do the kind of brakes you buy really make a difference? ie. is there really a big difference between the cheapo Tektro cantis, the Avid Shortys, Empella Froglegs, and Spooky's?
I burned thru at least 3 pairs of Avis 15c, then Shorty's- set screws stripping, weak return springs failing after a couple years of regular use, etc.
then I switched to Empella's and Spooky's. They are more powerful and have a lot more travel- which allows for more a lot more mud clearance and don't need to be adjusted as often. The think pads last a lot longer than the thin replaceable pads on the Avid's. And the springs on the Dutch brakes seem a lot more robust. I haven't had any problems with them. And they are not as finicking about adjusting as the avids.
I had the cheapo tekro's too- but they didn't seem worth much. Switched to empella's as soon as I found some for a good price (slightly used online).
I have the tektros. I don't like the thin pads either. when it rains, they turn to slush and wear about half way down. They also vibrate like crazy with Kool Stop pads- stopped when I switched to a cheaper brand.
The thing that really bugs me about these brakes, is I can't figure out how to disassemble them in order to grease. Even more, is that on the traditional type, you could make shims to take up clearance, and thus deal with squeeling.
I have a pair of old style shimanos too, when I get up the energy to figure out how to adjust those shoes, maybe I'll switch. My dreamcycle will have one of the super dupers...
(I'm more impressed by the centerpull weinmanns on my fiance's mixte, than the tektros...)
Lots of brands and styles, but the main differences are the length and angle of the arms. You got yer old style, wider profile types, like the old Mafacs, original model Shimano XTs, and copies like Paul retros. These generally allow your pads to be a good distance from your rims, with smaller mechanical advantage (stopping power), which also depends on the length of your straddle cable. Then you got yer newer, low-profile types, like Avids, Tektro Oryx, etc. These have less of an angle on the arms, and don't stick out as far as the wider profile types. You are less likely to smack your ankles on these while dismounting (I've done it- it hurts!) and you have a little more stopping power all else remaining equal (like straddle cable length and lever model). So theres no best model, everyone has their favorites. And by what I've seen at cross races, a lot of people haven't a clue as to how to set them up properly, so opinions should be taken with the whole dead sea of salt. The important general parameters are-
Low profile types: greater mech. advantage, don't stick out as far, a little easier for smaller hands/ some women (less force required at the levers)
Wider profile types: greater clearance between pad/rim, easier setup with nearly any road lever
You can of course play with the straddle cable length, and when you do there is some overlap between these two basic types where you really couldnt tell the difference between them at the lever. And of course there are models that fit somewhere in between, neither low or wide profile. There are differences between brakes, but life's too short to spend much time worrying about it. When people report that some suck, or rock it usually says more about their setup than the model. Play around to find the sweet spot. But they all work, and they're all someone's favorites...
I switched to Empella's and Spooky's. They are more powerful and have a lot more travel- which allows for more a lot more mud clearance and don't need to be adjusted as often.
But you get more powerful, OR more travel, assuming the same levers. Ya gotta choose which you want, you can't have both... Sounds like beltway talk to me. Lower Taxes and Reduced Deficit, don't believe that one either! Cheers-