Brake upgrade

I normally ride my Raleigh Superbe to work and my Randonneur bike, Mr Ramen more on weekends.  Occasionally when the weather is good and I feel like it, I'll ride to work.  I think I've been spoilt though by the drum brakes on the Raleigh, the single pivot Dura Ace EX brakes on Mr Ramen simply feel inadequate, particularly when braking from the hoods.  They are very good brakes compared to what was around in 1982 however, and are themselves beautifully made, but closer inspection showed that there was some cracking in the arms where the pads are fixed.  You really can't take chances with brakes, I would not feel safe barrelling down a hill at 50km/h+ with some brake caliper arms that could just give at that moment that I need to stop.  There is nothing particularly wrong with the old Dura-Ace calipers, the alloys they forged the arms with is very stiff compared to the Shimano 600EX calipers which are their contemporary, however I think this means they are also quite brittle.

Note the crack at the base of the arm
One of the problems is that most modern caliper brakes are too short a reach, as bikes have become less utilitarian and more like weekend toys, 23mm tyres with no mudguards are the norm and thus as are short reach calipers 39-49mm which will barely fit anything bigger than a 25mm tyre.  My current setup takes medium reach which is 49-57mm which typically can fit 28-32mm tyres with a mudguard, a bit more sensible.    Also I needed a nutted fitting which is what my frame is made with and allows for easier attachment of mudguards, there only was one choice and that was the Tektro R359 which fit all this criteria.  The R359 is an upgrade to the previous R358, now it has an improved quick release which opens super wide which allows quicker wheel removal.  The old Dura Ace calipers barely fit 28mm tyres with the quick releases open.

The Tektros are really quite beautifully made, highly polished then clear anodised to keep it that way.  They were very nice out of the box, I just had to nip up the center bolt because there was a little bit of excess play.  Installation was straightforward with no issues, all I noticed was that the Kool-Stop Salmons I had on the front were about 50% worn, this is after about maybe 2000km or so.  The quick releases really open super wide, so wide that with the cable adjusted properly when it is in the open position the brake lever can be pulled all the way back to the bar and the caliper won't even touch the rim.

Front caliper in the open position

Rear caliper in the open position

I had a quick ride of it this morning, braking power has gone from about a 5/10 to about a 7/10 with a 10/10 being a hydraulic disc.  Braking power from the hoods is limited by the old school non-aero Dura Ace levers I have, the Campagnolo Athena brakes I have on my Cinelli are superior mostly due to the shorter reach calipers (which have shorter stiffer arms) and better ergonomics from the Ergopower levers.  Braking from the drops is a different story, they are super strong and I nearly flipped myself over the bars the first time I tried a hard stop.  So far so good, and a cheap upgrade which probably would have prevented a failure from the old calipers.

Update 14/2/12
After riding it for a few days I can give a better opinion, overall I'm very happy with the upgrade and I feel a lot safer with braking.  Braking from the hoods still isn't as good as a modern setup with aero levers or brifters but it is capable of easily locking up the rear and just being able to do a stoppie with the front.   Braking from the drops is much more powerful as you would imagine, it'll pop up the rear wheel with not that much effort at all.  I'm guessing I'll wear out the pads a bit quicker too, the Kool-Stop salmons I have on the front are at about 50%.  Thats it for now.

Update 23/7/13
I've now had the opportunity to ride with these brakes on long 12km Alpine descents with plenty of hairpins and braking which I wrote about here.  The braking on these calipers is quite good at high speeds, there were many times where I was repeatedly stopping from 60-70km/h down to 20km/h to go around corners.  I never had a problem with fade, although I don't weight particularly much either.  There was never a hint of flex or uncertainty in the brakes working, the only thing I will say is that the feel still is a bit spongy but that is probably attributable to the squishy Kool-stop pads and the longer reach design.  There was some riding in light rain but not enough to really give an opinion on wet weather performance.  The other thing that I will note is that the Kool-stop pads wear quite quickly.  During my rides in the Alps I probably did about 200-300km over the course of about a week in hilly terrain with long descents.  I could notice that the pads had worn and the brakes needed adjusting after each ride.  Otherwise these brakes are great for what they cost, and I definitely would not have gone down some of the descents I did with the old Dura-Ace calipers.


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