Friday Battle: Lightweight Road Brakes

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
CippoForLife
Shop Owner
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Location: Toronto, Canada
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by CippoForLife

Hey Crew,
First of our new weekly Friday battles is now online.
We decided to review the top lightweight brakes that we have ridden.
Full review and pics http://blacksmithcycle.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/friday-battle-lightweight-road-brake-shootout-9/ or below is most of the text...
Not as technical as the awesome stuff from the Fairwheel boyz, we instead focused on real world riding experience...

Friday Battle #1: Lightweight Brake Shootout

Welcome to the first of our weekly Friday Battles, where we pit three challengers against one another to determine who has the most outrageously fantastic products on the market. We decided to start this series by riding three of the world’s best lightweight brakesets from around the globe – one German, one Taiwanese, and one from the good ol’ USA. What are we looking for in an ideal set of brakes? Well, overall stopping power is key, modulation (or the ability to precisely control braking force) is vital and often overlooked, and ease of setup is of course also a benefit. If you’re a 250 lb Clydesdale, don’t stop reading…one of the choices might be right for you. To find out which brakeset is best for you, let’s go to the polls…

Our Three Challengers:

THM Fibula Carbon Brakes
From deep in the heart of Germany comes a small family-run company that is totally dedicated to weight savings through carbon composite design. Petra, Marcus and Marco make up a unique and talented crew, producing some of the world’s finest forks, cranksets, and of course brakes. What is unique about the THM Fibulas is the fact that the front and rear brakes are designed completely differently, to tackle the unique requirements that each component will face through its normal usage. This true dedication to proper engineering has endeared THM to Blacksmith Cycle and we are proud to be Canada’s home for these unique products.

Available in both glossy and matte finishes, we have been impressed with the performance of these brakes, particularly compared to full carbon options. Adequate braking power for even bigger riders, we’ve had customers note INCREASED stopping power and better modulation than Campy Record. A stunning svelte appearance, and a design uniqueness that cannot be matched are aspects of the Fibulas that are worth RESPECT, as Ali G would say. A great choice for GranFondo riders, and super-light project bikes, though perhaps a bit delicate for uber-heavyweights or crit racers who rely on consistently strong braking pulls. Though they carry a hefty price tag at $975, their insane 125 gram TOTAL weight are worth the price of admission. Oh, and they can be ordered in matte or glossy…sweet.

Far & Near Alloy Brakes
From the heart of Germany we take a long flight to examine the interesting offerings from Taiwanese producer Far and Near. Though a relatively young company, F&N have already assembled an impressive array of products, from their anodized chainrings, to lightweight skewers and tuning kits. As the most reasonable priced brakeset in this shootout at $275, we had modest expectations from this small company, but came away mighty impressed. Jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none is perhaps the best way to describe these puppies. No they are not all that light (though they’ll save you 30 grams over your Super Record stoppers), and no they will not stop an 18-wheeler on a dime (compared to the industry standard Dura Ace calipers), but yes they offer solid braking power, better than expected modulation, and come in a ridiculous range of colours.

With a weight under 260 grams, an easy quick release mechanism, and an overwhelming choice of hues (black, green, red, blue and even three national colour schemes for those with alliances to Germany, France or Italy), the Far & Near’s were by far the best value in this shootout, and a great choice for those looking for something lighter and more unique than the Big 3 at a great price. KCNC is a similar Taiwanese option for those looking for lightweight alloy brakes, but we’ve been a bit more impressed with the finishing quality of Far & Near thus far and are sticking to them until a better option arises.

EE Cycleworx Brakes
EE is admittedly an odd manufacturer, with prototypes of their alloy cranksets circling the internet for the past two years, yet still no production date in sight. And yet, they are intriguing all the while for with a devotion to perfect execution of their designs as a hallmark of their philosophy (thus explaining the wait). One product that you need not wait for, however, are the utterly unbelievable EE brakes, which have been quietly on the market for almost three years. Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room first…these babies are ugly. Really ugly. In fact, they sat on my shelf for 6 months before I finally bolted them to my Cento Uno for a test run. And you know what? I now find them BEAUTIFUL to look at! Ok, maybe not aesthetically, but once tried, they have a functional beauty, evident in the uniqueness of their design, the purposefulness of their shape, and the utterly shocking performance that these little babies offer.

