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  1. #1
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    Switching from hydraulic brakes to BB7s on XC bike?

    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.
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  2. #2
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    I haven't switched back, but I have new XTR on my race bike, and have always used BB7s on my other singlespeed/training/bad weather bike. I never really notice much difference switching back and forth. I enjoy the simplicity/serviceability on the singlespeed and general lack of maintenance with the BB7s.
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  3. #3
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    I can't exactly speak to your point as I've never owned hydraulics of any kind. I've been riding BB7s for 10+ years with Avid Ultimates. When I bought the Ultimates ($100 less than they are now) from Speedgoat, the description said something like "If engineers from another planet who didn't know anything about bikes saw these, they'd say "Nice".

    Those levers are half the reason I keep riding BB7s. The other half that BB7s perform really well. And the third half is they're 1/3 the price of cheap hydraulics. That's money I spend on better hubs or some other upgrade.

    While I don't do gonzo downhilling, there are plenty of steep downs in central CT, and I've never felt them to be inadequate. I weigh 190 on my RIP9. I use organic pads for quieter performance and better modulation.

    Nothing against hydraulics, I'll probably have some someday. But BB7s are excellent brakes that you should do fine with. Check them out in the review section. They're highly regarded.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  4. #4
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    I've tried hydraulics briefly, and I felt they had too much stopping power. Also, all the talk about setting up and maintenance didn't really get me interested. I have BB7 on my 2010 Kona Unit, and for the most part, it has enough stopping power. One thing I didn't like about hydraulics was that too much stopping power came on too suddenly, giving me that "gonna go over the bar" feeling. With my current BB7 set up, I stop almost instantly without such feeling. Keep in mind though, I'm on rigid, so I can only go so fast on downhills. 220 lb, btw.
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  5. #5
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    Not sure why this is in '29er Bikes' & not 'Brake Time', but I'll bite.......

    I ride w/BB7s & weigh 230#.
    The only times I've wanted hydro brakes is on long, long rocky descents, or when riding certain trails at resorts, like Trestle DH to Bear Arms. That combo works out my forearms more than watching Cinemax while the wife's at work.
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  6. #6
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    Funny, I just had this conversation not 5 min ago. Was on the phone with a buddy talking brakes. He and I agree. The diff between hyd. and mech is so little its not worth debating. We don't do any huge downhilling but we do ride the crap out of our bikes. I currently have hopes, avid xo's , avid cr's. avid bb7's and bb5's. They all do what they're supposed to. Between the mech's I would give the 7's the nod over the 5's
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  7. #7
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    Before I purchased my Overdrive I test many bikes with both and I really like BB7's over the hydro's. Maybe it's because I crossed over from Road biking and they felt very similar to what I was used to.

  8. #8
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    I like my hydros because I never have to mess with them.

  9. #9
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    Good Hydro's are better in performance but if you shim the cable out on a BB7 at the engaugement arm to give you more leverage and slow the action down they are very good. I found them stock to need some work. They are to on and off and no where inbetween stock.

  10. #10
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    Wow. BB7s are great brakes, but compared to the new Shimano's? No way.
    The new generation of Shimano Hydraulic brakes are lighter than BB7s, easier to bleed than pretty much any other hydro ever, have great power, and (the best part) superb modulation.
    After using the Shimano brakes for a season, I would NEVER go back to mechanical disc brakes on my go-to mountain bike.
    The modulation is hard to imagine until you try it. I have way more control over the bike in all circumstances than I ever had using Avid Hydros, Avid Mechs, or Shimano Mechs.

  11. #11
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    Have both on two different bikes. No contest. Hydraulics win by a land slide. Better power, modulation, and set up. I bought the BB7's because I thought they would be more reliable. They have been really reliable in the 3 seasons I've run them. But so have the hydro's. In fact, I don't recall any issues with hydro brakes on any of the bikes I've been on rides with.

  12. #12
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    You would be surprised how much better the BB7 are with the shim mod.

  13. #13
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    I should just be quoting some prior post of mine...
    185# here.

    5" FS 26er - BB7 185/160 Roundagon rotors, Avid semi-metallics - brakes are super strong with OK modulation. Modulation improves as they heat up on long descents. Power is constant.
    29er HT with 4" fork - BB7 160/160 Aztec (F)/Roundagon (R), Avid semi-metallics - brakes are strong - not having a 185mm rotor is noticeable in power but improves modulation - performance is predictable and constant.
    29er rigid - Hope M4 180/160 Floating rotors, Hope organics - brakes are super strong with unbelievably good modulation. Power fades when very hot. Will probably switch to semi-metallics when these pads wear out.

