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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 10:08 pm 
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Location: Tucson, Az.
Fair Wheel Bikes brake test.

Over the years we’ve been quite active on WW, and have always enjoyed our time on the board. With that in mind we’ve decided to return the favor and do things a little differently this time with our latest review. What follows is a rough draft of the brake review we planned on releasing, but instead will post only here on WW (at least for now). We’ve removed the opinions section and this time want the opinions to be crowd sourced prior to posting our own to see how the two compare. We hope everyone will contribute something constructive that helps produce a very useful brake review…… Thanks.


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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 10:09 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 06, 2005 4:22 pm
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Location: Tucson, Az.
In planning this test we talked at length with multiple engineers and brake manufacturers to try and focus the design of our testing equipment. These engineers included one of our favorite, Jason Krantz who worked with us on our previous crank/stem tests and is working with us on future tests.

Before beginning the test we discussed what we thought different tests might show. We were surprised when we finished testing and had even more questions than we started with.

We performed a lot of different tests on a lot of brakes and in the end came to no solid conclusion based solely on fixture test results. One conclusion the we ultimately arrived at was that there are so many variables not only in the brake system, but also in the riders, their styles, equipment and expectations, that while brakes do have universal traits, the appeal of those traits will apply differently to different riders with different sets of unique circumstances.

Our skilled test riders were able stop in an equal distance with any brake in the test and modulate each brake fine. However the comfort level during which was definitely different for different brakes. Subtle differences in the brakes will be more noticeable to some riders and less to others which is why we believe we see conflicting reports on some brakes.

In this brake review we're going to look at 12 of our most popular brakes, both exotic and mainstream to see how they compare. The brakes are as follows, Campagnolo Super Record (dual pivot front, single pivot rear), EE Cycleworks, Far and Near, Kcnc C6, Kcnc C7, Kcnc CB3, Kcnc CB4, Shimano Dura Ace 7900, Shimano Dura Ace 9000, Sram Red Aero Link and Thm Fibula.

Pads: All fixture tests which required pads were done using Enve grey pads.

Pad placement: All pads were placed an equivalent distance from the center mounting bolt of the brake, right in the middle of the average reach. Pad width, all brakes were setup so that the pad faces were 26-27mm apart in the open position.

Standard disclosure: All tests were completed 3 times and the results averaged. However, during the course of testing, a lot of numbers were recorded and it is possible that a mistake may have been made. We've made all efforts to check everything in hopes of catching all the mistakes.

Note on mechanical advantage: Braking is really balancing mechanical advantage, often referred to as "power" or "stopping power.” The more mechanical advantage the more stopping power, but the less movement in the caliper itself. Too much mechanical advantage can mean pulling the levers their full length of travel but not moving the brake far enough to fully engage it. Too little mechanical advantage and you'll move the pads until they contact the rim but then not be able to quickly enough increase the leverage to get adequate stopping power. The idea of a good brake is to fall into the sweet spot between the two. Ideally a brake system should be a bit progressive, in that it begins with less mechanical advantage allowing the pads to sit a reasonable distance from the rim, but come into contact with the rim without much movement of the lever. As the pads contact the rim, the mechanical advantage should be increased allowing for more fine control and more stopping power.

Why test without levers? Levers from different manufacturers vary in shape as well as cable pull and leverage ratios. Because of this we didn't use levers in the fixture testing and instead opted to pull cables directly. It should be known that the differences are small enough that all of the brakes in the review work with any of the levers from the major manufacturers. More importantly we wanted to create a level playing field to show differences in just the calipers. This is the same reason that we used the same pads for all tests rather than using the stock pads. We do plan on a follow up test in the future that includes different levers, and also includes the use of different cables and housings to see how all of those variables affect the performance of the different brakes. The scope of that testing is pretty large and will take a lot of time to complete so we thought it was best to first look at calipers on their own.

Now on to the actual testing.


Test 1. Compression at 30, 60 and 90 (90 generally being beyond the point where a lot of brake/rider/wheel combos would lock the wheel). For this test we pulled the cable with set amounts of force (30, 60 and 90 pounds) and measured the amount of compression in pounds between the caliper arms. Higher numbers mean that a caliper produced more power with a determined amount of force pulling the cable. The best way to think of this is that a brake which produced a higher number requires less hand strength and should produce better modulation in ideal situations.

