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  1. #1
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    Lowest maintenance disc brakes . . . BB7?

    Are BB7's the lowest maintenance disc brakes out there or is there something else?
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  2. #2
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    Not by a long shot, as the pads wear you will need to adjust to pad positions. You will need to change the cables preiodically to maintain performance. With hydraulic brakes, provided your system doesn't gulp in some air, you can pretty much just count on having to change your pads when they wear out. I have a set of shimano XT 4 pots and the original set of XTR monoblocks. I have had to bleed the XTs once right after I got them and beside a pad change, I have never done any other maintenance on my brakes.
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  3. #3
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    I used to have BB7s... nice brakes... but they require WAY more attention than the Formula K18 and K24s I use now. The Formulas are totally set-and-forget. Bleed them once a year or so (if that). And way more modulation and stopping power.

    I wouldn't put anyone off the BB7s as I think they are fantastic value but the Formulas are just... better.

    (I was a hardcore BB7 guy until I bought a bike which came with Formulas).
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  4. #4
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    to me it has been my juicy's. All I have had to do is replace the pads once and replace a brake line because I was going to a new frame and my old line was too short. These things have been flawless for years of usually riding at least 3-4 times a week as well as most other people I know with them.

  5. #5
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    BB7's are very easy to work on, but do require more maintenance. Good hydros really aren't that hard to work on either (though you'd think its rocket science by the way some people talk about it). Set up is key with hydros, once set up and bled properly, they require much less maintenance.

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    Set up requires the same effort for both hydro and mech, but people seem to think hydro is some sort of magic voodoo. Def. something new to learn but not more effort than cables and housing.

    Once properly set up hydro is way less work. Just change the pads and replace fluid every 1-2yrs. Of course if you set them up improper, then you might want to switch to mechanicals.

  7. #7
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    For all I would agree that hydraulics require much less attention than mechs (rim or disc), it shouldn't be assumed that they are set and forget. Preventative maintenance can be important for brakes used in certain fine sand/dust environments as the dirt can clog piston seals. Brake pad dust should also be occasionally removed from caliper interiors as it can do the same thing. Riding regularly in wet conditions can also find dirt being carried into the piston bore/seals. Seals on DOT-based brakes can be kept clean and supple with silicone spray to ensure as long a life as possible, whatever conditions they are used in. Hardened seals may lead to slow-moving or stuck pistons.
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    I dunno about regularly spraying any kind of item on the seals. The silicone might have additives which hasten the seal's demise.

    The pistons only come out further so there's always "clean" piston touching the seals. When changing pads, it's a good idea to use a toothbrush on the pistons to clean them before retracting. Brake fluid or alcohol is what I use. Worked on my racebike (motorcycle) for countless pad changes.

    Eventually the seals will go bad. You can rebuild them but heck, calipers are getting so cheap these days you might as well just ditch them wholesale!

  9. #9
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    "I dunno about regularly spraying any kind of item on the seals. The silicone might have additives which hasten the seal's demise."

    I assure you that I wouldn't offer such advice if I was not certain of its integrity. Brake fluid is fine, obviously, as the seals come into contact with it anyway, but alcohol can cause seals to harden if it is left in contact with them for too long.

    Everything will break, eventually, but that shouldn't, in my opinion, mean that it's not worth getting as much from those parts as possible. If you want to consider your calipers as disposable; well, that's your prerogative.

    I don't just spray randomly into the caliper and leave it. I'll take the caliper(s) off the bike, remove the pads, extend the pistons and spray them and the caliper interior with silicone spray, then wipe them down with a cotton bud, spray again and push them back into the caliper using a plastic tyre lever. Clean the caliper interior and dry up any residual spray with a cloth, refit the pads and then refit/realign the caliper (if necessary).
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  10. #10
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    silicone is pretty much the industry standard for DOT automotive brakes.. i doubt bike brake seals are different.

    for whatever reason it never occured to me to spray my brakes with it though.. might start, thats a good idea to keep sticky pistons at bay! bike brakes seem to be of... questionable quality control.

  11. #11
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    I think people are afraid to bleed, but with good technique, it is just as easy at the BB7.

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    Errrr, there are DOT fluids that are silicone based and those seals are incompatible with the regular kind, vice versa.

    My point is you don't need to clean the pistons on a regular basis. Only during pad change. As they extend outwards the dirty part stays out. And the caked on crap does not affect pad retraction. IMHO, avoiding the use of any kind of cleaner for as long as possible is the better idea.

  13. #13
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    Deme Moore, you can think what you like, but I and thousands upon thousands of bike and auto mechanics will continue to use silicone lubricant to maintain brake seals. Try a web-search for "silicone disc caliper grease". I will continue to recommend silicone as a cleaning/maintenance tool for DOT-based hydraulic brakes and also continue to recommend periodic cleaning of calipers/pistons as a means of preventative maintenance. In my experience, it's an entirely worthwhile habit. I've repaired enough brakes to feel confident imparting such advice.

