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  1. #1
    Yeti
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    Disc Brakes - Mechanical vs Hydraulic?

    Both wheels on my BikeE RX were shot, so I'm having them built with disc-compatible hubs as the bike has disc tabs on the frame and I've never been really happy with the way it brakes. I was thinking about using a mechanical set like the Avid BB-5 or BB-7 and just using the same brake cables. Is this a bad idea? Is there any advantage to a hydraulic system for an on-road bike? The run would probably be similar in length to that on a tandem.

    Is the BB-5 a good set or is the 7 or some other better? I see the 5's pretty cheap now, but I don't want to go the cheap and unhappy route.

    Thanks,
    Mike.
    Last edited by Gerdz; 02-10-07 at 05:23 PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdz
    Both wheels on my BikeE RX were shot, so I'm having them built with disc-compatible hubs as the bike has disc tabs on the frame and I've never been really happy with the way it brakes. I was thinking about using a mechanical set like the Avid BB-5 or BB-7 and just using the same brake cables. Is this a bad idea? Is there any advantage to a hydraulic system for an on-road bike? The run would probably be similar in length to that on a tandem.

    Is the BB-5 a good set or is the 7 or some other better? I see the 5's pretty cheap now, but I don't want to go the cheap and unhappy route.

    Thanks,
    Mike.
    The main advantage, in fact difference of the BB7s over the BB5 is ease of adjustment. The BB5s do not have the outside (Moving) pad adjuster, the only way to adjust how far that pad is in is the cable tension.

    The BB5s also use different pads than the rest of the Avid family and those pads might be harder to find. I bet this isn't as much a problem as when they first came out (They are more common now and speced on more bikes nowadays,) but is still good to know.

    The Avid brakes in general are pretty spiff. I've run both 5s and 7s. The only thing I'll throw out there is the Speed dial levers are nice to help dial in the modulation -just- the way you want it. If you've got an especially long cable run you might want to look into brake housing that will resist compression, such as the Nokon sets.

  3. #3
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    I think hydraulic feels and modulates better than a cable disc brake. But if you are on a budget, mechanical discs are more than adequate. I would get BB7's because of the external adjustment. It makes adjusting so much easier.

  4. #4
    Senior Member teamcompi's Avatar
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    I have both, and find the cable is nicer to use and adjust. I might just be "hydrauliclly" challanged, but they are a bid of a pain to fool with.

  5. #5
    A Serious Mountain Biker uphillbiker's Avatar
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    Hi,

    I just upgraded my front wheel from rim to disk brakes with an Avid BB-7 and it is an awesome brake. One of several nice features is being able to adjust the break pad distances on both sides of the disk--very helpful. Just like you said, I think using the same lever, cable and housing is perfectly OK. You’ll probably have to get a new housing and cable to reach down farther, though—but that shouldn’t cost any more than $5 or $6.

    People tell me that mechanical disc brakes don't give you the stopping power of hydraulic, which I presume to be the only real advantage. As far as the Avid BB-7 goes, I don’t see there being any advantage of a hydraulic. Once broken in, it now will either lock up my front tire or flip me over the bars before maxing out. Maintenance is easy and just like any other cable component. Hydraulic brings in a whole new set of maintenance issues.

  6. #6
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    What are hydraulic brakes like in 0 degree weather?

  7. #7
    sch
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    Put mineral oil in the freezer to find out. FWIW there have been a few tales of odd behavior of hydraulics under very special circumstances at the other end of the spectrum: Used on tandems in the summer on 5-7mi down hills in Cali where you start at 6-7k ft and go to 500' altitude, the brakes get hot,
    the fluid gets hot and expands locking up the brakes.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by uphillbiker
    People tell me that mechanical disc brakes don't give you the stopping power of hydraulic, which I presume to be the only real advantage. As far as the Avid BB-7 goes, I donít see there being any advantage of a hydraulic. Once broken in, it now will either lock up my front tire or flip me over the bars before maxing out. Maintenance is easy and just like any other cable component. Hydraulic brings in a whole new set of maintenance issues.
    I find it hard to believe that hydraulics would give you that much more stopping power - but if that is true, my question would be how much more stopping power does one need? Once you lock up, flip over, or stop, how much more power would be of any use?

    I have BB-7's, and they work fine. I'd like to try a hydraulic system just because it would be fun to tinker with, but, if stopping is what you are interested in, then, Avid's mechanical system will serve you very well.

