Disc brakes in the cold weather- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Disc brakes in the cold weather

    I've been pretty happy with running mechanicals in the winter over the past few years, but I want to hear what experiences people have had with different hydro disc brakes.

    What brakes have people used?
    What is the coldest temp people have run them in?
    What problems have people had at differnt temps and conditions?
    What modifications have people made?
    Last edited by pbasinger; 10-27-2007 at 05:23 PM.

  2. #2
    Beware of Doggerel
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    Iíve used hayes hydros and magura martas in the cold. The martas work ok until the temps hang at a steady -20 then mine seem to fail. Magura warranted my original set and the second set did work better in the cold but I wouldnít take them to McGrath or on an overnight of any kind. The Hayes have been as reliable as a hammer. Not sure how cold Iíve ridden my brakes but I doubt I have ever been out beyond -30. Iíve done lots of weekend trips up the rivers with sustained -20 to -25. And two rides to McGrath. The only problem has been once I busted the little post mount thing that holds the pad in place and dropped a pad, no big deal and an easy fix, but not fixable on the trail. No real problems. I love the Hayes. I use a single rear 160mm brake.
    Just put some Hopes on my summer bike this summer and they are the easiest setup/best brakes Iíve ever used. I want to try them out in the cold this year.
    What do you have in mind?
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

  3. #3
    Fatback
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    I used the Formulas last year with great results. Lever shape, feel, power and weight are all superb. They are even easier to set up than the Hopes, which I have on now. Formula sends them with all hardware needed to shorten the hose-which almost always needs to be done. Never had any touble with them to -20. I ran Hayes El Caminos a few years ago and a piston failed, but to be fair, that was their first year and they did warranty them. The Maguras use mineral oil instead of brake fluid, which is probably the reason you had trouble Adam. Anybody running Shimanos? Any trouble? They also use mineral oil, but the new XT's are really sweet. The pads sit further away from the rotor than normal.
    Speedway Cycles owner http://fatbackbikes.com

  4. #4
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    I'm hearing of people having trouble with the Maguras.
    I wonder if it has more to do with the quality of seals rather than the choice of fluid causing the problems. Maybe some mineral oil brakes work better than others. As Thirstywork, shimano makes some nice feeling brakes that are relatively cheap compared to some other things out there and I wonder if they'd perform any better than the Maguras.
    I'm just trying to see if it's woth the trouble of trying something different than the bb7s.

  5. #5

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    I ran a set of Maguras last summer! And all I can remember was having one problem after another, especialy with the seals and that was in the summer! I can not imagine what that would have been like in the winter with below freezing temperatures.

    That was when I switched over to the Avid BB's and I have never looked back. In my opinion I love the simplicity of the system, and the peace of mind it gives me while I am out and about especially in below freezing temperatures.

  6. #6
    The devil is an angel too
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    I've used Juicy 5's and they've worked fine. The lever felt funny in temps below zero but the brakes still worked fine. Then again, it could have just been my fingers that felt funny at temps below zero.

  7. #7

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    I went on a night ride out here in the NE US and it was about 10 degrees and there was still liquid water on the trails, along with the stream crossing I had to do. Over time, the bike encapsulated in ice and the chain and derailleurs stopped working over time. The brakes worked to some extent, but the lever became firm and they weren't really doing that much braking for me, but that's due to icing. As far as performance down to single digits, I have never had a problem with the DOT brakes. They work, and the fluid continues to flow at those temps. Mineral oil is less tolerant, but there are alternatives.

    The issue that more important in the winter to me is how pliable the seals remain. Too cold and the seals will give the impression of a "frozen" caliper, making the piston stick open or closed or just run slow. The seals used for DOT tend to stay more pliable than mineral as well and this comes from my automotive background and working on hydraulic systems on german cars and retrofitting over to conventional seals.

  8. #8
    Bill M
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    If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by pbasinger
    I've been pretty happy with running mechanicals in the winter over the past few years, but I want to hear what experiences people have had with different hydro disc brakes.

    What brakes have people used?
    What is the coldest temp people have run them in?
    What problems have people had at differnt temps and conditions?
    What modifications have people made?
    Hey Pete,
    Like you I have used/abused mechanicals for years with no issues other than knocking off the ice after open water/overflow crossings and they are field servicable. I know it's cliche but "if ain't broke why fix it?????'
    Bill M

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill M
    Hey Pete,
    Like you I have used/abused mechanicals for years with no issues other than knocking off the ice after open water/overflow crossings and they are field servicable. I know it's cliche but "if ain't broke why fix it?????'
    Bill M
    I need to remind myself that all the time, but I'm also wondering because of people wanting to build up ultra blingy snowbikes. The fancy hydro's can offer over a half pound of weight savings.

  10. #10

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    Curiak has used Hayes in every winter Alaska event he has competed in. Nuff said.

  11. #11
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    Uh, yeah, but he's sponsored, so they may not necessarily be his first choice. He's also had a modified set last year.
    Nuff said. that's like the worst way to end a comment.
    Last edited by pbasinger; 11-01-2007 at 01:57 AM.

