the worn-out issue: my current drive train is in good shape (only 1500 km on it), so you're right to suggest I wear it out first.

  6. Phil

    Phil Maximum Pace

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    I don't recall seeing them in any of my local shops (Y's Road in Funabashi and a couple of independents), but then I haven't really been looking for them.

    Cycle Yoshida has some online--not sure how ordering from them would compare price-wise with ordering overseas...



  7. WhiteGiant

    WhiteGiant Maximum Pace

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    Just my 2-bobs-worth!

    As far as the actual "brake mechanisms" go, there are many types...

    Recently, Alan, Philip, and a few others were discussing MTB "V-types", "clinchers", "Disks - hydraulic & otherwise".

    I currently use 'Tiagra' brakes, because that was what my bike came with.
    Although I have up-graded to a 'Dura-Ace' drive-train, the brakes remain the same (only a slight weight difference, really).
    HOWEVER, the shop I regularly go to advised me to change the pads to 'Dura-Ace'. They were about \4,000, which is kind of expensive.

    At first I thought, "what's the difference?"
    They lock up very well in dry weather, and aren't toooo bad in the wet (although two squeezes is sometimes necessary to gain some grip in the rain).

    Now here's the thing, to fork out \4,000 each time really is a lot of money after the rubber wears down, but with the set, you are actually buying TWO pieces.
    1. The metal piece that fits to your brake mechanism AND,
    2. The rubber pad itself.
    I didn't know that you could buy the "rubber piece" individually for about \600 - about US$5.
    There is a tiny (I think it's the 2mm [1 1/2mm?]) Allen-key screw on the side that allows you to change ONLY the rubber pad, thus saving you \3,400 each time.

    Shimano is fairly good with compatibility, and after your original purchace of both
    metal-mounting & pad (for \4,000) the mounting will fit into;
    "Shimano", Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura-ace, and probably a whole lot more.
    From then on, you only need to buy the pads - 600 yen.
    Changing them over for the first time can be troublesome, as with time & grime the very tiny Allen-key screw can become very stiff & clogged with ...stuff, and can be very difficult to dislodge.
    The new 600 yen pads come with newly oiled screws, so you don't need to put the old ones back in.

    As for the difference between Koolstop, SRAM & Dura-Ace... I cannot tell you.
    That's the limit of my knowledge.
    But hopefully, some of you might start saving \3,400 with each brake-pad change.
    Rubber down! T
  8. Edogawakikkoman

    Edogawakikkoman Maximum Pace

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    My Dura=ace brake pads are now 4.5 years strong and still have a spare mm to go before they need to be replaced... ( I don't use my brakes much I guess).

    That's the good thing about doing most of my riding on the river.

    If you ride in the wet your brake pads will quickly wear away... (don't like the wet either).

    105's on my spare bike...they are new though...

    Don't know anything about brakes really and they scare me when doing down hill at 60 to 70kph..... a lot of life invested in good brakes....

    Make sure they are set up properly.... was once in a sprint doing about 5okph and the guy in front of my locked his brakes and then I went to put mine on and the front ones were spread eagle. (didn't put the lever down when I put the wheel on). Didn't slow down at all and had a tiny gap to squeeze though to avoid 2 broken legs... I always squeeze my bakes now before I depart on a ride...

    I'm a Shimano fan just due to the fact that I live in Japan. Anything else should be inferior, harder to replace, more expensive etc.... (tunnel vision).
  9. Aphex

    Aphex Cruising

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    I have two Treks, and I have often found many of their components very poor quality, especially anything by Bontrager. Their Hayes Nine disc brakes which come with some of their mid-price MTBs are also rubbish compared with most other discs. Strangely, Trek seems to be one of the strongest bike brands in Japan and I notice is v. popular with roadies over here, unfortunately my nearest bikeshops (both here and in the UK) are practically Trek franchises. :eek:uch:
  10. Edogawakikkoman

    Edogawakikkoman Maximum Pace

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    The Japanese mostly buy the high end TREKS that have the good components on them.
    Even my TREK that was 40% off came with Dura-Ace. The only Bontrager bits were the wheels, stem and handle bar. I quite like Bontrager wheels too. Good value compared to Mavic for e.g.
    Brakes are probably the most important components on the bike so get the best ones. Don't be stingy there...
  11. Philip

    Philip Speeding Up

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    I am no expert either . . .

    However, I do have an opinion. I think Phil and Travis has it about right. Brake technology is not rocket science. Simply a matter of force. The big (or small) difference between Shimano Tiagra and Dura Ace brakes is weight (reducing weight means increasing stiffness - not cheap). I suspect your Trek calipers are at least as light weight as Tiagra. Not convinced? Cervelo is a respected brand. They fit their own brand of brake caliper on their bikes. My Giant came with carbon calipers (I was weak minded and had them changed for Dura Ace calipers :eek: ).

    Good brakes require good pads. Many manufacturers will use cheap pads because it is not a factor in your decision to buy (or not buy) the bike. Change the pads. Go for Dura Ace (or kool stop). As Travis explained, you only need to buy the pad housing once, and then just replace the pads.

    1) When you change, check the towing - the front of the pad should touch the rim just a 1.5 mm before the back of the pad.
    2) Ensure the brake cable outer housing is not kinked or bent at an acute angle
    3) Adjust the center line of the caliper (the front of the left and right pad should touch the rim at exactly the same moment).
    4) Adjust travel of the brake lever to the handle bar. If you have too much travel (too close to the handle bar) you are wasting brake force (power).
    5) Finally, use 'brake' cleaner to remove the existing black rubber from your rim (you said they were black).

