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Digital Subscriptions > Singletrack > 115 > TRAIL BRAKES

TRAIL BRAKES

Wil and the team put eight quality brakes to the test and pick four of the best.

GROUP TEST

In each of our own eternal quests to ride our bikes better, smoother and faster, paying attention to a device that has the sole purpose of slowing us down seems more like an obligation, rather than something to lust and fawn over.

But, at risk of stating the obvious, we’ll state the obvious and say that brakes are a rather crucial facet of a mountain bike.there is no question that the difference between having ten or eleven sprockets on your rear cassette is far less impacting on the overall ride experience compared to the difference between using a sticky, vague and underpowered brake, and a smooth and powerful one. There are certainly more dramatic repercussions anyway.

Power is important, but as they say, power is nothing without control. Ultimately a good brake is one that you don’t think about – they should just work. Because when it comes to high-speed panic braking on the trail, you don’t think, you just brake.

A brake that is intuitive, predictable, powerful and controllable means you can approach technical situations with more confidence, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be able to decelerate with a small tug from your index fingers whenever required. With more control at your fingertips, you’ll be able to brake less, brake later, and carry more speed.

There have been many improvements in disc brake technology since our last group test in Issue 99, with most offerings across the board having improved in power, feel and durability.There are more options available from more brands, with everything from lightweight twin-pot brakes with carbon lever blades for cross-country racing, through to multi-pot monster stoppers for battling with gravity.

The eight brakes we’ve amassed for this group test sit somewhere in the middle. Powerful and versatile trail brakes designed for a wide range of riders and riding styles. Some of the brakes have four pistons, and others have two. One brake actually has both. But at their core, they’re all designed to increase your control and confidence to help progress your riding whether you’re on a hardtail or a 160mm travel enduro bike.

As part of the test process, we took all eight brakes down to Wales for three solid days of back-to-back testing on the slatey, unforgiving, highspeed trails of Antur Stiniog. Each brake was set up with 180mm rotors front and rear, and we left the hoses uncut to ensure the factory bleed was retained. Once we’d had sufficient comparative test time on all the brakes in a controlled environment, we then returned to Calderdale to continue testing each brake individually on more familiar home trails.

But before going any further, what exactly makes up a good disc brake?

STEP INSIDE MY LAB

While we wouldn’t recommend you take cooking advice from us, we’ve been informed that there’s more than one way to cook an egg. What we do know is that there’s also more than one way to build a brake. Different shaped levers alter the feel at your fingertips, while larger or smaller callipers deliver varying levels of power. There are different adjustments, multiple types of oil, and varying degrees of modulation and power delivery. If you’re thinking about upgrading the stock brakes on your current brake, here’s a bit of a guide on what to look for.

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About Singletrack

Trailhunter – Tom Fenton continues his search for the very best trails, and finds that Dartmoor might just have them. Classic Ride – Sanny takes us on a tour of the Merrick in Scotland, where there are great views to be had… if you get the weather. Grouptest – Wil puts eight sets of top trail brakes to the test – which four will make his pick of the bunch? Bike test – Better known for their carbon models, Barney tests out three alloy bikes from Norco, Santa Cruz and YT. Finnish Epic – 100 years after its independence, Hannah goes to Finland in search of fat-bike fun. Luckily all the bears are sleeping, and the moose are on her plate. Singletrack Recommended – We bring you the products that are so good, we’d spend our own money on them. Oddball – we love bikes, but we love other things too. This issue, it’s knives. It’s just as well we love each other in the office. Kit Bag – We take a peek inside the tool box of Ray Waxham, Trek’s enduro race mechanic. What does it take to keep the wheels of champions racing? Room 101 – Charlie dispenses justice for your complaints. This issue he has a couple of celebrity submitters in the form of our own editor, Chipps and a pioneer of mountain biking: Charlie Kelly. Jason Miles – Jason passes on his wisdom after years of racing as a top-level amateur endurance racer. Arizona – Charlie The Bikemonger goes on holiday where life is simpler and the trails are paved with cactus spines. Escaping the Bike Parks – Anthony Pease avoids the French bike parks and heads off for a hut to hut trip in the Alps. Whistler for Mortals – in this area better known for its technicality, Sanny discovers there are trails for those who prefer to keep their wheels on the ground. Last word – A ponder on the transient world of the mountain bike enthusiast.
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