A recent wet descent got me thinking about brakes and, specifically, braking power as referred to in almost every road bike review ever written.

Surely, braking power goes on a scale from 0 to 'locked'. Whereby, as long as the combination of your hands, levers, cables, calipers and pads are able to lock the wheel, you will receive no braking benefit by upgrading any of your components?

Please somebody correct me if I am missing something here though.

I run SRAM Apex and locking the brakes is easy, as is modulation up to the point of 'locked'. So what is the point of Rival/Force/Red except possible weight savings?? Same goes for all groupsets I guess.

Obviously disc brakes are another thing entirely - on said descent my mate on his disc-equipped bike disappeared into the valley pretty sharpish!



ficklewhippet [92 posts] 3 years ago

Better brake systems give you improved modulation for less effort.
The difference between a half-decent (Centaur/105 up) setup and a cheap lever/caliper combo is very noticeable - direct, controllable braking versus a death-grip of ineffectual mush.

Derny [113 posts] 3 years ago

Some inexpensive brakes are quite flexible, which means when you squeeze the lever, some of the force is lost before reaching the rim. Mushy brakes can be caused by flexible levers or caliper arms, sloppy pivots in calipers, soft brake pads, or poor cables & housing. Or a combination of the above. It's a common problem on cheap bikes.

You don't need to buy the most expensive components to get good braking performance, but you can probably tell the difference between very cheap brakes and those of middling quality and above. I would consider SRAM Apex good enough for most purposes, not too cheap.

The scenario in which I notice the difference most is a long twisty descent in cold weather when my grip strength is most impaired. With better brakes, less force is required and my hands don't tire as much.