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review

Cane Creek ee Brakes

4
£599.98

VERDICT:

4
10
Uber-light brakes for crazy bucks, but the risk of damage to your frame makes them hard to recommend
Weight: 
163g

The Cane Creek eeBrakes are super-light and do the job of stopping you well, but they might also damage your bike frame.

  • Pros: Incredibly light while still offering really strong performance
  • Cons: Incredibly expensive and may damage your frame

eecycleworks is a small US business that's developed a handful of boutique bike products of which this, the eeBrake, is the best known. In August 2016 the brand became a part of Cane Creek, which today manufactures and distributes the eebrake. The product has evolved since its launch in 2008 via a number of versions into what you can buy today and is now available in a conventional and a dual-mount design.

> Find your nearest dealer here

The headline here, without doubt, is the weight. These are very lightweight callipers. We weighed them at 163g the pair (excluding pads), which is dramatically lighter than any mainstream competition. Shimano Dura-Ace callipers are 160g each, SRAM Red are 262g the pair; both of these include pads but that's a pretty remarkable difference nevertheless. A set of four pads is typically around 21g.

Cane Creek EE brakes5.jpg

These aren't the very lightest brakes that money can buy – knowledgeable readers pointed to the THM Carbones Fibula at a claimed 120g per pair excluding pads when we did a 'coming soon' story on the eebrakes.

However, designer and co-founder of eecycleworks Craig Edwards maintains that his focus was on making the best brakes possible, not just the lightest. We've tested very light brakes round these parts before and sometimes the weight saving comes at the unappealing cost of a reduction in braking performance. Here, the performance is strong, and the weight saving comes at the cost of, well, cost. The looks are also somewhat divisive.

Fitting

Fitting rim brake callipers is generally a fairly straightforward affair, and so it was here. It's slightly more fiddly to thread the cable through to the pinch bolt than on a standard brake, but not massively. I really liked the patented tool-free pad shoes – a smart design that does away with that pesky little screw. The slot is shaped such that you can push the pad home by hand but it stays firmly in place.

Cane Creek EE brakes3.jpg

Once you've approximately centred the brake and tightened the mounting bolt, there's a further (theoretically) tool-free adjustment to precisely centre the calliper, via the long, thin screw which emerges to one side. However, on one of the callipers I found this impossible to use as the thread is quite tight and the head is so small and sharp that I couldn't move it.

Cane Creek EE brakes2.jpg

Rather more to my concern, this small, sharp, metal screw head is the first thing that comes into contact with my bike's down tube when the handlebar is turned as far to the right as it'll go. Obviously this isn't something that happens while riding the bike, but it can and did happen while manhandling it in the garage or putting it onto a car roof-rack. The first time it happened it took a tiny chip out of the paint, and I applied a couple of layers of heli tape to try to prevent further damage.

Cane Creek EE brakes8.jpg

The Shimano Ultegra brakes I had fitted previously have small plastic bumpers which avoid this problem. I discussed the issue with Cane Creek tech support, and the feedback was that it wasn't an issue they had seen before. Certainly, as my bike has Di2 gears, this means there aren't mechanical gear cables and this lets the handlebar turn freely until something bangs into something else. If you've got mechanical gears it may not be an issue; likewise, if you're always careful with your bike then you may be okay with this, but I'm not. I spent my own hard-earned on my race bike and I'm pretty uncomfortable with things that might bang a hole through important bits of it.

Stopping power

These brakes are compatible with levers from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo; I used them with Ultegra Di2 levers. In terms of outright braking performance, I would say these are at least the equal of top-end Shimano or SRAM brakes. eecycleworks claims that these brakes have "dramatically higher" stiffness when compared to a conventional brake, and if you pull the lever really hard with the bike stationary, it is pretty remarkable how little the calliper flexes – hugely less than my Ultegra callipers.

Cane Creek EE brakes10.jpg

The spring (which keeps the brakes "off") is a bit undersized in my view. I found that with my internally routed cables, which are a couple of years old, the back brake would tend to rub as the spring wasn't strong enough to overcome the cable friction and open the calliper when I released the lever. I'm confident that fitting nice new cables would improve this, but if my existing cables work fine with my existing brakes, I'd like them to do the same here.

