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  1. #1
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    First time brake upgrade questions

    *Disclamer: If you dont like those Nube-ish "Which one should I buy" type of threads read no further because: Yes I am new to the site, and yes I am asking peoples opinions on a possible future purchase. Also I do know how to use the search function but I couldn't find the information I needed*

    So lately Ive decided that its time for the change in the brake department, the brake that I have now (some crappy tektros that came on my bike) are just terrible. Ive been doing some homework and shopping around the clearance sections on a couple websites and Ive come up with some possibilities and with them some questions.

    Avid BB7 $40 on pricepoint
    Avid Elixir 1 $60 on pricepoint
    Avid Elixir 3 $70 on pricepoint
    Hayes Stroker Trail $70 on pricepoint
    Shimano Deore BR-M596 $70 Jenson

    I was wondering If anyone has any suggestions/opinions on any of these brakes, what is the difference between the elixir 1 and 3s, and the Elixir 3s and the strokers, Also I understand that the BB7s seem to be the best bang for your buck cable brakes (feel free to correct me if Im wrong) and that hydraulics seem to have much more stopping power however, the hydraulics that are in my price range are relatively cheep options and I was wondering if Higher level cable>lower level hydraulics. Also It seems that hydraulics are more maintenance than their cable counterparts, just how much more maintenance is needed.

    One last thing, Im also intrigued by these:Avid Speed Dial 7 Brake Levers 2012 | Avid | Brand | www.PricePoint.com
    if I wind up with the BB7s, what exactly do they do and how much would they help


    -Thanks in advance or all the help
    Kevin
    Sorry for piling all this on

  2. #2
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    Elixir 1 - These things are garbage, they completely suck. As in they leak fresh out of the box and over half the bikes that come with them need a fresh bleed straight out of the box. Either that or they need to get sent back for warranty replacement. I could say more, but it would just be 10,000 words of me complaining about how much they suck.

    Elixir 3 - They suck slightly less than the Elixir 1. I wouldn't put them on my bike unless someone gave me enough money so that I'd never have to work another day in my life.

    BB7 - They work well for a mechanical, but I'm not a fan of the feel. Plus cables get crunchy over time and need to be replaced, and I need to keep fiddling with the dials as the brake pads wear down. That's just too much work for me, but I'm lazy and hate working on my own bikes.

    Stroker Trail - Only had brief rides on them, but I have to say I'm pretty happy with how they work. Good power, nice feel & modulation, my only complaint is that I wasn't comfortable with the shape of the levers since I've been using Shimano brakes for 20 years.

    M596 Deore - Had this one for half a year, totally happy with it and only upgraded it because I wanted the dimpled levers on the Saint/Zee/XTR brakes. Good power, probably the cleanest lever other than the Zee, nice feel, control, and modulation, and it had the best feeling lever for me. Out of all the budget brakes I've used on a longer term basis, this is the one to beat, it just plain works.

    Personal thoughts - Stroker Trail or M596 Deore, depending on how easy it is for you to get replacement pads & parts in your area. Where I live most of the shops stock Shimano parts, on the other side of town there's more Hayes stuff. See what the shops and/or mail order places in your area stock, and if it's about the same then pick the one that looks better on your bike.

  3. #3
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    In that price range? BB7's. Hydros are no more powerful than BB7's, what most people will tell you is hydros modulate better, but I think that's a lot of crap too. The only thing hydros have on BB7's is weight savings (in most cases, not all) and auto adjusting, but BB7's are the most reliable brakes known to man (or at least this man). You can get the BB7's and Speed Dial levers for less than any other brake, and they will be more reliable, more consistently than anything else. So if budget is important to you, look past the cheap hydro stuff and stick with BB7's. Cables will last several seasons unless you're riding salted roads and not cleaning your bike properly.

    Speed Dials: These levers work a bit differently than most in that most cable brake levers have a fixed point the cable attaches to, and what the manufacturer thinks you should get for pull speed/distance/leverage is what you get. The SD7 has an adjustable attachment point, that moves towards and away from the fulcrum (pivot point) of the lever, allowing you to get faster engagement/more pull/less leverage or slower engagement/less pull/more leverage. Anyone who doesn't think BB7 brakes can modulate probably has a ham fisted way of applying brakes, and certainly hasn't used them in conjunction with SD7 levers.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the replies guys, so aerius your saying that in you experience hydros are more set and forget than mechanical? Cotharyus what do you mean by cheap hydro, all of what I had picked out or just the Elixir 1s?
    thanks again

  5. #5
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    I'm using the Shimano Deore XT M785 set and am REALLY happy with it. In the past I have been using cable V-brakes (was out of biking for a decade and a half in between), and I find the hydraulics to be very low maintenance. Depending how you maintain your bike in general, you may need to change cabling regularly on mechanical breaks. How bleeding hydraulics compares to that is a matter of taste, but judging from other posts here, many people run for years without needing to bleed.

    The listed hydraulics differ in the oil they use. DOT fluid is more hazardous and can eat your skin as well as the bikes paint job if you are not cautious. Additionally it will absorb moisture from the air, possibly requiring more regular bleeds. Mineral oil based hydraulics such as Shimano will not absorb moisture, and Shimano recommends changing oil only if it becomes severely discoloured due to contaminants. YMMV depending on the environment you ride in. I read this article recently, it goes into some detail in regards to the oils: Tech Speak: Brake Fluid Break Down & Implications for Road Disc

    Going by posts here the cheaper Shimano breaks are great value, there is hardly a thread in this part of the forum that doesn't contain at least one "switch to SLX!" post. I do not have personal experience with the other options you list, so I admit to a certain amount of bias

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevHock View Post
    Thanks for the replies guys, so aerius your saying that in you experience hydros are more set and forget than mechanical?
    Unless you're doing a lot of DH riding, Shimano's hydraulic brakes are pretty much set & forget. All I do these days is replace the brake pads when they wear out and hose off the brakes after muddy rides. In the past when I did a lot of lift served DH riding, I'd flush the the brake fluid at the end of each season to keep everything in tip top shape (sustained high temperatures from DH riding will oxidize the fluid and use up the additives in it, this leads to possible corrosion and seal wear/damage). In normal use you'll probably be on your next bike before the fluid needs replacing. These days I flush the fluid every 3-4 years, but could stretch it out a fair bit longer since the fluid still looks pretty good when I drain it out.

