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  1. #1
    "El Whatever"
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    Avid Mechs Report (Long)

    Although we have read a lot of reviews at mags and sites and these brakes have like 4 years out there I would like to leave a review here of these brakes for the folks who are new to the sport. These are just my humble honest opinion and is posted with the better of the intentions.

    Thanks for your time to read this.

    This is for the Avid Mechanical Disc Brake, 160mm. OEM B3 Compound pads. Years 2002 and on.

    Design and Basic Characteristics:
    Cable Actuated Disc brake. Only one moving piston. Can be used with either 160, 185 or 203mm rotor diameters. Intended to be directly coupled to a 74mm post mount up front or by adapters (included with each brake) to International Standard mounts. Sintered Brake pads supplied OEM in just one compound (B4) up to date. Compatible with any cable brake lever including Shimano’s new Dual Control pods.

    Price of a single unit varies between the US$70 and US$100 depending on retailer. Spare rotors are available around US$35 for a Clean Sweep (standard) 160mm rotor and can go up to US$45 for the new 8” polygon design used on the Avid Juicy 7 which are totally compatible (both brakes use the same pads and rotor diameters)

    Manufacturing Quality:
    From good to excellent. (Four chillis out of five) on the brake. Rather inconsistent on the pads (2 out of 5 chillis) although power and modulation are good, durability and squeal issues get the three stars off.

    Installation:
    In one word, simple. No quirks, no tricks. Avid instructions are straightforward and setting up these is even simpler than setting up vee’s. The CPS washers allow to install these on bikes or forks that are not that well manufactured or misaligned. No need for special tools here. Just a 2mm and 5mm Allen wrench. Exception made for caliper overhaul which need a special tool but during the test period (2 years+) no caliper failure or maintenance had arosed.

    Only thing I had found a minor fault with is with the use of Shimano hubs. The Shimano mounting interface is a bit smaller than the rotors inner diameter which leads to be careful with rotor centering. Bolt circle diameter is correct though so this is a minor issue as stated above.

    Cable routing and quality is vital for these brakes to have a nice feel. Tested with Jagwire Teflon coated and standard wire and housing and Shimano Deore stainless cable and standard housing.

    Maintenance:
    Constant pad adjustments to compensate for pad wear. Pad Adjustment knobs are very accessible even with the gloves on. No other maintenance is necessary if brakes were properly set-up at the brake. Cables should be replaced when feel of the brake has decreased which depend on cable/housing quality. Sealed housing are preferred.
    Pads replacement can be used without tools but here you’d rather take your gloves off. It’s an easy made trail-side operation.

    On the trail:
    These proved to be very powerful and good modulating if properly set as per Avid’s instructions where proper spacing between the pads and the rotors are crucial. The brake positions the outer pad closer to the rotor than the inner so as brake is applied the outer pad contacts the rotor first giving a small amount of braking power but as the rotor is pushed against the inner pad the barking power increases being dramatic the power obtained with the pads fully contacting the rotor surface. But force needed at the lever is quite low to obtain full braking (compared to vees, hydros require less force than that) so the brake can block the tire on any situation with just one finger on the lever. More “brute” power can be obtained if inner pad is put closer to rotor but then modulation disappears giving an ON-OFF feel which makes the brake very harsh and not adequate for low grip terrain like loose or muddy conditions.

    Bed-In period for the pads is rather short but should not be overlooked to obtain a proper pad durability and good braking performance. If rotors are not centered and trued properly warming up could lead to rotor warpings. Avid claims their rotors are supposed to be designed so they could be trued by hand and that some warping is normal. Well, this might be true but the fact is that some rotor warpings can occur and improper installation is a weight factor on this as the brake relies on rotor deflection to give modulation.

    Pad lifespan (B3 compound) is on the short side but depends a lot on the batch in which each set was produced. On dry normal conditions can be as long as 2000 miles and on wet muddy conditions can be as short as one ride. I must clarify on Avid’s defense that B3 compound is no longer used and had been replaced by B4 pads which are claimed to be overall better.

    Brakes squeal when rotor is wet and sometimes when extremely hot but no noticeable fading was detected when rotors were warmed up but it might depend on rider weight and riding conditions.

    Modulation is fairly good allowing the user to use the brakes in compromised situations like slippery mud and wet tarmac. Power is up there with more expensive brakes (some hydros too) and make other mechanicals (Shimano Deore for example) to feel rather weak.

