Sunday, October 3, 2010

eeBrakes. Wow!

When, some time ago, I wrote down a few notes about the eeBrakes in this blog, I was captivated by their design. But I wrote about them relying only on hearsay, talking to the people in the shop and getting their impressions about them. Once or twice, Huseyin, the BikeNüt Master, attempted to make me try them, but I hesitated, saying that the brakes that I had purchased a couple of years earlier, a set of KCNC cB1, although not big on stopping power, were far too expensive to be disposed of lightly and were more than good enough for me.
I had bought the KCNCs for two reasons, their craftsmanship and their weight. Because of background and long habit of mind, I can appreciate design; because of my self-inflicted grammomania, I insist in making my bike as light as possible. The brakes were beautifully milled out of light-weight alloy, the kind used on high-tech fighter jets, and weighted just about 146 grams. At the time, there was no lighter set on the market.

Now I’ve finally broken down and have installed a pair of eeBrakes. I can admit that I’ve been riding my bike practically without brakes for the past couple of years. Well, I’m exaggerating of course, to make a point. My old brakes were light, and their stopping power wasn’t their strongest attribute. I used to scan the horizon, anticipate sudden moves ahead of me, and plan ahead. I was tempted to use my foot more than once and try braking with the heel, when a car would stop suddenly in front of me for no apparent reason. I would squeeze the brakes all the way against the drops with white knuckles, the pads would hiccup along the rims, and the bike would come slowly to a halt—just.
By comparison, the modulation of the new eeBrakes is exceptional—no hyperbole here. How many times, during the past few days, have I waited until the last possible minute to use the brakes and feel the bike stopping under me. Actually this became almost literally true last Monday, when I left BikeNüt after the installation. I touched the brakes at a crossroad for the first time, applying the same pressure as I did with my old set, and almost flew over the handlebar. I learned very quickly to do better. A little pressure, feathering the brake lever with my finger tips, is sufficient to slow down, just enough to restore confidence but not to lose any speed. And the brakes are smooth, without the rough grabbing that I felt before.

Photo: © eeCycleworks

A word about the design: as the images show, these are caliper brakes. Front and rear brakes are identical. They have a dual-pivot system, which ensures that the brake pads exert the same amount of pressure on both sides of the wheel rims. There is almost a third pivot on top of the first two, that also supports the release lever, that accentuates the smoothness of the operation. It also sports an adjustment barrel that is easy to operate, albeit not while riding, as one reviewer pointed out. The release lever is the best there is, easy to grasp and quick to operate.
Perhaps their most important feature is the shape of the two brake arms. They are designed like two small struts, the kind you might see in a large scale crane or on top of a battleship, employing the least amount of material to resist any bending while braking. Bending would reduce the braking power unpredictably. This is exactly what plagued my old brakes.
Every part of this complex mechanism is milled to perfection. All the levers are connected to one another by means of liners and require no additional lubrication. The designer, Craig Edwards, has even given a second look at the pad holders, adding a small indentation to retain the brake pads.
They may look like a piece of Swiss watch-making, but they’re small and very compact and weigh—listen to this—about 190 grams. This makes them 40 grams heavier than my old set. Believe me, I’ve tried to feel the difference, and I couldn’t. On the positive side, now I can stop whenever I want.

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