let’s talk brakes (1 Viewer)

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i have an entry level gravel bike (norco search) that i really like the geometry and even the sram apex 1 group set (with mechanical brakes) has been enjoyable for me. the only thing i really don’t like is the braking. for those who have WAY more bike knowledge maybe you could shed some light on brakes for me.

i’ve read what i can find but really haven’t found the answer to my question. what’s the best way to upgrade my brakes?

should i be looking to upgrade to hydraulics? if so what ones should i spend the money on? apex1 , rival etc? or is there a better mechanical calliper and larger rotor that goes with the apex 1 levers? i can’t find much info out there as to what’s the best option. i don’t want to spend a ton but also willing so spend money if it’s reasonable compared to the improvement i’ll see!

thanks for your input
 
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to add more info i'm toying with paul klampers with 180 rotors up front and maybe 160 in the back vs sram avid bb7. the trick is that by the time i spend that am i better off going full hydraulic? i don’t love the look of the sram hydraulic drop bar levers but for function that’s something i could forgive.
 
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i’m continuing to read about mechanical brakes. i have tpr spyre brakes on my bike which actually seem to be a decent brake as they are a double piston type and have pretty good reviews. i’d hate to “upgrade” to poorer technology like a single piston that essentially bends the rotor against a solid pad. so klampers are off the table just for that reason. some reviews i’ve read also say the spyres have better power and modulation than the bb7. i don’t know if any real world experience out there can confirm this but it seems like if i am really going to upgrade my system it’ll be to hydraulics. being that the brakes i have seem to have good reviews maybe it means they just aren’t adjusted/tuned right. maybe a larger rotor will be enough and maybe i need better pads? thankfully these are relatively cheap upgrades to see if i can make them work.

i’m a bigger guy (6 ‘2”) and 210 lbs so maybe the weight i carry needs more braking power than what is “standard” on a bike. my fat bike has similar issues. it has hydraulics with two piston callipers and i just can get enough stopping power from them. i’d like to upgrade to a 4 piston calliper there and a larger rotor. all this is just to say maybe because of my size (i’m not abnormally big though) maybe i demand a little more from my brakes. it’s a fun process reading and learning about modern bike technology but real world experience is nice so as to not reinvent the wheel
 

terrapin

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Keep in mind that if you install larger rotors you will probably need an adapter to move the caliper out further.

Something like this (maybe not this exact one, but you get the idea)
Amazon product
 
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thanks. yeah i’ve seen those spacers. i figured i’d need them. any suggestions on good brand of rotors and pads. if i’m going to swap them i’ll make sure i put good ones on!
 
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While, I don't know a lot about road/gravel bike brake sets, so not sure exactly whats available. I can tell you a few things. Bigger rotors might be enough to bring your stopping power to what you'd consider acceptable for your rides. But, at over 200-your going to really appreciate quality 4-piston hydros. I'm only 175, and can get by on 2 pistons on my bike-but the 4 pistons have been a serious upgrade! Besides trail riding, I also enjoy bikepacking I was using 2 piston hydros with 200/180 rotors on my salsa for awhile. But, with my weight and 70# bike loaded. Any downhill was a gamble. Upgraded to 4 pistons on the rig and it'll bring me and all my gear to a stop quickly.
 
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I’ll add my 0.02. Been MTN biking pretty much since the beginning. Used to race XC and DH. Now I ride a trail/enduro bike all the time. Ride everything from lift services DU, to flow, to long back county rides (day trips and overnights) all over here (Alaska) in the summer. Both my teens race endurance and enduro.

Good hydraulic brakes will be much better then your mechanical.

4 piston vs 2 - outside of DH and enduro I’m not convinced anyone needs 4 piston. My daughter (125 lbs) who absolutely rips, runs SLX 4 piston front and 2 piston rear on her 40 lb DH/park bike. I run the same set up on my beefed up Enduro. I only switched to a 4 piston front last summer. I switched to get less fade when defending 4-5k vertical feet off the lift service DH runs. 4 pistons have less feel and modulation then 2 piston. Larger rotors and pads make a much larger difference in power then 2 vs 4 piston.

SRAM brakes. Personally I hate sram brakes. DOT fluid is a PITA vs mineral oil, I feel like they are more finicky and need bleed way more often (my son has CODE RSC). We get a team deal of 60% off SRAM and Still run Shimano brakes.