    Caliper pistons do not only move outwards. Every time the lever is pulled on a hydraulic brake the pistons extend and remain extended until the lever is released, so more of the piston is exposed than in the 'neutral' position. Any dust, dirt or water which is attracted to the piston surface during this time can be, and often is, pulled back into the piston bore when the lever is released and the piston retracts. I'm not saying that enormous amounts of contaminates are going to attack the seals every time the brake is used, just that, depending upon conditions/environment/usage, periodic maintenance will stop dust/dirt building up to the point where it does inhibit the piston's movement.

    Cleaning of pistons/seals on automobiles is typically only carried out when pads/discs are replaced; however, bicycle brakes are typically more exposed to the elements than automotive brakes and use much smaller/finer components. Tolerances on many brakes may leave more room for the ingress of dust/dirt than would be acceptable in automotive/moto applications. Most bicycle brakes will not be made to a comparative standard to those used on autos.
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  14. #14
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    Bro you're getting too excited here. Yes I know the pistons come out and the are retracted a tiny bit. I am not losing sleep over the fraction of a mm the "extra" piston is out. You can clean your brakes all you want, the only way to clean the seal that touches the piston is to remove it. At which point you might as well replace it!

    I don't care what you or millions of mechanics do, my point is you don't need to clean the calipers until you push the pistons back in. Feel free to do otherwise, but there are hundreds of millions of vehicles on the road today that do just fine without regular seal cleaning.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deme Moore
    Feel free to do otherwise, but there are hundreds of millions of vehicles on the road today that do just fine without regular seal cleaning.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveUK
    Cleaning of pistons/seals on automobiles is typically only carried out when pads/discs are replaced; however, bicycle brakes are typically more exposed to the elements than automotive brakes and use much smaller/finer components. Tolerances on many brakes may leave more room for the ingress of dust/dirt than would be acceptable in automotive/moto applications. Most bicycle brakes will not be made to a comparative standard to those used on autos.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElbowScabs
    Are BB7's the lowest maintenance disc brakes out there or is there something else?
    The BB7's can certainly be pretty low maintenance (especially when compared to V brakes). If one calls rotating the red adjustment knobs on the BB7 caliper to move the pads in or out "maintenance", then yes - you will have to rotate the red knobs after initial set up a certain number of times per season. This is how the brake was designed and the design requires the user to adjust the pads to account for pad wear. It is not a pain in the rear to have to do this and takes a few seconds when needed.

    How many times per season must this rotating of the red knob adjustment be done?

    In an earlier thread on this which including heated debate, I promised to update my "maintenance" of my BB7 in terms of how often one has to get off the bike and rotate the red adjustment knobs to account for pad wear.

    Here's the update:

    Installed new pads and smaller rotors for my Avid mechanical brakes on my Dos Niner a couple of days before February 1st of this year. I dropped down from the Alligator Windcutter 180mm front and rear to the same rotor in 160mm front and 140mm rear. Installed new Avid sintered pads, set them up properly and began my final XC race training program to get ready for race number one on April 4th. Average weekly hours on the bike since February 1st have ranged from 5 - 11 hours per week. To date, and at the end of this week on Saturday, that will be a total of 8 weeks on the Dos Niner doing training and race prep work. Not all of that work on the bike involved heavy braking, but regardless - it's a lot more riding hour wise than the actual XC races involve for the season.

    So how many times have I had to rotate the red adjustment knobs to account for pad wear because I have noticed pad wear at the lever and felt I was having to pull the lever too far to engage the pad?

    Here's the answer after nearly 8 full weeks of riding: 0

    Yup. No adjustments yet. And I'm not even trying to delay the adjustment at all, I literally have felt no need to adjust the red knobs yet as braking performance has remained superior for the past 8 weeks. I fully expect a rotation of a red knob or two to be coming and will simply take a few seconds to do that when it is needed. But, it hasn't been needed yet. So the first 2 months of a nearly 8 month riding season has required no maintenance. I will go back to that original thread each and every time I have to rotate one of the red adjustment knobs to document the maintenance required for a typical XC training and race season. I'm just as curious to know how many adjustments are needed throughout the season as others are.

    Here's what I wrote in that thread back in February about the maintenance of using the red adjustment knobs...

    I've been riding the BB7's since 2002. I just installed new pads and rotors (downsized the rotors to more XC race size) and I'm going to do an experiment this season to help answer this question. Every time I have to adjust one of the red knobs, I am going to make note of it on this board and keep count for an entire season of XC racing and training. I've got 2 weeks of riding in since the new pads and new rotors were installed (Avid Sintered pads and Alligator Windcutter rotors 160mm front/140mm rear). No adjustments yet in the first two weeks (I got in 11 hours this week of training rides).

