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Poor braking remedy?

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Poor braking remedy?

Old 10-24-20, 08:53 AM
  #1  
Mr_Stop
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Poor braking remedy?

I just bought a used 2000 Lemond Zurich. It has the original Rolf Vector wheels and Ultegra 6500 Ultegra brake calipers and levers. Compared to my old 1987 Shimano 105, brake performance and feel is lacking and doesn't give me a lot of confidence. The bike doesn't seem to want to stop without a lot of lever effort, and even then it takes a bit.

I have swapped out the pads to Kool Stop salmon pads (same as on my '87), and there was some improvement. However, I'm still not happy. The cables are probably due for replacement, but I can't imagine that is a large factor in the feel and seemingly lack of stopping power.

Any suggestions to improve the braking power / feel? Is this just inherent in this generation of Shimano brakes? Would I benefit upgrading to the latest 105/Ultegra calipers and/or levers?
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Old 10-24-20, 11:42 AM
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Before getting a new brake set I suggest you first change the inner cable and outer housing and see if that improves things. I often find changing the cable and housing provides for a more direct feel when pulling the brake lever. I expect changing the cable and housing will give your braking system an additional boost.
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Old 10-24-20, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr_Stop View Post
I just bought a used 2000 Lemond Zurich. It has the original Rolf Vector wheels and Ultegra 6500 Ultegra brake calipers and levers. Compared to my old 1987 Shimano 105, brake performance and feel is lacking and doesn't give me a lot of confidence. The bike doesn't seem to want to stop without a lot of lever effort, and even then it takes a bit.

I have swapped out the pads to Kool Stop salmon pads (same as on my '87), and there was some improvement. However, I'm still not happy. The cables are probably due for replacement, but I can't imagine that is a large factor in the feel and seemingly lack of stopping power.

Any suggestions to improve the braking power / feel? Is this just inherent in this generation of Shimano brakes? Would I benefit upgrading to the latest 105/Ultegra calipers and/or levers?
If the brakes have been crappy from when you acquired the bike, it's possible it was poorly set up in the hands of the previous owner. Here's what I would do:
Give the rims a good clean/degrease - I use 70% isopropanol and paper towel to occasionally spruce up the brake tracks. I've used salmon brake pads for years - if anything, they're a little grabby in the dry, but their wet performance more than makes up for this.
Replace cable and housings - if the housings are not cut clean and square, or the ends are worn, or lacking ferrules, this can make the brake action mushy - start fresh, doesn't cost much
With new cables/housings in place, make sure the brakes are good and close to the brake tracks - if they're too far away, it's possible that your levers are running out of travel before the calipers achieve maximum bite - at that point, you can squeeze your guts out, but you won't get better braking. If your rims are true, your brake pads should within maybe 1mm, and properly centered. You could toe them in, but I think that affects squeaking more than raw stopping power. In any event, you should be able to squeeze the levers as hard as possible without them bumping up against the bars. Look closely at the rim as you do - it shouldn't deflect to one side as the brakes clamp. If it does, recenter the caliper, either with the small adjuster screw on the side of the caliper, or, as I do, loosen the screw holding the caliper to the frame, squeeze the brake and retighten the screw while the brake is engaged. Usually works first time.
Pay attention to how much brake housing you're using - enough for smooth curves and to accommodate steering movement, but no more - anything beyond that is adding to cable friction and potential mushiness.

Last edited by Litespud; 10-24-20 at 12:42 PM.
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Old 10-24-20, 12:48 PM
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I have the same bike, well a 1999 but it is the same. I have no braking issues at all. I would not change the brakes out, but do follow Litespud's advice above and you should find they do work well.
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Old 10-25-20, 01:57 AM
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Some basic brake cable housing can compress with every lever squeeze, feeling mushy. Some calipers work best with ferrules on the cable housing ends, some don't need ferrules and are too narrow to accept anything larger than the bare cable housing.

Be sure it has the correct brake cable ends, and there's no debris, old broken cable strands, etc., interfering with seating the cable end in the lever.

Try some compressionless brake cable housing, like Jagwire KEB-SL.

But with any cable housing, be sure the cut ends are square, no burrs, and filed flat and squared off if necessary.

Be sure the brake pads are set for maximum contact with the rims. Park Tools has an excellent YouTube video for this. Further adjustments may be needed as the pads wear.

Finding the sweet spot for rim brake contact is easy with some rims, difficult with others. Some of my rims have a very definite and narrow brake track so my main concern is avoiding brake pad contact with the tire. Others, like an older Araya ADX-1W semi-aero rim, have a less precise distinction for the brake track and setting the pad a bit closer to the spoke side seems to grab better, depending on the calipers.
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Old 10-25-20, 05:58 AM
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What Litespud said.

Also, compressionless housing makes a difference, in my experience.
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Old 10-25-20, 08:01 AM
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Thanks all! I'm glad to hear it is more a maintenance issue, so a relatively inexpensive and easy fix!
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Old 10-25-20, 09:21 AM
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My 2004 Bianchi with Ultegra 6500 had gradually fading braking power over the years. New pads helped, but it got to the point where descents in Northern CA were terrifying because I couldn’t scrub enough speed going through hairpins. So before Levi’s Gran Fondo last year I took it to a shop for new cables and housing - I go to CA for vacation, so didn’t have the time/garage to do the work myself, otherwise I would have. Anyway, $100 later, with new cables, housing, and bar tape, she brakes on a dime and is truly confidence inspiring. I’m convinced slowly corroding cables and housing were likely to blame, and not other simple maintenance that I may have overlooked. Given the Zurich is of similar (slightly older) vintage, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have the exact same issue.

Too bad I haven’t been able to make it back out to CA since Feb of this year...
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