I've used many different hydraulic brakes and my bikes currently use BB7 brakes. They're heavier, but with compressionless housing they work extremely well. They're also very easy to set up exactly how you want, you can easily eliminate rub, they're easy to fix on the trail, and are much more tolerant of damage. They're just a very robust design. They don't self-adjust, but they're easy to adjust on your own. Also, it's an exercise in frustration when hydraulic brakes stop self adjusting and you're left trying to troubleshoot it.
With the BB7 it's very important to use compressionless housing; they feel like a completely different brake, especially on the rear. If anyone ever starts saying hydraulics are so much better than the BB7 the first question I ask is if they used compressionless housing. The answers seems to be invariably "no". Fortunately you can pick up a high quality kit for only $20: Alligator Super Fortress Cable Kit at Price Point
+1. Housing and cables make a huge difference, especially when you consider how much cable you've got between your levers and your rear brake.
So that Alligator (pricepoint's house brand, no?) cable kit is good? I've considered it as a cheaper alternative to Jagwire Ripcord, but never bit the bullet and tried it.
Have an Iron Horse 7point3 that came with hydros (Hayes HFX?) rear went soft after about 1 year probably needed bleeding, rather than dick with those I switched to BB7s/Speed Dialers, awesomeness was back. Currently running BB7 on a RIP9, original build was 160/160 but after a few DHs left me feeling under-braked switched to 203/203 like the 7point3, also using Avid speed dialers get excellent modulation(at one extreme end you do get the on/off effect I've read others complain of but this is easily fixed by using correct levers). Have never worn pads out on any bike with BB7s , but did have to change on RIP9 due to contamination when I switched to 203s got something on discs -> pads I think, squealed horribly after the switch. After new pads nice and quiet.
Last edited by socal_jack; 11-01-2012 at 03:45 PM.
After many hassles with a set of hydros, I went with BB7's a few years ago.
Other than weight, I really do not see a reason to go back to hydros again. Set up with Jagwire Ripcord cables/housing, they are super solid. I use hydros on bikes I borrow/rent/demo, and while I like the silky feel, I don't see any actual performance benefit, nor did I see any downside when I first switched to bb7s.
I like that they are very adjustable, I can get the lever to engage anywhere I want, which is not the case with many hydros.
A good friend of mine switched to bb7s from a set of avid hydros that were giving him trouble, and has no regrets.
And housing does make all the difference in the world. I use Jagwire Ripcord.
15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.
I like my hydros because I never have to mess with them.
This^^^, I find my formula rx brakes so much easier to maintain(read, 0 minutes)
Always ready and on, seemed like my avid's always needed some fine tuning that I don't have to do with hydro's.
Don't get me wrong, I liked my avid's but prefer my formula brakes.
Yep, you never have to mess with hydros. Except when you do. Every once in a while they fail completely and you need a bleed kit and the time and knowledge about how to use one, or you need a someone who has those things that you can pay to deal with it.
Worst things that ever happen in my life with BB7s is that every 100 miles or so when I'm cleaning up the bike anyway, I take out my little torqx wrench and tighten up the fixed pad side so that it's one click from the rotor. Once in a while, especially after some long descents, I have to spend all of 10 seconds tightening the dynamic side (I can actually do the front while I'm rolling if I want to).
I don't know how many times I've been on rides with somebody who found out when it was too late to do anything about it that one of their hydro levers was going all the way to the bar--need bleed. One of the times when I was lined up for the Leadville 100, a gal right next to me suddenly yelled out to her husband to come help because her brake lever was fading all the way to the grip. Tough luck...
Read Sonya Looney's story about her race in Nepal. Being 100s of miles away from anything like a bleed kit and having her brakes fail. Sure, she was at a ridiculously high elevation, but when I read that, first thing I thought was, "jeez, if she'd just been running mechanicals that simply could not happen."
I have had hydros that worked well. I've never personally gotten stuck with a failed hydro. Yeah, they feel nice and buttery. But I honestly can't say that my BB7s work any less well. I like to go on adventures with my bike. Having an equipment failure that is avoidable is simply not acceptable to me.
Formula brakes are currently at Formula for inspection and possible rebuild. Several bleeds by myself and LBS did not fix an unridable lever fade. I will find out soon if it is a rebuild or internals are worn out/not repairable.
I initially posted on Brake Forum, but had many more responses here. Thanks.
The question is more about the riding perceptions then technical aspects of the switch anyways.