    Next time you use the brakes you should be able to do a handstand on the handlebars :D


  12. trad

    trad Maximum Pace

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    more cents/bobs....

    On brakes... I agree that its more about the pads vs the calipers. I understand that geometry on the calipers are near identical on Shimano... the difference is more with weight, so the real upgrade is pads...

    I buy just the pads and slide them into the metal bracket after loosening the allen screw..

    Have you looking into quality cable housing? There is a big difference in directness/hook up/feel. I'd invest here as well...

    As for Bontrager....Keith Bontrager is one of the nicest guys you can ever meet. He does 24 hr mtn bike races and EU Trans Alp most years and is always willing to lend someone a hand (and parts). His equipment is typically very good. Cranks are identical to bomb-proof Truvativs, and the wheels are also good quality. Most of the R&D and production is Trek, BTW (who bought out the Bontrager brand).
  13. thomas

    thomas The Crank Engine

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    Great information here! :)

    Chiming in on Bontrager, I believe that their components are top-notch, especially their wheels. Cheaper Trek bikes are usually equipped with Cane Creek calipers which cannot be really recommended. I have upgraded my Trek to Ultegra components.
  14. kiwisimon

    kiwisimon Maximum Pace

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    like othes have suggested change out the pads.
    I have generic brakes on my bikes and they work well enough but they have to be adjusted correctly. Close up the clearances to as close as possible. I am using coolstop pads and can't really tell the difference from the originals actually , but I don't ride my roadie in the rain so much.
  15. kiwisimon

    kiwisimon Maximum Pace

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    Great post more great advice at http://www.parktool.com/repair/readhowto.asp?id=22
  16. Andrew Deane

    Andrew Deane Speeding Up

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    Yes, my brief research at the Shinjuku Y's last night bears out what you say. I think I will try keeping the generic calipers the bike came with and swapping out the shoes and pads. I noticed a pair of Ultegra shoes and pads at under 2,000 Yen, so I might get those, and then see how they are. Later, I could buy the Dura-Ace pads and put them in, if needed.

    I hear you on the sticky threads issue. Long ago, while helping Dad fix the cars, I learnt the rick of coating every thread with a thin coat of lithium grease before tightening. Currently, I use the Shimano pro grease (can't recall exact name, but it's a mall tub about 2 inches in diameter).

    Anyway, thanks for your help!
  17. Andrew Deane

    Andrew Deane Speeding Up

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    I know what you mean about trusting your life to your breaks. Back on Vancouver Island, I cycle the Malahat (of Diana Krall "Deprture Bay" fame), and the descent into Goldstream Park is extremely steep, curvey, and over two kilometers long. You share the highway with cars and trucks doing well over the mandated 80kph. A fall at those speeds (60-70kph?) could be your last. Then again, adrenaline feels good now and again.

    You've convinced me to try out the Dura-Ace pads, probably even loaded into the Dura-Ace shoes (4,000 / pair).

    Just an aside: when I first bought my first MTB with manuel disk brakes, I made the rookie mistake of lubing parts of the drivetrain with WD-40. Thinking (or not thinking!) that the moving parts of the disk calipers could use some loosening up after a particularly muddy VanIsle season, I sprayed them, too. It wasn't till I was well into my next ride and about to descend a small rocky outcrop that I realized why WD-40 and disk brakes don't mix: ZERO stopping power! Quite a nasty little crash, but a very important lesson learned: NEVER LET OILS OR LUBRICANTS WITHIN A HUNDRED MILES OF BRAKE PADS!

  18. Andrew Deane

    Andrew Deane Speeding Up

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    Thanks. All you say makes good sense. Just one question: Do you have a recommended brake cleaner that is readily available at Y's or some such tore? My rims would benefit from a good clean if I replace the brakes.

    kiwisimon & trad,

    Thanks to you both, too, for your advice. I am now thinking of putting on Ultegra calipers and shoes loaded with Dura-Ace pads and cabed by Dura-Ace. This is a nice balance between cost and efficiency/weight.

    Yes, I've been very satisfied with the whels that came with my Trek: solid and easily trued by a rookie. But I agree with Aphex that some of the components on my Trek could be a little sturdier or lighter (but I have bottom end Bontrager parts, so that may not be fair comment on their top-end stuff). Regardless, you always seem to get just what you paid for, and no more.

  19. Philip

    Philip Speeding Up

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    Brake cleaner . . .

    Hi Andrew,

    Yes Y's sell brake dust cleaner. I cannot remember the brand but it comes in a large blue aerosol.


  20. AlanW

    AlanW Maximum Pace

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    Clean Rims

    I agree the pads and cables make a world of difference to braking power and feel for rim brakes. I've had good results from the Kool-Stop pads that came with my Cannondale C1 brakes.

    Mavic also make this special rim cleaning block which might improve your braking, particularly if you have built-up deposits on the rim
    I've seen it for sale in Asazo in Okachimachi. Or just use a Scotchbrite pad to get rid of the deposits and scuff-up the braking track on the rim - look at the "Bicycle Maintenance" thread for details of how to do this ;)

    It's also worth checking your pads every so often and digging out any bits of aluminium that tend to become embedded over time.

    You'll soon have brakes to rival this fella!


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