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Brake caliper upgrade - worth it?

passoutpassout Posts: 4,425
edited March 2014 in Road buying advice
Hi all

I have SRAM rival on my road bike - which is about 6 yrs old. Brakes are well set up, new Dura Ace cables, working OK with decent swiss stop pads. I'm using Mavic Open Pro rims on my new wheels (with 25mm tyres). Braking is 'OK' but I'm trying to ride increasingly challenging terrain and I'm still not 100% happy with braking performance. I brakes have always felt a bit 'on/off' to me & stopping power is only just OK IMO.

I'm wondering if changing calipers might be worth a go?

I have some 6 or 7 year old Shimano Ultegra calipers in my shed but I'm also tempted to get the latest top notch gear too - SRAM Red or Dura Ace 9000. I'm looking for better modulation (especially on the rear) and better stopping power (especially on the front). Not worried about weight at all and willing to pay up to £200'ish 'if' I'll be getting a noticeable improvement.

So, what do you think? Any advice?
Also what do you think about mixing SRAM shifters with shimano calipers?


Cheers
'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.

Posts

  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    I think you are just finding the limits of rim brakes. Unless you are very light weight they are a bit off / on with a lack of feel. Cheap rim brakes can be greatly improved on with better callipers and pads but after a point only disc brakes will get better power and modulation.

    Took my mountain bike which has hydraulic disc brakes out for the first time in months yesterday. Pulled the brakes on and crashed my knee into the stem and nearly impaled myself when I was thrown forward. I had forgotten how much better the braking is with discs after months of rim brakes on my road bike. A couple more tests with the brakes and I could feel the increased power and modulation of disc brakes.
  • lesfirthlesfirth Posts: 1,382
    This subject has come up on different threads before.

    Lots of people having spent 200 quid on new dura ace calipers will tell you, with great conviction, that they are miles better than their cheap calipers.

    I have asked this question before and not had a valid answer so I will ask again. -Using the same pads can anyone give me a technical reason why a dura ace caliper is any better than a sora?
  • topdudetopdude Posts: 1,557
    I would try the spare Ultegra calipers you already have with the Swisstop pads fitted.
    There was a good thread recently about the effect of "flexy" brake calipers. I am convinced that the better calipers must have a different leverage / pivot points in order to give better braking ?
    He is not the messiah, he is a very naughty boy !!
  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    lesfirth wrote:
    This subject has come up on different threads before.

    Lots of people having spent 200 quid on new dura ace calipers will tell you, with great conviction, that they are miles better than their cheap calipers.

    I have asked this question before and not had a valid answer so I will ask again. -Using the same pads can anyone give me a technical reason why a dura ace caliper is any better than a sora?

    I swapped the cheap tektro callipers on my bike for 105's and they felt / braked a lot better. This was mainly down to the Tektro's having less leverage and maybe poorer pads.
  • balthazarbalthazar Posts: 1,565
    topdude wrote:
    I am convinced that the better calipers must have a different leverage / pivot points in order to give better braking ?

    It's just leverage: you don't get anything for free, the only power is supplied by your hand. Either you favour high-ratio brakes which (for a given input) apply more clamping force but also long brake lever travel, or low-ratio which require less lever travel, but apply a lower clamping force.

    Old single pivot designs used a ratio of about 4:1, I think, and dual-pivot have settled on about 5.6:1. Lever travel, pad clearance (to clear a buckled rim, etc), pad wear, are the primary issues which must be compromised.

    Variable-rate brakes have been tried a few times, but always failed. I haven't heard of any for a few years, has anybody re-invented them recently..?!

    Personally, as long as the lever doesn't meet the handlebar, I can adjust happily to any reasonably good quality caliper brakes, which vary in rigidity a bit. Your hand is a sensitive instrument..(!)
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 12,028
    lesfirth wrote:
    I have asked this question before and not had a valid answer so I will ask again. -Using the same pads can anyone give me a technical reason why a dura ace caliper is any better than a sora?

    Not sure that it is better in any meaningful sense, tbh. Probably lighter, as different materials may be used. Forging rather than casting might give you a slightly different feel in the function, potentially. But I'm not certain that a more expensive caliper will stop you any better than a cheaper one with the same pads. We have bikes here with calipers from Sram Force, Tektro, Sora and Miche - all with the same pads - they all pull you up perfectly well. Levers and rims are all different though, so this may account for the small differences...
  • passoutpassout Posts: 4,425
    Thanks for your answers, some good points made. I agree that it might just be the limit of these sort of brakes & that rims and other variables may be more important. I was curious if anyone thought the newer top of range brakes were any better - Dura Ace claims 20% better braking I think. By the sound of it many of you think not. I might stick on my old ultegras & experiment for now. Let me know if anyone has any other suggestions.
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.
  • passoutpassout Posts: 4,425
    balthazar wrote:
    topdude wrote:
    I am convinced that the better calipers must have a different leverage / pivot points in order to give better braking ?