I was wondering if anyone had made the switch and regretted it horribly. If the loss of power was extreme and effected the enjoyment of the ride. Some great answers from both sides of preference.
Actually hoping Formula figures out the problem, fixes it and I am riding next week. I am just exploring options just in case I get bad news though.
"Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit- the bike disappears and you feel as if you're suspended in midair"GKlein
Looking for some opinions from those that may have made this switch back to BB7s.
Did you miss the power? Enjoy the simplicity? Effect on your riding performance or enjoyability?
Long time rider that built up my dream bike (Silk Ti 29er) about six years ago and may need to replace my Formula Uno Puro brakes due to wear. Most likely looking at the new XT/SLX brakes. They seem solid. Bling parts are not in the current budget.
But I am having some second thoughts about possibly using BB7s with a set of almost new Avid Ultimate levers I have sitting in the garage. I currently use BB7s on my drop barred Niner MCR. Like them a lot. But that bike is more of a CX bike in build and use then a true XC bike.
I am 210lbs (225+ w/camelback) on mostly Front Range Colorado fireroad and singletrack. Never resort style downhilling, but still significant descending on XC rides. Still an occasional race. (last mtb race was Laramie Enduro) Style is relatively smooth and not as aggressive as I used to be 25 years ago.
Any real world experience or thoughts would be helpful. Thanks.
I went from hydraulic to BB7 on my last 2 bikes. Lots of trouble with Magura and Avid hydraulics.
Like the BB7 a lot, and I'm not leightweight.
But I found I had to use a little more force on the levers to get the performance that I got from hydro's..
On one bike I replaced the cables once due to wear, felt like new again. => good cables are important.
They never let me down, never felt unsecure. Modulation is good, no surprises.
However, on my new bike I used the new XT's and they are a bit beter than hte BB7.
My advice would be:
If you have the BB7's laying around, use them.
If you plan to buy new brakes, go fot the XT's.
Theres a reason all cars and motorcycles use hydraulic brakes. Step away from the 8 track and get an iPod.
Should I also use 4 wheels, 8 cylinders etc ?
I understand what you trying to say, but a car is not a bicycle and vice versa.
I found that BB7's are good brakes, althoug some hydraulic brakes are better.
ive ridden my bb7s (on a riggid surly km ) for almost a year now and really the only bad thing i got to say is that they squeal like pigs when wet! ofcourse you could use swissstops brake silencer, i had to dial em in first, but now i have only adjusted the pads 1 or 2 times in last months, i love that feature of bb7... and whoever says hydros take less time to work on ur so so so so wrong... i could change the pads cables n housing on the bb7s when you could get the bleed cap off ur hydros, ive just ordered a set of new bb7s for myself since a friend wanted to buy my used ones, but this time im going for 180 front rotor and 160 rear, and the jagwire l3 housing. i have the l3s atm and they have been perfect all that time. id say go for bb7s, but if you have some extra to spend get a brake silencer, real good cables or maybe even organic pads
Cool didnt know about the compresionless housing thing and have BB7s on a newer bike (had them once before as upgrade to V brakes and was happy).
Anyway being on second set of BB7s they are great reliable brakes, a little pain to adjust at times.
I would never trade for hydros though on bikes that will for trails with long fast descents. I have had older XT hydros and now have elixr 9s. I want to upgrade to XT or XTR brakes because I loved the simplicity and lack of maintiance on old XTs!
Last edited by HEMIjer; 11-02-2012 at 05:10 AM.
XC, Road, XXC, Endurance, Mtn, All-Mtn, Cross, Gravel, just go have fun on 2 wheels!
I use BB7's as well and love em! Setup was dead easy using the online mini BB7 resource. The only thing I would add to that guide is to disconnect them entirely from the cable before the alignment process so that they will move freely on the CPS bolts. Also keep an eye on the washers they can get stuck in an odd position and may need a little nudge. Easy as pie WAY easier than setting up v-brakes were.
I run 203mm front and 185mm rear one finger stopping power on my N9.
I'd rather get a set a Shimano Deore M596 Hydro's... which will be cheaper than a set a BB7's, compressionless housing, and speed dial/ultimate levers... and not have to fiddle around, consult forums, or do any sort of special tricks to get them to work well. Shimano hydraulics are ridiculously easy to bleed too.
If you do end up having to replace your brakes, there is absolutely no comparison between Shimano hydro's and BB7s.