    Last season for an entire XC season of 15+ races including all of the training, my pads lost less than 1mm of thickness and I don't recall having to dial the knobs too many times between April and October. This season, I will count the number of clicks and report the data back to this board to see just how much of a major headache it is to turn the red knob a click or two every month (or whatever the time lapse between knob turns happens to be). Even if it was once before every race while testing the brakes out in the parking lot before lining up after my warm up, we're talking minimal hassle. It's not a big deal. It's not even an argument worth touting, but man it comes up in regurgitated fashion like it was a major pain in the bum for some very odd reason. I spend way more time fastening my shoes, cleaning my glasses, clicking my helmet strap, washing my grips, airing up my tires, scratching my nose, etc... than the Avids require.

    I'm throwing out a ballpark figure, but I will take a random guess and say between the front and rear brake for the 2009 season, I'll be around 12-20 total knob clicks between now and October. This will probably take me a grand sum total of 30 - 90 seconds to bend over in the parking lot, turn the knob a click, pull the lever and be good to go. That's 30 - 90 seconds for an entire XC racing and training season.


    Either way - the BB7's are pretty darned low maintenance in my book and experience.

    BB

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  17. #17
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    When I ride XC the whole point is to brake as little as possible. Who wants to waste their energy as heat? Even v-brakes work well for that, assuming you don't have to deal with mud/wet often.

    Now if you were freeriding or DH then you'd be messing with those knobs after every run. Asuming of course the knob is still there! they have a habit of going bye byes on the gnarly terrain.

    Point being I can't understand why anyone still bothers with them when there are plenty of hydros available for the same money as BB7 and you still have to buy new discs with the BB7 because the stock roundagons suck.

    BB7:
    Calipers $45x2 = 90
    Levers $20
    Cables $18
    Discs $20x2 = 40

    Total = $168


    Hayes HFX9:
    Caliper/Rotor/Lever/Hose assembly $54x2 = $108
    Adapters to fit bike $9x2 = $18

    Total = $126!


    Yes performance is the same and the stock Hayes discs rock!

  18. #18
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    Better than telling us how seldom someone has to turn these red knobs at the BB7 would be: within how many altitude meters do you have to dial them? With sintered pads (EBC gold, duration better than the stock pads) I have to dial after about 1500 meters of altitude in dry conditions and after 800 - 1000 meters in wet conditions. When riding in snow after 500 - 700 meters. But I have to say that 80 % of my downhills are trails in the woods and fields, I have to brake often.
    But for me this is not a problem because I gave up the hydros after having many problems with pistons, bleeding, dragging...My "Super-BB7" (with FMJ, Windcutter rotors and perfect setup/installation) can`t be beaten towards modulation or power by any Oro, Louise, XT, Juicy, Stroker etc. with same rotor size. I have compared many of them.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by trelgne
    Better than telling us how seldom someone has to turn these red knobs at the BB7 would be: within how many altitude meters do you have to dial them? With sintered pads (EBC gold, duration better than the stock pads) I have to dial after about 1500 meters of altitude in dry conditions and after 800 - 1000 meters in wet conditions. When riding in snow after 500 - 700 meters. But I have to say that 80 % of my downhills are trails in the woods and fields, I have to brake often.
    But for me this is not a problem because I gave up the hydros after having many problems with pistons, bleeding, dragging...My "Super-BB7" (with FMJ, Windcutter rotors and perfect setup/installation) can`t be beaten towards modulation or power by any Oro, Louise, XT, Juicy, Stroker etc. with same rotor size. I have compared many of them.
    Perhaps that would be useful data for one living and riding in the mountains, but not for those living in an area such as the midwest where we measure in miles and hours on the bike. Or, I suppose, those with computers, GPS, and power meters keep track of that stuff wherever they ride. That just adds more maintenance. ;-]

    I'll keep on monitoring my red knob clicks for the season to see how many actual rotations are used to see if that particular maintenance really is or really isn't that big of a deal. You can provide the altitude drop in meters and the number of clicks for a typical season. I do want to try those ECB Golds some day. I've still got a few Avid Sintered pads sitting around that I bought on sale over the years.

    BB

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceBrown
    Perhaps that would be useful data for one living and riding in the mountains, but not for those living in an area such as the midwest where we measure in miles and hours on the bike.
    You're right for the flat stuff, but most people use their mountainbike as the name says - for riding in the mountains. A typical tour for my location (small mountains with a difference of about 300 altitude meters to the top) has 1000 meters uphill within 50 kilometers. And in such terrain you have to adjust your BB7 pads often. A set of EBC gold pads here lasts about 1500 kilometers. The dry-wet-conditions ratio with estimated 70-30.

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