The results in alphabetical order:
Compression at 30/60/90
Campag Super Record Dual: 29/72/125
Campag Super Record Single: 22/57/102
EE: 30/70/115
Far and Near: 35.5/72/106.5
Kcnc C6: 24.5/55/81.5
Kcnc C7: 28/62/94
Kcnc CB3: 27.5/63.5/96.5
Kcnc CB4: 26/59.5/91.5
Shimano 7900: 39.33/82/126
Shimano 9000: 38/81/122
Sram Red Aero link: 41.5/84/124
Thm Fibula: 39.5/80.5/122.5

Test 2. Force to reach 90. We did several experiments with different riders ranging from 130 to 200 pounds and determined that for most riders on most wheels, a very hard stop which was right on the line of locking up the wheel required 80-90 pounds of compression at the caliper. It seemed fitting to reverse the previous tests and see how hard a rider would have to pull the cable to reach this maximum braking point. The thought was that very high numbers would reduce the amount of fine control the fingers have, reducing modulation under heavy braking. So for this test cables were pulled until the caliper clamped the rim with 90 pounds of force and a measurement of force pulling the cable was taken. It is important to remember that we are pulling directly on the cable without a lever.

Shimano 7900: 65.3
Thm Fibula: 66.5
Shimano 9000: 68
Sram Red: 69
EE: 72
Campag Super Record Dual: 73
Far and Near: 75.5
Kcnc CB3: 84
Kcnc C7: 86
Kcnc CB4: 88
Kcnc C6: 101.5
Campag Super Record Single: 102

Test 3. Deflection at 60 and at 100. For these two tests the brakes were clamped into a fixture with pads removed and the brake arms were pulled away from the fixture in the direction of travel of a wheel. The brake deflection was measured with 60 and again 100 pounds of force pulling on the caliper. The two measurements were then averaged. One thing we noticed here was that materials do make a difference. A brake with lower numbers in this category is a stiffer brake. A stiffer brake provides better feel and feedback to the rider allowing for easier and more precise modulation in ideal situations. On the other side a less rigid brake may contribute more to smoothing out larger imperfections in a rim or brake surface under heavy braking leading to smoother modulation when a rim has brake surface inconsistencies. In general a lower number in this test should equate to better modulation.
Note: All brakes included in this review had no problems completing this test, but one carbon brake did fail during this test. We had to leave that brake out of the review as we were unable to complete the remaining tests for that brake.

Deflection at 60/100 in MM. (averaged)

EE: 1.29
Shimano 9000: 1.40
Shimano 7900: 1.46
Thm Fibula: 1.47
Campag Super Rec Dual: 1.75
Kcnc C6: 1.92
Kcnc CB4: 2.09
Campag Super Rec Single: 2.22
Sram Red: 2.27
Kcnc CB3: 2.57
Kcnc C7: 2.77
Far and Near: 3.26

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Posted: Mon May 19, 2014 10:09 pm 

PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 10:09 pm 
Shop Owner
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Joined: Sun Feb 06, 2005 4:22 pm
Posts: 3536
Location: Tucson, Az.
Test 4. Cable pull and caliper travel. For this test we pulled the cable in fixed increments, 3mm, 6mm, 9mm and 12mm and measured how far the calipers moved between the pads at each increment. This test shows the linearity or progressiveness of a brakes operation ratio. We found this test interesting as it shows the ratios that a certain lever is designed around.
The results, with listings in alphabetical order. (if you graph these lines out you’ll notice that they are surprisingly linear and very similar with one exception.)

Campag Super Record Dual: 2.06/3.96/6.16/8.46
Campag Super Record Single: 2.78/5.18/8.38/10.98
EE: 2.03/3.79/5.58/7.31
Far and Near: 1.88/3.81/5.71/7.86
Kcnc C6: 2/4/6.21/8.54
Kcnc C7: 1.89/3.87/5.53/7.6
Kcnc CB3: 2.52/4.63/7/9.48
Kcnc CB4: 2.53/4.65/7.02/9.48
Shimano 7900: 1.65/3.26/4.87/6.32
Shimano 9000: 1.63/3.64/5.8/7.4
Sram Red: 1.83/3.55/5.39/7.29
Thm Fibula: 1.69/3.45/5.14/6.96

Test 5: Weight and Price. Weight includes only the calipers, it does not include brake pads or brake pad carriers. Listed from Lightest to heaviest. Price is U.S. retail.
Kcnc C7, 111 grams. $330
Thm Fibula, 116 grams. $1429
Kcnc CB3, 126 grams. $335
EE Cycleworks, 139 grams. $610
Kcnc CB4, 150 grams. $200
Kcnc C6, 161 grams. $180
Far and Near, 168 grams $290
Sram Red, 190 grams $350
Campag Single pivot, 212 grams
Shimano 7900, 216 grams $400
Shimano 9000, 218 grams $400
Campag Dual Pivot, 232 grams. $355