Open wide

There's a wing-nut where the cable outer meets the calliper, which works pretty much as in other brakes, allowing adjustment for different wheel widths and for pad-wear.

Cane Creek EE brakes6.jpg

The quick-release function is pretty different to elsewhere, though, with a long slender catch across the top of the calliper which disengages from the rest of the mechanism to open the calliper. This lifts more easily if you squeeze the pads together with your other hand while lifting it, and it's not as simple to operate as the cam arrangement that you'll find on Shimano brakes. It does open the calliper nice and wide, though, making it a cinch to fit 28mm tyres (even when on narrow rims).

Cane Creek EE brakes12.jpg

With a price for which you'd get a decent first road bike, there's no doubt that these are aimed at a pretty niche market: elite hill-climb specialists and those with particularly deep pockets. It's very impressive how the manufacturer has removed so much weight and actually improved stiffness.

> 12 tips for better braking

Without mechanical gear cables on my best bike, I was keen to finish the test and get my Ultegra brakes back on, which is hardly a ringing endorsement, but this has nothing to do with their performance. If weight saving is a priority and you can afford them, they are a good set of stoppers, but I could only really recommend them if you can be sure that they won't damage your frame.

Verdict

Uber-light brakes for crazy bucks, but the risk of damage to your frame makes them hard to recommend

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Cane Creek EE brakes

Size tested: Rim Width Compatibility 18mm to 28mm

Tell us what the product is for

Cane Creek says: "The eeBrake is the ultimate brake from start to finish - a uniquely robust patented design developed and refined by relentless engineering, both at the computer and through real-life testing. At half the weight than that of its competitors, eeBrakes continue to set new standards by which all other high performance road brakes are judged. The same supreme upgrade for performance-oriented riders, a dramatically higher overall stiffness provides better modulation and more power. No detail has been overlooked, greater tire clearance and tool-less pad centering make installation simple."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Cane Creek:

Weight (without pads)

Regular Mount: Front (82g) and Rear (80g)

Direct Mount: Front (79g) and Rear (76g)

Materials

Forged high grade aluminum, titanium and stainless steel

Rim Width Compatability

18mm to 28mm

Leverage Compatability

Optimized to work with Shimano, Campagnolo, and SRAM levers

Assembly

Assembled in Fletcher, North Carolina, USA

Color Options

Logo badges available in 8 colors: green, yellow, orange, blue, red, white, gray and black

Warranty

3 years

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
10/10

Intricately put together in the pursuit of lightness.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

Braking is good; I'd estimate power to be at least on a par with Shimano brakes which is impressive given how much less material there is in the calliper. I'd like to see a stiffer spring – if your cables are anything other than slick-shiny, you may find the rear brake doesn't open up properly when you release the brake lever.

Rate the product for durability:
 
6/10

No issues experienced in testing, but be aware that a lot of the (teeny tiny shiny) bits of this aren't going to be as easy to come by should they need replacing down the line as something more mainstream.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
9/10

Crazy light. Although if you spend even more, you can get even lighter.

Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

If you're a dedicated hill-climber then you may appreciate the weight savings, but at this price it's not great value otherwise given how good the much lower-priced (mainstream) competition is.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Offers good braking, is very light. I reckon that was its designed purpose, and it certainly ticks these boxes.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Decent braking, impressive weight-saving, clever pad retention system.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Likelihood of damage to frame (especially with Shimano Di2 or SRAM eTap), weedy spring meaning a need for clean cables.

Did you enjoy using the product? Not especially, as it was my frame that was at risk.

Would you consider buying the product? No

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they were a hill climber with mechanical gears and very deep pockets.

Use this box to explain your overall score

An example of a review where the overall score is way different to the average of the section scores. They are super-light, they stop you well, and they have an ultra-engineered look that some (but not all) will like, which suggests a score of 7 or possibly even 8. Unfortunately, they also damaged my frame and I would be fearful of them writing it off altogether, which makes me score them a lot lower than I would otherwise.

Overall rating: 4/10

About the tester

Age: 37  Height: 188cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh  My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking

Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels.  His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding. 

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