Hands down, these brakes offer the best overall combination of value, weight, modulation and power. Yes, they are a bit tricky to get going at first, mostly because of the variety of setup options at your disposal, but once they are set they offer a truly outrageous combination – Shimano-like power, Campy-like modulation, and a weight that is far lower than both. They don’t have the svelte carbon goodness of the THM’s or the insane value of the Far & Near’s, but pound-for-pound these are simply outstanding performers. The only problem? EE is a small company, with occasional production glitches which slow things down. But at $599, with a weight of 135 grams (and multiple colour options), these are a great choice for those looking to save weight without sacrificing performance.

Others worth mentioning:

Bram’s M5 Alloy Brakes: perhaps the strongest brakes on the market in terms of raw stopping power and one of the most outrageous looking components around, Bram’s M5 brakes still have several notable drawbacks – poor modulation, no quick release, suspect aerodynamics, and sketchy availability make these a tough pill to swallow for anyone but a Clydesdale looking for maximum stopping power in an uber-light brakeset.
Ciamillo (Zero Gravity) Brake Series: the most “mainstream” of the lightweight brake producers, Ciamillo have been building weight-savings calipers for over a decade. From their insanely light and sexy Gravitas carbons ($900), to their Zero Gravity titanium/alloy stoppers ($425) that have been an ultra-light build staple for years, Ciamillo has plenty of experience in this category. Add in custom colour options and their more robust Negative G brakeset ($325) and you get a wide range of brakes to suit most buyers. We have Gravitas brakes coming into stock next week, btw, so come check them out in person!
TRP Brake Series: if TRP sounds like a relative newcomer to your ears, perhaps you’ve heard of Tektro, their lower-end sister line. Nonetheless, TRP has steadily climbed the ultralight brakeset ladder with the increasing success of their 950 SL ($255), 960 Alloy ($300), and 970 Magnesium ($425) lineup. With looks and performance that is closer to Shimano and Campy than to the ultra-light options listed above, TRP makes lightweight brakes for the masses. The 960′s are a bit spongy but offer great value and good weight, whereas the 970′s up the ante in terms of both performance and weight savings – plus they come in a sexy white version.
Thanks for checking and I'll be back next Friday for our Classic’s Wheelset Battle!!!
Blacksmith Cycle - bespoke bicycles - info@blacksmithcycle.com
Website: http://www.blacksmithcycle.com
Stage-Race Distribution - the world's finest bicycles
Website: http://www.stage-race.com

madmole
Posts: 138
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2011 4:29 pm

by madmole

Dont forget the Planet X CNC brakes. $150 and 190 grams with swisstop green and these brake and better modulate than Sram Red. Nice looking and available in a ton of colours
Cervelo S3 2011. Blinged 6.718 Kg

by Weenie


gumgardner
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Location: Pittsburgh

by gumgardner

No AX? I'm very happy with mine.

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Rick
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Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2009 4:30 pm

by Rick

madmole wrote:Dont forget the Planet X CNC brakes. $150 and 190 grams with swisstop green and these brake and better modulate than Sram Red. Nice looking and available in a ton of colours

:thumbup:

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maverick_1
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Joined: Tue Sep 11, 2007 4:20 pm
Location: Tokyo

by maverick_1

I'm with gum, loving the AX Orion. Setup and brakepad alignment is simple and straightforward, springs can be adjusted to your liking.
Just bought another pair for the Colnago Master :wink:
Last edited by maverick_1 on Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ramjm_2000
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Location: US of A

by Ramjm_2000

Gotta say I'm done with Ciamillo brakes (both zero and negative). The weak spring (and subsequent ratting levers) plus the pucker factor related to messing with anything that might upset the calipers centering just does not make them worth it. I really wanted to like EE brakes but man IMO they are so hideous. I have friends with M5 and Planet X and while nice I was seriously considering going back to campy, until I rode a buddies Hive REVLs....holy crap! Talk about modulation and crisp lever return. A complete 180 from my Negative G's. I finally got around to installing mine this past weekend and setup was a breeze. They were about 5 grams heavier than my Ti upgraded Negative G's but you lose at least 2-3 grams of housing/end caps so it was a wash. Centering was a breeze and the power/lever feel are top notch. It's a shame you don't have them on your review.

