Braking performance

by Miles253   March 27, 2014  

I'm a poor descender, mostly due to a few downhill crashes that it would rather not repeat. Also though I really find my Campagnolo Centaur brakes lacking the power, or perhaps it's me lacking the know how, to achieve optimum braking performance.

I run kool stop pads and my rims are perhaps two years old with only medium use. What can I do to improve braking power and feel, to ultimately improve my confidence. Are there particular callipers that out perform others?

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In order of cheapness.

Try not to drag your brakes and scuff off speed, apply pressure and then back off. Difficult at first, ok very difficult if you are like me and dread going down.

Play about with with the cable adjuster and see if there is a sweet spot for you and the pads. Sometimes moving the pads closer to the rim will improve feel, other times having them further away does the trick.

Flush any crud out of your cable run or even replace the cable and outer. Clean the pads and rims.

Try different pads, I've run Discobrakes red pads for several years and find them just as good as the Swiss Stops. As for Shimano Dura Ace, I find them horrible. The feel on some pads will change as they wear.

Finally buy a different set of brakes, dual pivot are all the rage and generally are better than single pivot or cam activated. Or even look at the set up of the bike. If you feel like you are going over the handlebars try raising the bars or try a longer stem. I found switching to compact bars raised me that little bit I had more confidence. Is your bike known for a bad characteristic? Planet X Pro Carbons are known for vague steering at high speed, which I originally put down to lack of confidence. A change of frame left me dropping a lot faster.

IME, you can have lots power but a wooden feel or loose some power but have lots of feel, spending time setting brakes up will allow you to find the sweet spot. If you can easily lock the wheel, you don't really need more "powerful" brakes.

Is it the brakes you lack confidence with or the set up of the bike?

Hope this helps.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [284 posts]
27th March 2014 - 10:25

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I can't comment on Campag stuff, but there is markable difference in brake caliper quality between both brands and price points.

For example one of my race bikes runs stock Kuota branded Tektro brakes, I found them rickety and unreliable at best, not in that they didn't work, but I've had to repair them a fair few times, and they seemed to wear down my cabling much quicker than any other brake I've used.

Whereas my Ultegra brakes just do what they're told, the build is solid and the cables react well to adjustment.

When you're descending, it's as much about your braking technique as it is the quality of your kit, make sure you "flutter" rather than just pull down on them, use the back to reduce your speed before you begin engaging the front etc. Make sure you descend on your drops, firstly for better control but also to get good leverage on your brake levers.

Make sure the brakes themselves are well adjusted, if they need tightening (i.e. if you feel like you have to pull forever before they engage properly) then give the adjustments a little twist.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
27th March 2014 - 10:32

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I have been running Centaur brakes for the last year and I find them very good. Whilst they might not be the equal of Dura-Ace or Super Record ( well out of my price range, so I wouldn't know ) they stop me quickly and with as much control as any rim brakes of my experience.

Having said that, I do periodically give the rims a rub with fine emery paper to remove the build up of brake gunge and I use only genuine Campag pads.

But, good as they are, they are only rim brakes. They suffer from decreased power in the wet and they abrade my lovely Fulcrum rims with every application. Which is why my other bike has discs and why yours should too.

Mike

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posted by mike the bike [119 posts]
27th March 2014 - 19:10

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Oddly, my old Condor had Centaur on it and I found the braking far better than the next bike I moved to, which has Dura Ace 7800. I've just put 7900 on the new new bike, so perhaps that'll be better. It's not to say the DA is bad, just that I found the Centaur stronger at braking. Far prefer the Shimano in every other respect though.

posted by bashthebox [624 posts]
27th March 2014 - 20:03

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Always wash your rims with water and dry after riding in the rain.

For periodic service:

1. Use vinegar to clean your rims, it gets off huge amounts of gunk, and leaves the rim shiny but also ever so slightly etched to give a good braking surface.

2. Take the pads out and pry out any tiny bits of aluminium or other debris. Sand lightly with a nail file to get a fresh surface.

That works wonders for my Ultegra brakes, strong performance restored.

posted by drmatthewhardy [299 posts]
27th March 2014 - 21:13

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I would argue that the focus should be on the cables.