    It's just leverage: you don't get anything for free, the only power is supplied by your hand. Either you favour high-ratio brakes which (for a given input) apply more clamping force but also long brake lever travel, or low-ratio which require less lever travel, but apply a lower clamping force.

    Old single pivot designs used a ratio of about 4:1, I think, and dual-pivot have settled on about 5.6:1. Lever travel, pad clearance (to clear a buckled rim, etc), pad wear, are the primary issues which must be compromised.

    Variable-rate brakes have been tried a few times, but always failed. I haven't heard of any for a few years, has anybody re-invented them recently..?!

    Personally, as long as the lever doesn't meet the handlebar, I can adjust happily to any reasonably good quality caliper brakes, which vary in rigidity a bit. Your hand is a sensitive instrument..(!)


    Interesting. Is this info readily available? I don't remember seeing it anywhere. How do the major brands compare in this regard?
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.
  • balthazarbalthazar Posts: 1,565
    passout wrote:
    Interesting. Is this info readily available? I don't remember seeing it anywhere. How do the major brands compare in this regard?

    This article by Jobst is the one I had in mind- I even remembered the figures off the top of my head!

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/brakes.html
  • guineaguinea Posts: 1,177
    Just to add, I have an open pro/powertap rear wheel that gets swapped regularly with a Campagnolo Shamal wheel.

    The open pro has far worse performance than the Shamal. Far, far worse. Especially in the wet.
  • BordersroadieBordersroadie Posts: 1,052
    I had generic Shimano (bottom of range) 49mm brakes on Open Pro and upgraded them to Ultegra 6700, staying with the same Swissstop green pads, and there was a significant improvement in stopping power and modulation. I have used Open pro in the wet plenty of times and they compare to Ambrosio Excellight with the same pads, which is to say I don't have any stopping concerns.
  • markhewitt1978markhewitt1978 Posts: 7,614
    Yes. I changed my Tetkro no name calipers for 105 branded and noticed the difference immediately. The Tekro were just dangerous IMO.
  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    Yes. I changed my Tetkro no name calipers for 105 branded and noticed the difference immediately. The Tekro were just dangerous IMO.

    That is exactly what I found on the first steep downhill, it felt like someone had stolen my brakes, luckily it was in a quiet village so no traffic. 105's were a big improvement.
  • markhewitt1978markhewitt1978 Posts: 7,614
    Wasn't even a steep downhill. https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Cheste ... 51,,0,6.88 a slight downhill to a roundabout. Grabbed the brakes and I hardly slowed! Actually went sailing through, good job there was nothing coming! I bought new pads, no better, so then got the calipers.
  • passoutpassout Posts: 4,425
    guinea wrote:
    Just to add, I have an open pro/powertap rear wheel that gets swapped regularly with a Campagnolo Shamal wheel.

    The open pro has far worse performance than the Shamal. Far, far worse. Especially in the wet.

    I had a horrible feeling this may be the case - just got my new Hope Hoops with open pro rims. Still, I'll try different calipers & blocks - might be OK.

    Nobody think that Dura Ace or Red is worth the money then?
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.
  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    Wasn't even a steep downhill. https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Cheste ... 51,,0,6.88 a slight downhill to a roundabout. Grabbed the brakes and I hardly slowed! Actually went sailing through, good job there was nothing coming! I bought new pads, no better, so then got the calipers.

    I am not sure how they can sell bikes with them on ! Mine were similarly deadly made worse by me being used to MTB disc brakes.
  • passoutpassout Posts: 4,425
    Kajjal wrote:
    Wasn't even a steep downhill. https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Cheste ... 51,,0,6.88 a slight downhill to a roundabout. Grabbed the brakes and I hardly slowed! Actually went sailing through, good job there was nothing coming! I bought new pads, no better, so then got the calipers.

    I am not sure how they can sell bikes with them on ! Mine were similarly deadly made worse by me being used to MTB disc brakes.


    In fairness to this brand I really like Tektro R316 long drop callipers - at least they work well on my single speed (with Kool stop pads). I agree that the Tektro pads are truly awful though, even for cheap pads.
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.
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