Ride the Puddles

Suicide Brakes: Who Needs’em

Posted by bikezilla on October 24, 2010

The first thing I noticed when I switched from my Trek “3700” MTB to my Kona “Jake the Snake” CX was that I never really appreciated how good the “garbage” brakes on the 3700 really were.

The Tektro linear pull / V brake on the 3700 may be generic crap, but compared to the Kona Kore Race cantilever style suicide brakes on my Jake the Snake, they’re first rate, high quality, mojo.

And why do they call them “Race”? Is it to reassure us that while racing you don’t really need to stop? “It’s all about SPEEEEEEEEED, boys! Hard grabbing brakes just get in the way of WINNING!”

Or is it just marketing mumbo jumbo meant to cover up the fact that anyone who actually races wouldn’t be caught dead with a set of Kona Kore Race cantilevers on their bike? “What? Well of course they would! Says “Race” right in the name! SEE! What the hell do you THINK they’d be good for?!”

Well, maybe for throwing at my sister when she isn’t looking. But stopping my bike? Not so much.

Kind of like products with “Pro” in the name. You can bet that no real “Pro” would touch the stuff.

This is a pretty common complaint among riders of Cyclocross (CX) bikes: the cantilever brakes don’t work for crap.

They do work LIKE crap, though.

What can be done about this? Better, what can be done that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve just been butt raped by the cycling industry and your local bike shop (LBS) (because most of you reading this are lousy bike mechanics, like me, and need to pay someone to work on your ride)?

Well, a few things.

— The Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever brake @ $98 for the complete set (reviewed by Bike Radar’s Matt Pacocha and rated at the best cantilever style brake you can buy.

To quote Matt, “It’s hands down the best ‘cross canti we’ve ever used.”

TRP CX 9 linear pull / V brake. At $149. Reviewed by Bike Radar’s James Huang.

One complaint about the CX 9s is that they lack “feel” vs cantilevers.

Yes, my cantilevers do let me “feel”.

Unfortunately what I’m feeling is my knuckles dislocating as I attempt to squeeze the levers hard enough to avoid some ‘tard doing the Stupid Squirrel Dance, or as I’m trying not to become roadkill when some douche in an Escalade sweeps around a corner and cuts directly in front of me as I’m entering an intersection.

— Or you can swap out your shiitey CX cantilever brakes with your MTB’s V brakes IF you also use a “Travel Agent”.

Why? Um, well, I don’t exactly know, but James Huang (aka @NotSoAngryAsianandProbablyNotEvenReallyAsian says, “The MTB arms are too long.”

So? My guess is that the longer arms equal too savage a grip from the pads and could see you heaved over your handlebars and splatted on the trail.

What is a “Travel Agent” and what does it do?

Again from our not so angry “Asian” guide: “Travel Agents alter the cable pull ratio by running the cable thru 2 pulleys of different diameters. Quite slick actually.”

This comes in at $16 each, so $32 for a set. By far the least expensive option, but . . .

While the cheapest solution, it may come with a serious safety issue: The double pulley system may cause the cable to fray and eventually snap right at the junction between the two pulleys.

Sometime between now and next spring I’ll likely make the switch to the TRP CX 9s.

Thanks James!


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