All hydraulic mountain bike brakes SUCK

Of course cheap hydraulic brakes suck — like the Shimano M485’s that came on my bike. Granted, I shouldn’t expect too much from the brakes on a bike that was barely over $1200 retail. Yes I know, I was a sucker when it was on clearance and didn’t know if a mountain bike was under 2k it was junk and would need everything upgraded. Anyway, a caliper started sticking causing only one pad retracted from the rotor, so I ordered a new one and it just wouldn’t retract either pad really. So I took it to the bike shop and admitted I needed help and while I was there let them look at the bike to. After chatting with the helpful tech I decided fine, I’ll get some good brakes…

Avid does make good brakes; their BB7’s are amazingly easy to setup. So I was suckered into buying Elixir 5’s. After buying new wheels to take the 6bolt rotors (adapters would have been too cheap and I needed a wheel upgrade anyway) and throwing the Elixir’s on, I am highly disappointed. First, they don’t set themselves up magically like the lying marketing material says. Second cutting the hose and re-bleeding (which you aren’t supposed to have to do) is a huge mess; it isn’t clean and simple like working on car that’s been out in the elements for the last 10 years. Third, after you get it setup on your stand, and you go ride it, you will need to adjust it again. Back on the stand, break out the 5mm allen wrench…. Oh, and make sure you keep a stack of business cards to use as shims — even on these self-aligning brakes….. Oh, and if you use your front quick release because, well, it is there, good luck having the rotor line back up to the caliper without any brake rub…

Granted, once you accidentally get it setup right, it should stay in adjustment for a long time. So it should give you a few months of paranoia waiting for something to go wrong. And if you ever hear the brake rubbing, you don’t know if you are in for a 5 minute job to recenter the caliper and get back to riding or will you have to try again with a shim, or recompress the pistons/pads or….

If you like riding your bike more than working on it, and want something that doesn’t screw itself up, stick with the BB7’s. Sure, you may have to adjust them once in a while as pads wear (you ride enough to do that all the time? hah, didn’t think so) — so you turn the adjustment dial a couple clicks and you are done. Is that rotor slightly off center after using your quick release? Well just a few clicks to adjust the pads over and you can compensate for it.

The trick with BB7’s is good levers, cables, and housing. The Speed Dial 7 levers are awesome — and paired with a teflon-coated compressionless housing cable kit like the Jagwire Ripcord — heck it makes crappy Tektro disc brakes feel pretty darn good. Go for a full-length housing run and be done with it so you can spend your time riding instead of being an idiot and sitting here angry with the whole world.

3 thoughts on “All hydraulic mountain bike brakes SUCK

  1. I’m with you man! I like the simplicity of mechanical brakes. Easily adjusted, less to go wrong. I haven’t had any issues with my BB5’s and they aren’t that difficult to align when needed. Takes just a few minutes. If they ever do break (Unlikely), I will simply upgrade to BB7’s! With both dials, would take half the time of the BB5’s to align. I just hope the BB7’s are still around when I need them. I’m almost considering buying a few sets to have them on hand in case they ever do quit making them.

  2. I Can Not agree with you more.. I have “been around the block” on all sorts of brakes that were what I supposedly needed. I am so upset at the technologies behind hydraulic brakes, per the Shimano manual (brakes are not meant to be operated upside down). WTF ? A closed system is a closed system. Upside down has a relevance to ??? Anyway After having Elixiir R’s and Now Shimano XTR’s I am nothing but discouraged at the talent level of the manufacturers . I come from the Electronics Manufacturing world and if these products were employed and delivered to the public with so little development and testing nobody would be using a PC or a MAC but I digress, we are only talking about an industry that is quite limited and small at this writing and I expect not to be mainstream for some time. If I had it to do all over again I would stick with BB7’s and any other “Direct” connect system, Apparently the Hydraulic Bicycle Brake is a boy on a mans errand. Not enough technology and certainly not enough engineering to support the requirements that dictate the reason of why they were invented. Cyclists thinking that a direct connect wire is “not responsive” enough or “limited” should read some engineering history that includes the aviation world and many other industries that have not adopted low pressure hydraulics any movement applications. You never ever see hydraulics used in place of electronic controlled machines.. Enough said. Thanks for your time..

  3. I’ve had Hope, Shimano XT, and Avid Elixer set ups on various bikes, and every single one has been removed and replaced with BB7s. They just WORK. I hear people saying “Oooh, the cable could break! Then you would have no brakes!” Well, with hydraulics, if the hose gets kinked and ruptures, if the fittings get bumped and crack, or if any of the rubber seals blow out you have no brakes, either. Far more failure points.

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