Compression/weight: We also decided to look at some ratios of different performance aspects in relation to weight.
The first is compression to weight. We took their compression at 90 from test one and divided it by the weight.
Thm Fibula: 10.56
Kcnc C7: 8.46
EE: 8.27
Kcnc CB3: 7.65
Red: 6.52
Far and Near: 6.33
Kcnc CB4: 6.1
7900: 5.83
9000: 5.59
Campag Super Record Dual: 5.38
Kcnc C6: 5.06
Campag Super Record Single: 4.81

Stiffness to weight. The formula we used was ((1/test 3)/weight)*1000. Listed from highest to lowest.
Thm Fibula, 6.07
EE Cycleworks: 4.11
Kcnc C6: 2.42
Shimano 9000: 2.49
Kcnc C7: 2.44
Shimano 7900: 2.41
Kcnc CB3: 2.23
Kcnc CB4: 2.22
Campag Super Record Dual: 1.87
Sram Red: 1.76
Campag Super Record Single: 1.63
Far and Near: 1.36

Modulation x Performance: Modulation and performance have lots of aspects that go into them, but the two that stand out to me are tests 2 and 3, both of which work on results of lower being better. So I thought I’d see what happens when we combine them. First I gave test 3 a scale to weight the results fairly evenly with test 2, I did this by multiplying the result of test 2 x50. Then I added that to the results of test 3 and ended up with this list, lower being better:

EE: 136.5
Shimano 9000: 138
Shimano 7900: 138.3
Thm Fibula: 140
Campag Super Rec dual: 160.5
Sram Red: 182.5
Kcnc CB4: 192.5
Kcnc C6: 197.5
Kcnc CB3: 212.5
Campag Super Rec Single: 213
Kcnc C7: 224.5
Far and Near: 238.5

What we found interesting was that this parallels what we find in real world testing based on rider feedback. The top 4 modulate and stop very, very well and are all very similar in performance. Then the next 2 are very similar to each other and are still top performers, but a slight step down from the top 4. The bottom 6 range quite a bit in terms of modulation and stopping power.

Modulation to weight: Taking the modulation ranking a step further we can do modulation to weight. This was with the following: =((1/result above)/weight)*100k. That produces this list.

Thm Fibula: 6.16
EE: 5.27
Kcnc C7: 4.01
Kcnc CB3: 3.74
Kcnc CB4: 3.46
Shimano 7900: 3.35
Shimano 9000: 3.32
Kcnc C6: 3.14
Sram Red: 2.88
Campag Super Rec Dual: 2.69
Far and near: 2.50
Campag Super Rec single: 2.21

It’s interesting here because a brakes ranking can be dramatically affected by it’s weight. I know people don’t want to see a brake that works as well as Campag at the bottom of the list, but in this case it’s pulled down by being the heaviest brakes in the test. However the middle ground it is fairly balanced between those that have high performance and high weight along with those that have lower performance but also lower weight. The top of the list are the two brakes that are solid performers but also do very well in the weight department.

So at this point in our reviews we’d usually list out all the items and give our opinions on them, but this time we’re going to do something different. We’re going to stop here and let you add your opinions. Please only comment on brakes you’ve used and try to include pertinent details. At some point I’ll probably mix my own personal opinions in but for now we’d like to see how others feel. Do you think the tests show what you’ve experienced in the rea

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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 10:46 pm 
Formerly known as wassertreter

Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:08 am
Posts: 1943
Location: Pedal Square
I can give my opinion on the C7, which I've been using for a few years. Other brakes I've used are Shimano Ultegra, SRAM Apex, heavy stiff Tektros. I weigh around 75kg and live and ride in the Alps.

The C7 is a peculiar brake. I have thrown everything at it, alu rims, carbon rims, various brakepads, steep fast alpine descents, even in the rain, some gravel too. It never failed me. The thing is, I don't like the way this brake feels, it feels mushy, and not very confidence inspiring. Another thing is, that the bushings can seize up a bit over time, so the brake doesn't fully return to open position. But for cost, weight, and performance, it can not be faulted at all. You pull the lever hard enough, and it will stop you adequately.