    DOT fluid needs a bit more regular care since it absorbs moisture from the air, and no brake system is 100% airtight. Generally speaking, a full flush every 2-3 years is a good idea regardless of how hard the brakes are used. Still beats dealing with crunchy cables every year and twiddling with dials every few weeks.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the input, I'm starting to lean towards either the M-596 or the BB7s now, also throwing the shimano M455 into the mix just because they are $20 cheaper than the M-596s and as a college student I'm trying to save every bit I can, Seeing as these are both still relatively low end hydros will there be that big of a difference in performance Between the two? Also are brake fluids interchangeable or are some only compatible with DOT?

  8. #8
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    The M596 is pretty affordable but it is by no means low end. It's a bit heavier and looks rather plain, but Shimano packed a lot of high performance technologies into it. It has the servowave lever mechanism from the SLX/XT/XTR brakes for more power & control along with nice large pistons for good power, albeit in steel instead of ceramic like the higher end brakes. The only major difference between the M596 and higher end brakes other than the lack of ceramic pistons is they use the previous generation XT/XTR brake pads, they're a bit smaller and do not have the Ice-tech cooling fins, nor can Ice-tech pads be fitted into them.

    Compared to Shimano's higher end brakes, they're down a bit on power and aren't as resistant to brake fade since they can't be fitted with the finned Ice-tech pads. Everything else is the same. Compared to Avid Elixirs or BB7s it's a clear advantage everywhere for the M596.

    As for the M455, it's just not worth it to save $20 here. No servowave levers, an older generation master cylinder design, and a brake lever shape that's 10 years out of date (but works well for commuter bikes). It's down on power not to mention heavier and with far worse ergonomics. I'd still pick it over the Avids but the $20 extra of the M596 is buying you a lot more than $20 worth of performance.

    And brake fluids. They can't be interchanged. If it comes with DOT then that's what you must use. If it's a mineral oil system, then mineral oil is the only fluid which should be used in them.

  9. #9
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    There are plenty of threads on hydro's vs. mechanical's but as Looong time mechanical user I will never run them again. I much prefer the self adjusting and lever feel the Hydro offers. I really thought being able to manually adjust my brakes & not have to deal with fluid was it was at. Went to do some mild resort riding and my Friend rented a bike w/ hydro's and was allowed to take it on a couple runs. I was really impressed how well the brakes modulated and the lever pull was so much nicer than spring loaded cable feel. After years of hydro use it is so nice to just ride and not have to deal w/ cable or constant pad adjustment. My Hydro's get pads and i am done. I know a lot of people complain about bleeding, noise etc. but proper setup will ensure proper performance.

  10. #10
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    Alright thanks guys, I think I'm going with the M596s, Im interested in trying out some hydros

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    Anyone who doesn't think BB7 brakes can modulate probably has a ham fisted way of applying brakes, and certainly hasn't used them in conjunction with SD7 levers.
    Maybe you've already decided, but the above quote is dead on accurate. BB7's have tons of adjustability and great modulation with the SD7 levers. BB7's have no problems that are not also common to all disc brakes. That's what I use and prefer over any hydros.

    That being said though, good quality V brakes with SD& levers are actually pretty nice too. I've built a couple of bikes like that for friends and they are very happy with them. Not a very sexy or fashionable setup, but depending on your conditions and bike it may work great. Not everybody needs discs and the hassles they all come with.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pollution Warrior View Post
    Maybe you've already decided, but the above quote is dead on accurate. BB7's have tons of adjustability and great modulation with the SD7 levers. BB7's have no problems that are not also common to all disc brakes. That's what I use and prefer over any hydros.
    Actually there is a problem; BB7s and other mechanical disc brakes do not self-adjust as the pads wear out. So let's say you're riding at MSA, Whistler, or any other place with big downhills and you get caught in the rain. This will put enough wear on the pads such that the levers will bottom out, you will need to stop at least once (if you can) to spin the dials & bring the pads back in or you will not have brakes by the time you get to the lower part of the hill. Hydraulic brakes self-adjust so this is not an issue with them.

    As for V-brakes, I can't wait for the day when I don't need to mess with them anymore. I've always had the good stuff (XT, XTR, Arch Rivals) with various Avid SD levers and Shimano XTR levers. It's not bad as long as everything stays dry but they're still more of a hassle to deal with than hydraulic disc brakes. Cables have to be tightened and brake pads sometimes need to be adjusted when they wear down. The only reason I put up with V-brakes is because my retro bike doesn't have disc brake mounts.

  13. #13
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    As mentioned above, BB7's do not self adjust whereas hydros do. The advantage is stated in the above post, but there is a disadvantage too. If you aren't happy with the feel of your hydros there isn't much you can do about it (as far as I know). BB7's are far more adjustable and you can tweak then to get the feel you want. For me this is an advantage. Everything is a compromise.

    Also, I ride in a place with a fairly fast 1,000' downhill descent that is super steep at the end and I've never had to readjust at the bottom. For ordinary trail riding in the vast majority of places you should be able to ride all day on one adjustment with no problems. If not, it only takes a minute.

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