JR

HillRPete
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by HillRPete

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Last edited by HillRPete on Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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kfreytag
Posts: 293
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2007 9:42 pm
Location: Oakland, CA

by kfreytag

@Cippo : Which of these brakes do you sell / distribute and which do you not?
Life's too short to ride clinchers.

Current:
Parlee Z-Zero ISP
Santa Cruz Stigmata CC

Past:
Ridley X-Fire Disc

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phips
Posts: 91
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:38 am

by phips

Used to run Zero-G, got bored of not being able to stop in the wet (I'm 63kg). Now run EEs. Thoroughly disliked the looks when I first saw them on a mate's bike, but they really grew on me. Setup is a delight, modulation is excellent. Not quite as powerful as my Campag Chorus brakes, but close enough - and I do like the feel of them applying.

Bloody expensive, especially to import into Blighty. But I love em.

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kfreytag
Posts: 293
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Location: Oakland, CA

by kfreytag

The EE's are quite nice. Even with the mis-matched lever pull of 7900, if you switch the pad holder washers to the outside (and thus change the lever arm position), they have reasonable power. Modulation is great (better than 7900), though for absolute power, 7900 still wins.
Life's too short to ride clinchers.

Current:
Parlee Z-Zero ISP
Santa Cruz Stigmata CC

Past:
Ridley X-Fire Disc

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prendrefeu
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by prendrefeu

You mean "Light weight" - unless Lightweight produced road brakes? :wink:

Not sure whether you're calling your review a "battle" or a "shootout" - the latter is a bit of a blatant pull on FWB/Madcow's component "shootout" which have been going for years... and are a bit more apt, as FairWheel Bikes is in Tucson, (and as someone from Tucson I can attest that) Tucson is a Western Town with remnants of it's wild-west past still around -> cowboys/indians/o.k. corral, westerns, -> shootout is apt.

Toronto? Shootout? Battle maybe, if you're referencing the b-boy scene out there which is pretty tight. So Battle -> B-Boy battle.
Exp001 || Other projects in the works.

gumgardner
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Location: Pittsburgh

by gumgardner

That was my thought. If I want to read about a brake comparison, I'll read one of madcow's reviews.

oreoboreo
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Location: Aloha, Oregon/ Poipu, Kauai Hawaii

by oreoboreo

madmole wrote:Dont forget the Planet X CNC brakes. $150 and 190 grams with swisstop green and these brake and better modulate than Sram Red. Nice looking and available in a ton of colours



I recieved my set monday... all I can say is "Sweet brakes"
Let's finish the ride with a 20% grade.

2011 Scott Addict R1 DA 7900 Matt black
2012 Scott CR1 Pro Ultegra 6700
2015 Specialized SWorks Tarmac Da 9000
2016 Specialized SWorks Tarmac DA 9100

Dammit
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Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2011 8:16 pm

by Dammit

kfreytag wrote:The EE's are quite nice. Even with the mis-matched lever pull of 7900, if you switch the pad holder washers to the outside (and thus change the lever arm position), they have reasonable power. Modulation is great (better than 7900), though for absolute power, 7900 still wins.


7900/Power Cordz/EE's/Reynolds Blue pads=top drawer.

Image

jghall
Posts: 115
Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2007 6:53 pm

by jghall

Tough crowd. Geez Mike, you might as well close the shop since you didn't compare all 135 +/- brakes on the market. Or maybe you should do it because it was called a shoot-out vs. a battle.

Personally, I appreciate the time and your thoughts.

by Weenie


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