    Feel at the lever varies depending on cable/housing quality and also depends on rider preferences so I will not cover this issue but I got excelent results with Shimano Deore levers. Better quality levers should give better more adjustability and feel.

    Durability:
    Caliper – Excellent
    Rotors – Good (if properly Set-Up)
    Pad Separation Springs – Good
    Pads – Inconsistant from good to very poor.

    Known Issues:
    Extremely low pad lifespan (compound and production batch depending)
    Rotor warpings (set-up depending)
    Pads “ringing” (weak pad separating springs)
    Rotor fixing bolts breakage (already solved by Avid)

    Bottom Line:
    Best overall cable actuated disc brake up to date. Reliable, simple and its performance is second to none of the cable actuated disc brakes. Usually compared to more expensive hydraulic actuated disc brakes as the rest of the cable actuated brakes are not nearly as good.
    Powerful but pad-eating beast.
    Aftermarket pads available from major brands like Koolstop, EBC (three different compounds) and Fibrax but very little information about how aftermarket pads had worked on these brakes.
    Check my Site

  2. #2
    [paste title here]
    Reputation: mtnbikerdude87's Avatar
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    Gotta agree. Avids are the best mech brakes. Came stock on my NRS and the only problem I had was that the piston popped off (broke?) making the capiler useless. I got a replacement pretty quick though. Other than that the brake is flawless. Just added a new set of b4 pads in the rear and so far holding up well.
    Keep Pedaling

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the review. I'm in the process of deciding whether I want to upgrade the brakes on my bike to discs. I currently have Avid SD3's, and am not too happy with them. I've narrowed it down to a new set of vee's, Avid Mechanical discs, or Hayes Mags. I don't really want to deal with hydraulic fluid, so the Avids are looking very tempting. I just don't want to buy another wheelset (need disc hubs).

  4. #4
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    Very informative, helpful review.

    I clawed my way into decent quality full-suspension via a 2004 Stumpjumper FSR Comp, the least expensive model with 2 Fox shocks. Swapped the Avid Mag v-brakes from 2001 Stumpjumper Pro hardtail on in place of the SD-5s. Probably not a whole lot of difference here.

    I also swapped on the X517/Hugi 240 rear/Specialized Stout front wheelset that came on my 2001 bike onto the new FSR.

    I am now descending fast enough, and in particular entering corners fast enough that I see the need for at least a front disc. I will have a hard time spending $4-500 on 2 new wheels of the same quality as the Hugi, but I am considering getting a new front wheel and an Avid disc brake.

    I think this will improve my braking alot.

    How many other folks out there are running just a front Avid disc?

  5. #5
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    I'm running just a front disc, and it's plenty. When I had Vs, I felt the need to brake with both front and rear to keep the speed down, but with the Avid disc I very rarely engage the rear brake anymore.

    How are you guys running your cabling? I just have my housing kind of jammed against the back of my fork crown, and down to the caliper from there. Should I zip tie it to the fork leg?

  6. #6
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by choatie88
    I'm running just a front disc, and it's plenty. When I had Vs, I felt the need to brake with both front and rear to keep the speed down, but with the Avid disc I very rarely engage the rear brake anymore.

    How are you guys running your cabling? I just have my housing kind of jammed against the back of my fork crown, and down to the caliper from there. Should I zip tie it to the fork leg?
    Absolutely zip tie it. You risk the cable getting caught in the wheel or rubbed by the tire if you don't. Zip tie to the arch to aviod the tie slipping down the lower. The downside is that your fork finish will get scratched.

  7. #7
    just along for the ride
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    Do a few wraps of electrical tape where the cable will be zipped tied on to prevent wear on the fork paintjob. I actually like to use electrical tape better than zip ties cause it doesn't slide around and holds the cable, just make sure you take into account the fork travel on where you tape on the cable.

  8. #8
    "El Whatever"
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    My vote for zip-ties

    They allow the cable to move a bit. The electrical tape eventually will atract dirt and could get loose with rain or water. So it would need constant replacement. Not a real hassle but I prefer zips.

    That god-blessed reverse arch on Manitous make cables routing somehow tricky.....
    Check my Site

  9. #9
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    Art of electrical tape application is always do the last wrap as loose as it comes off the roll. If you tension the last wraps it will loosen/slip. Problems I have with zips are they rarely can be tightened enough to prevent slippage, and when you overtighten they can affect the cable housing. Zips are ok but there should be some more effective connectors out there. Say rubber based zips?

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