  12. #12
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    I ran both Shimano LX and XTR down to -35 C (-31 F). for 2 hour rides.

    No problems.

    The rotors would frost up on occasion, but the frost comes of within the first second of braking.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill M
    Hey Pete,
    Like you I have used/abused mechanicals for years with no issues other than knocking off the ice after open water/overflow crossings and they are field servicable. I know it's cliche but "if ain't broke why fix it?????'
    Bill M
    I can guarantee that the mechs would have locked solid in my example above because my cables were frozen solid as well.

    I will choose DOT hydros every time for sub-freezing temps.

  14. #14
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    I've used Martas for a little over 2 years. I never touch them in the summer, but do have to bleed them about every 3-4 weeks in the winter. There is an issue with the seals at cold temps. It doesn't seem like a problem that gets a lot worse as the temps get colder, but is fairly constant. It takes 3-4 weeks regardless of whether it is -10 the whole time or -40 the whole time.

    I can feel the brakes getting a little "softer" over time. At this point I can tell about how much longer I've got before I need to bleed them. But I usually push it about one ride too far anyways...

    I've used them down to almost -50 F without any problems (other than the above issue). I've also used them on the ride to McGrath twice. In 2006 I had a problem with some ice forming between the caliper and the pad (I think). The brakes were dragging constantly until I could get them thawed out.

    Wife's bike has Martas also and the problem is identical. I tried to talk to Magura about it once but they weren't really listening.

  15. #15
    Beware of Doggerel
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    Jeff,

    Thatís a really interesting observation on the Martas and its got me thinking. I wonder if mine failing in the -20 cold is just a coincidence. In Anchorage we donít generally get any sustained cold until 3 or 4 weeks into the colder part of winter anyway. So my issue may not be triggered by the cold it may just be that they need to be bled regularly throughout the winter. Iíve never really been able to figure out exactly what the problem is, and because I canít quite figure it out Iíve never been comfortable with those brakes.

    FYI when Magura replaced my calipers they told me that the issue was with the elastomers that serve as seals/return springs for the pads. Whatever compound they used originally didnít play well with cold temps. But I guess that's pretty obvious.

    Adam


    Quote Originally Posted by joatley
    I've used Martas for a little over 2 years. I never touch them in the summer, but do have to bleed them about every 3-4 weeks in the winter. There is an issue with the seals at cold temps. It doesn't seem like a problem that gets a lot worse as the temps get colder, but is fairly constant. It takes 3-4 weeks regardless of whether it is -10 the whole time or -40 the whole time.

    I can feel the brakes getting a little "softer" over time. At this point I can tell about how much longer I've got before I need to bleed them. But I usually push it about one ride too far anyways...

    I've used them down to almost -50 F without any problems (other than the above issue). I've also used them on the ride to McGrath twice. In 2006 I had a problem with some ice forming between the caliper and the pad (I think). The brakes were dragging constantly until I could get them thawed out.

    Wife's bike has Martas also and the problem is identical. I tried to talk to Magura about it once but they weren't really listening.
    I wanna say I'm sorry for stuff I haven't done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand --T.M.G.

  16. #16
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    Its good to hear that Magura has recognized that there is a temp issue. When I called them, probably close to two years ago, they basically told me that there wasn't a temperature problem. Ummm, okay...are you supposed to have to bleed them once a month??

    If I ever experienced a more rapid failure I would probably stop using them...okay, thats a lie...they're so light that I'd probably keep using them anyways. But my experience has been that as long as you keep them bled they work pretty good in the cold.

    I know people in Fairbanks that are using Hayes (not sure what model) and Shimano hydraulics and they claim that they have never had any problems. I think the magura's just need more attention.

  17. #17

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    I used Hayes last winter and they were great. Only problem appeared in the spring when the accumulation of grit and crud from the snowmelt inside the caliper made a piston stick a little. Some gentle persuasion (grin) got it working fine again. I never noticed the sticking in cold temps, although they were a lot noisier with disc rub in winter compared to summer.

  18. #18
    Fatback
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    Shimano's in the cold

    I tried my XTR hydraulics this weekend and they firmed up to the point of dragging the rotors. There was almost no throw to the lever. Not only that but it was only about 30*. I'm sticking with the Formulas or Hopes.
    Speedway Cycles owner http://fatbackbikes.com

  19. #19
    We want... a shrubbery!
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    I've had my Hope Mono Minis down to 20* with no problems... yea, yea, yea. that's not that cold, but that was as cold as I was able to run them in Virginia. I'll post up some more as it gets cold this season with how they hold up in the cold...
    waaahoooooooooooooooooo

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  20. #20

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    chalk another one up for hayes! i've had mine since 03 on my nrs. had some sponge issues w/ the front brake, took the bike to prettyboy pete, he did some facing on the front fork/hardware and they have been sweet since, no problems! i've been thinking of getting another set of carbon 9s (love the levers!) in case i get a real winter bike. if u have brake issues that you can't fix, take them to pete!! i would run hyrdo's w/ DOT fluid if i build another bike!!

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