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
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: 39.5/80.5/122.5Test 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
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: 102Test 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)
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