    The only place the BB7's came up short was a long downhill in the rain where water and grit rapidly wore the pads. There is no self-adjusting feature and I had to slow down while I cranked the barrel adjusters out on the fly. Ran out of barrel adjuster length on both brakes before I got to the bottom. Pads were worn very crooked and it was making the rotors flex awfully. So, uh, long, gritty downhills in the rain are off the list when running BB7's, but for the $$$ they are unbeatable. I probably won't ever spring for Hopes again. Also have BB7 on our mountain tandem.

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Realslowww View Post
    Good Hydro's are better in performance but if you shim the cable out on a BB7 at the engaugement arm to give you more leverage and slow the action down they are very good. I found them stock to need some work. They are to on and off and no where inbetween stock.



    Pics of this mod?

  15. #15
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    I've been running BB7's for a long time, and have never needed/wanted more stopping power. Properly set up with good cables (I really like Jagwire Ripcord cables) and lever (Avid Speed Dial), they're all the braking I need. Maybe if I was downhilling a lot, I'd want something hydraulic, but for XC and general trail riding, the BB7's are perfect for me.

    I recently made the switch back to BB7's on my Spearfish from the stock Elixer 5's (those are terrible). I've now got the same brakes/levers on my Spearfish, Karate Monkey and old steel Rockhopper and I couldn't be happier with my braking. I love the low/easy maintenance of the BB7's.

  16. #16
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    BB7's are the only disc brakes I've ever ridden, and I don't really see a reason to change. If you have ultimate levers you should be good on that front - the low end FR-5 levers don't work that well but the speed dial 7's work great, and I suspect the ultimates are better still (at least I'd hope so, considering the price differential). One thing I would recommend is using a compressionless cable housing - this helps translate more of the lever's cable pull into stopping power.
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  17. #17
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    XT's by a light year over the BB7's. I got sick of fiddling with the BB7's, inconsistent pad alignment, low power, high pad wear, poor wet weather performance etc, etc. Haven't touched the XT's other than to change pads once.

    Best $300 (incl. rotors) I've spent on any bike.
    I see hills.

    I want to climb them.

  18. #18
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    I learned that on my MOTO X motorcycles over the years,mech are no match for a good and I say good hydro system.Although on a bicycle with the lower speeds it probably is not as big a deal.

  19. #19
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    By a smidge, I'll give the nod to Shimano XTs. But if I bought a new bike tomorrow and it came with BB7's, I would happily ride them forever.

    In general, while the constant desire to innovate is generally a good thing, moving from mech brakes to hydros is possibly NOT the best example of this.

    But I think Avid has (had?) the ball-ramp mechanism patented, so what was everybody else to do, except pursue a "better" alternative?
    The drive towards achievement and success is the motive power of civilization.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Realslowww View Post
    You would be surprised how much better the BB7 are with the shim mod.
    Quote Originally Posted by AZ.MTNS View Post
    Pics of this mod?
    Quote Originally Posted by Realslowww View Post
    I learned that on my MOTO X motorcycles over the years,mech are no match for a good and I say good hydro system.Although on a bicycle with the lower speeds it probably is not as big a deal.
    Yep, id love to see a picture of this shim mod too which makes the BB7's that much better.

    Personally, I also found overall stopping power the same between my BB7's and my Hayes Stroker Carbons... Where I found the hydraulics to shine was during light "trail braking". I just love how much better the brakes feel.

    Then again, all this might not be applicable since im using 26'er brakes....

  21. #21
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    Why would you need to replace a whole set of brakes due to wear? The only wear items are the rotors and the pads. And if you replace your pads when you should, the rotors will last a very long time.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew-FSR View Post
    Why would you need to replace a whole set of brakes due to wear? The only wear items are the rotors and the pads. And if you replace your pads when you should, the rotors will last a very long time.
    and piston seals and master cylinder internals like orings and bladder....

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Realslowww View Post
    You would be surprised how much better the BB7 are with the shim mod.
    Details?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Realslowww View Post
    You would be surprised how much better the BB7 are with the shim mod.
    Yes, please don't leave us hanging...

  25. #25
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    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

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