Bikes: Raw Ti, 650b flatbar CX

PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 11:08 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:09 pm
Posts: 122
Location: Loveland, CO
Very nice work! I have the new Red brakes and they are wonderful. I'm using them with Shimano Di2 levers without issues. You get the weight savings from Shimano without sacrificing performance (253g. with pads). Plus they look the sexiest of all the brakes tested here.

PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 11:11 pm 

Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2014 3:09 pm
Posts: 97
Location: Seattle, WA | Gjøvik, Norway
Very useful! Thanks for posting the review.
I thought it informative to add the weight of pad holders + pads: From the listed weights and what I found on your web site specs for tested brakes including pads and holders, it appears an average set of 4 pads and holders weigh around 50 grams.. If not, please correct me.

(2012/2014) Scott Addict R1, SRAM Red 6.6kg | 2012 Scott Scale Pro, SRAM X0, 9.4kg

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 11:13 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:20 am
Posts: 327

Last edited by Causidicus on Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 11:36 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:32 pm
Posts: 144
I think it would be interesting to post how much cable pull each lever pulls (Campy, Shimano, SRAM). The lever has a big impact on modulation as well.

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 12:15 am 

Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 9:47 pm
Posts: 1714
Location: Santa Cruz, California, USA
Also the location of the "normal" hand on the lever relative to the pivot. For however you define normal (closest spot to the bar?).

Some levers are longer than others, giving more leverage.

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 12:24 am 

Joined: Tue Dec 27, 2011 2:19 pm
Posts: 646
I too have ridden the C7 for a few years... I agree with the post above, you can lock up the wheels if you pull on the hard enough (super record levers), they can get dirty and creak which is annoying, and the difference between not doing anything and locking up is very small. On carbon rims in the rain I've actually accelerated while descending with both brake levers compressed fully to my bars. But they do work and on a true weight weenie build in my area where the longest descent is straight and a half mile averaging 6% peaking at 10-12% with good visibility. In good conditions with no cars and no one in front of me, I won't even brake just tuck into aero position and ride it out (I'm a little heavier than most my riding companions at 165 lb so getting to the top of the climb first makes for a much more pleasurable descens)

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 4:29 am 

Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:25 pm
Posts: 221
Location: UK
Great review.

Interesting to see that the DA 7900 brake performs so similar to DA 9000. In real life the DA 9000 has noticeably more power and modulation: I wonder how much the levers also affect things?
Anyone who has used the Kcnc C6 won't be surprised by the numbers and I agree with the flexy feel concern above.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 4:56 am 

Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:20 am
Posts: 327

Last edited by Causidicus on Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 5:18 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:20 pm
Posts: 1196
Location: New Zealand
So I went from Campag Centaur brakes which had great modulation and stopping power (dual pivot front) to KCNC C7. Saved a ton of weight but lost some of that power. As other people have mentioned they have a tendency to go a bt creaky it would seem and a little bit grindy feeling as the rollers (bearings? Not sure) get a bit grimey. As the hills around here aren't terrible steep or long the braking on carbon rims is not really an issue at all, I'm not a dragger either or a late braker.

On a whole, the trade off from the stopping power and feel at the levers of the Centaurs to the C7s was worth it for my situation, and I think the best bang for buck in weight savings. If I hadn't gotten the C7s I would have tried to save for the EEs based on other members feedback

2012 BMC SLR 6.02kg

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 5:30 am 

Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2005 4:51 am
Posts: 1708
Yes indeed if the results were replicated using the 3 different respective shifters/brake levers.

All 3 have slightly different cable pulls and leverage for the brake levers, so it will be interesting how all the different brakes and combinations look when used with the 3 different sets.

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2014 8:20 am 

Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:46 pm
Posts: 276
Location: Amsterdam
I'll give a small history to put things in perspective, although most of the brakes are not in the test.
I had always ridden Shimano Ultegra or 105 until I changed my 6600 groupset for the Force.
I really hated those Force brakes because they had much deflection and low stopping power compared to 6600.
Then I decided to go lightweigt. Because of costs I went with C7 brakes. For me, it was the biggest mistake I could make. They had even more deflection than the Force brakes and even less stopping power. Of course, in the end they will make you stop, but I didn't feel save with them.

After a few rides, I decided to buy EE brakes, despites costs. Best decision ever! Great feel, modulation and stopping power. Last year I also bought a set of M5 brakes, because they were offered cheap and I like the esthetics. They also have a great feel and stopping power. Bit tougher in control and modulation, but I got used to it.

I weight around 70 kg btw.

Posted: Tue May 20, 2014 8:20 am 

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