Saturday, November 12, 2011

Polishing Some Brakes, Living the Dream

Playing a little catch up on the technology curve can be an interesting. The BG websites are starting to transform into something worthy of 2011, SOPWAMTOS is getting off the ground and people love our shirts (hurry up and buy them, we'll make more. And maybe even some stickers. But I digress). That said, via one of my google alerts I learned of a discussion that compared an el cheapo Tektro canti brake (the 720) to a BG-designed canti brake. That seemed like comparing a Kmart Huffy from the 80's and a Mercx MX Leader. There really shouldn't be a comparison. Sure, technically they're both brakes that fit on a bike - but that's where the comparison really ends. How do I know? I put a set of OEM 720's on my commuter bike and rode it up/down Alba Road in Ben Lomond...

Why You Shouldn't Cheap Out On Crap Brakes
First off, I'm not directly calling the 720's garbage (or Tektro's in general), though in their off the shelf configuration they left a LOT to be desired. Then again, what do you really expect for $27 per set? Here is what I experienced with lack luster brakes:
  • Extreme pad wear.
  • Chunking of aluminum (from rim). This means the rim is taking the abuse, not the pad, causing premature rim wear.
  • High rim temps (due to incorrect pad compound) and very poor modulation.
  • A nasty mess all over the bike from pad dust. All. The. Time.
Am I suggesting that you need to spend $300 for a decent set of brakes? No, but considering this is a component that will help prevent you from going off the road, running intersections or generally going OTB, quality should not be taken lightly (neither should tires, but that is another post). Hard pads will wreak havoc on rim braking surfaces (Jim Langley agrees), offer poor performance and add a cost to replace the pads (and rims if you're not careful).

Where Quality and Art Meet
This is the selling point for the BG aluminum cantilever brakes - they are a beautiful blend of form and function. Machined in the USA, hand polished and come standard with Kool Stop pads, it's hard to really complain about quality. You will be hard pressed to find other bikes with the same brakes - making them quite the exclusive item (not that bikers care about that kind of stuff). Bruce has spent some time over the last few days polishing up more sets of brakes. Reward his effort by picking up a set up for your canti'd bike (cross or road, doesn't matter).  I promise they'll look hot. My new bike is even going to sport these awesome brakes - and yours can too!


  1. You list a bunch of problems with cheap brake pads, but I don't see any listed problem with cheap brake mechanisms?

  2. I agree with the comment above...Koolstops will remedy many a less expensive brake. I mean, come on- the Tektro brake is inexpensive because of the production volume as well as type and country of manufacture. BG is good enough to have his product made more labor intensively. He is being paid for that, not a necessarily better mousetrap. Cantis are pretty simple...good pads them stop, last, not overheat or harm the rims.

  3. You're right - I was in a rush and forgot this minor (major) detail. In order to get the 720s to fit properly on the bosses, I had to shim them to keep them from walking around - but too tight and they would bind up. Was a PITA. Each of the 4 arms had differing amounts of play (tried on 2 different bikes to see if it was a problem with the frame). Nope. Still ill fitting.

    That said, are the 2 components in the same category/class? No, not really beyond being canti brakes. Do I expect the same quality? No, I don't - especially for the price.

    So the question is (and part of the reason the craft bike business continues to exist) should cyclists (consumers) tolerate low grade components? This question is slightly tonque in cheek - as it's an apples to bananna peel comparison (yet others found them similar enough to warrant comparison). As Anonymous said, BG is being paid for 'who' 'what' and 'where'. But is what BG has built different enough to overcome the price gap?

    This is a serious question - that affects every small component builder that decided that they could do it better than the status quo and did exactly that - built it themselves.

    (Side notes)
    A commuter bike isn't equal to someone's pride and joy, but I've seen these same brakes spec'd on non-cheapo CX bikes in local shops. This pair that I tested were new OEM throw aways from a Stigmata (as in they came w/ the build kit but never made it on the bike).


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