A huge amount of brake performance is found in the cables themselves... clean and new cables offer good braking.

After that, I'd argue that using campagnolo brake pads will provide better braking than a third party provider might... Saying that, I have my old Campag Daytona brakes set up with Dura Ace pads and the end result is mighty, mighty braking.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [220 posts]
28th March 2014 - 16:10

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I'd agree with cleaning rims with vinegar, pIcking metal out of pads and a light rough up of the pad with a file. And a little twist of the Adjusters if needed.

posted by Charles_Hunter [73 posts]
28th March 2014 - 16:49

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Charles_Hunter wrote:
I'd agree with cleaning rims with vinegar, pIcking metal out of pads and a light rough up of the pad with a file. And a little twist of the Adjusters if needed.

This, particularly digging out shards in the pads, these kill your braking ability.

posted by sq225917 [18 posts]
29th March 2014 - 1:43

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+1 for good brake and cable maintenance. Def makes a difference and saves wear and tear on your rims.

Would also make a point for nice grippy tires. I'm a skittish descender since I do mainly urban riding so even when I've got ideal riding conditions, I don't just let go as I'm always afraid someone on a cross street will run a stop sign or turn into my lane thinking I'm going slower than I actually am. Switching from OEM tires to Conti Grand Prix 4 Season's for the winter (great traction and puncture resistance) and Vittoria Rubino Pro III's in the summer (great traction, better puncture resistance than their Evo Open Corsa's but not as fast so wouldn't race with them if that's your thing the Evos would be better) I have a better feel for the road on descents and with cornering so I feel safe to allow myself to descend and corner at higher speeds.

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs

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posted by movingtarget [133 posts]
29th March 2014 - 16:24

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Wow, some great advice guys. I've got to admit I don't think I do ANY of the things that you have all suggested. I'll stick with my current callipers and try some new pads and scuff them up a bit with the file. Anybody have any good experience with certain cables and outers? Mine are definitely due a change.

Thanks again

Specialized Allez 2009, Campagnolo Centaur 10, Campagnolo Shamal Wheels. 8.3kg

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posted by Miles253 [195 posts]
30th March 2014 - 2:10

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mooleur wrote:
use the back to reduce your speed before you begin engaging the front etc.

Very bad advice. On a road bike, unless you are on a poor (greasy, gritty or off camber road) most of your braking should be with your front brake. Using your back brake as your main brake is just asking for trouble, skids, slips and increased braking distance.

posted by Welsh boy [102 posts]
30th March 2014 - 8:39

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Welsh boy wrote:
mooleur wrote:
use the back to reduce your speed before you begin engaging the front etc.

Very bad advice. On a road bike, unless you are on a poor (greasy, gritty or off camber road) most of your braking should be with your front brake. Using your back brake as your main brake is just asking for trouble, skids, slips and increased braking distance.

I didn't say use it as a main brake, I said use it to help reduce speed before hitting the front (which you've just reiterated anyway!?) - because generally, when you have someone who's relatively new to riding, going at speed, hitting the front brakes in a panic - that's when you have over the handlebar situations.

I've watched this in 4th cat races time and time again, it's not healthy.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
31st March 2014 - 9:45

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Being confident under braking is so important. Once you are confident, the rear brake all but becomes redundant for stopping, its job is one of control and feathering through a bend, however as stated, when building confidence, moderate use of both brakes is the way forward.

Personally I'm all for practicing endo's and skids in a suitable environment to build confidence.

The stuff I used to do as a kid on an MTB comes in useful nearly every ride on the road bike.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [220 posts]
31st March 2014 - 14:09

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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
Being confident under braking is so important. Once you are confident, the rear brake all but becomes redundant for stopping, its job is one of control and feathering through a bend, however as stated, when building confidence, moderate use of both brakes is the way forward.

Personally I'm all for practicing endo's and skids in a suitable environment to build confidence.

The stuff I used to do as a kid on an MTB comes in useful nearly every ride on the road bike.

Well said, that's how I learnt as a kid & came in handy after I took it up again as an adult coming down an alpine pass at 80kph! In fact looking at buying an MTB to race over the winter just to get the skills up, it works for the likes of Vos Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
1st April 2014 - 8:12

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