    Caruso

  9. #9
    GranitCurbVia53x11Sprint Todd Richards's Avatar
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    I have both hydro and mech disc brakes. I only have the hydro cause they came with the rig, if i were to have to pay i would use mech disc brakes, but GET the dicer avid witht eh brake adjuster. the hydro's are crisper but maintanace is a pain. i ride on frozen snowmobile trails in maine and bever have freezing issues, but i truly like the avid mechs better. they both put enormous pressure on the disc, and brake better than any v-brake style brake I've had. The hydro has a crisper feel for sure, but just not worth the ha$$le.

    Now if somebody would design hydro shifter.... then we'd be talkin'.
    I once ate 11 Lobsters, no kidding. Dean Compact Ti 'Cross with Chorus; Merlin Agilis with D/A 9 speed; Basso SS; Litespeed Obed XTR 9; Cannondale SS MB rigid disc w/studded tires for snowmobile trails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sch
    Put mineral oil in the freezer to find out.
    My freezer isn't 0 degrees.

  11. #11
    Senior Member lowbike's Avatar
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    Hello:
    go with the Avid bb7's since they are a road brake you will have more adjustment when used with a v-bakre lever and are a lot cheaper and less of a hassle to deal with and adjust and a cable is a lot cheaper to replace than a hose and fluid and the hassle of bleeding.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdz
    Both wheels on my BikeE RX were shot, so I'm having them built with disc-compatible hubs as the bike has disc tabs on the frame and I've never been really happy with the way it brakes. I was thinking about using a mechanical set like the Avid BB-5 or BB-7 and just using the same brake cables. Is this a bad idea? Is there any advantage to a hydraulic system for an on-road bike? The run would probably be similar in length to that on a tandem.

    Is the BB-5 a good set or is the 7 or some other better? I see the 5's pretty cheap now, but I don't want to go the cheap and unhappy route.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  12. #12
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    I'm not sure why people act like hydro discs are more work than mech disks? In every debate thread people go on about the BB7's and there pad adjustment, hydro's do that every time you pull the brake lever. Also with cable stretch I think that mech are a pain in the arse (My wife's are) while my hydro's are maintenance free (Hayes HFX-9 HD and Shimano Saint). The thing I really like about Hydro's is the fact that they braking is effortless, because the hydraulic pressure does the work for you.

    Take it as you will but hydro's are the way of the future, eleventy billion auto's can't be wrong.


    -mike-

  13. #13
    A Serious Mountain Biker uphillbiker's Avatar
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    If you get a good deal of a new or used bike that comes with hydraulic brakes, or if you get luck and find an ultra-cheap set on an internet special, all the better. They do have a nicer feel.

    However, for rim to disk brake conversion I don't think it’s worth it for someone to pay the extra $ for it and go to the trouble of removing the old levers and installing new ones. People talk about the BB-7 b/c it's GOOD.

    When people talk about the advantages of hydros, it bugs me that they don’t address the maintenance issues--what if you tear a line, or get an air bubble...
    Last edited by uphillbiker; 02-11-07 at 04:42 PM.

  14. #14
    Yeti
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    Thank you all for your insight. I will look for BB-7's most likely. They have a mountain and a road - anybody know the difference? My levers are more mountain style and it currently has v-brakes on it so I assume I need the Mountain set. Also - is brake cable brake cable or is there a difference in quality? I completely forgot that it has to travel farther for the disc than it does currently.

  15. #15
    A Serious Mountain Biker uphillbiker's Avatar
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    I used the same type of cable for mine and don't think there's a difference (no problems yet, knock on wood). Don't take my word, though.

  16. #16
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    Upon, further investigation, it appears that hydraulic discs are used by a lot of winter cyclists with no problem. Glad i didn't take the word of one person.

  17. #17
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    The other advantage of Mechanicals is fixing them yourself out on the road somewhere on US 50 between Ely and Spanish Fork.
    This space open

  18. #18
    Senior Member Steev's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerdz
    Thank you all for your insight. I will look for BB-7's most likely. They have a mountain and a road - anybody know the difference? My levers are more mountain style and it currently has v-brakes on it so I assume I need the Mountain set. Also - is brake cable brake cable or is there a difference in quality? I completely forgot that it has to travel farther for the disc than it does currently.
    The difference between mtn. and road is the amount of cable pull they are designed to work with. Mtn will work with V-brake levers, road will work with cantilever and caliper brake levers.

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