Like others have said I would first do to larger rotors. Then if you still feel like you need more brake look at if there are better pad options. After that look at new brakes.
 
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thanks. that’s all great advice. ill upgrade that stuff in the spring. the bike is on my trainer for now as i fat bike in the snow. with the back log of stuff though i think i’ll be watching for parts sooner than later. ill update my results when i do that!!
 
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thanks. that’s all great advice. ill upgrade that stuff in the spring. the bike is on my trainer for now as i fat bike in the snow. with the back log of stuff though i think i’ll be watching for parts sooner than later. ill update my results when i do that!!
Heads up on parts, huge lag times. I just got the cassette early December that I ordered Nov 2020… still waiting on a 12 speed chain I ordered back in July.
 
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thanks. that’s all great advice. ill upgrade that stuff in the spring. the bike is on my trainer for now as i fat bike in the snow. with the back log of stuff though i think i’ll be watching for parts sooner than later. ill update my results when i do that!!
I am a big fan of the Hayes Dominion A4 brakes. The bigger the rotor the better. Formula Cura4 are also nice. Both brands make a 2 piston version but I prefer the bigger pads of the 4 piston version.
 
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well as a bit of an update i decided to put up with my gravel bike brakes mainly because i couldn’t figure out what i wanted and what would work for my bike so i decided to upgrade my fat bike brakes which are actually worse. i ordered some hope tech 4 e4 brakes. i know they are polarizing as some people love them and some hate them. i figured i like the addition of custom looks to go with the quality but i also like the idea of modulation as opposed to on and off feel so i think i’ll like them. they’ll be here in about a month i think. after that i’ll start playing with the gravel bike. the rest of my components on both bikes are sufficient.
 
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i got the hope tech4 e4 hydraulics. they aren’t cheap but they are beautiful. they have artistic craftsmanship for some bling but that’s not all that impressed me. their sales rep was excellent at taking me through the different brakes and making suggestions based on my bike and riding style. then the brakes got here and the material is top notch and they actually include all the little extra parts you’d need to set things up. they come all sealed and bled but the cable is too long for most bikes to just install and ride. they have excellent how to videos and like i said they had all the parts to cut down the lines and reinstall with new fittings. i’ve only ridden with the front so far and finally got the back done tonight. i have a little adjusting to do yet and need some correct size zip ties to route the hoses but from what i feel they are worlds better than the sram levels that came with my bike.

here’s a couple shots from tonight
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39F235EF-A47B-42D9-A888-68F03BDE6200.jpeg
2862A0A3-6A63-49B7-A3CC-0B627E3DC58F.jpeg
 
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so another update on these brakes. i got to use them properly with some long downhills and single track riding. they work so nicely. i can lock up if i need to but more importantly they have a very nice gentle bite. with very light pressure i can slow down perfectly without tiring fingers on long sections. i’m very impressed.

on the same trails i rode a bike shimano slx with brakes and though they work well i liked the feel of the hopes better. i felt i had better modulation (which i know not everyone likes but i do).
 
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Nice Chevelle!
Glad you like your Hope’s, going from 2 piston to 4 in a nice upgrade. Did you go with larger rotors too?
I recently went from Shimano Deore 2 piston on 203mm rotors to TRP DHR evo on my Ripmo, really noticeable how much less effort required to slow the bike down.
Those deore’s worked pretty good after going to the bigger rotors, but finally popped the front MC at big sky a couple weeks ago, ever ride a 2500’ jump and berm trail with only a rear brake?
 
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yikes that’s a little scary!

i didn’t upgrade to a bigger rotor because i already have pretty big spacers on the frame and read that my front fork wasn’t rated for bigger. i did put the old brake on my sons bike (which is my old norco Sasquatch). it has much larger rotors and the crappy level brake actually works quite well on it. so yes rotor size makes a noticeable difference. but i like the feel of these hopes way better as well
 
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one more update. i just bought a canyon spectral al6. it has sram code R brakes. these are supposed to be a pretty well review sram brake. they do work well but i still like the feel of the hopes better. the codes have a much longer travel before they bite. they stop me fine but i like the solid quick feel the hopes have. maybe not every one likes that feel but to me it just feels a little more responsive and trustworthy!!

and they’re way sexier!
 

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