When it comes to road bikes I developed a slightly unhealthy obsession with brakes pretty much from the start. But I don’t mean from a ‘weight weenie’ perspective you understand – it was simply as an interesting component that’s nice to look at. Objet d’art for my bike, if you will.
It started with my first proper road bike too. Ok so I’d dabbled with a Giant that I never used and a Cannondale that I sold to fund my dirty habit (I was really an MTBer back then), but then came the bike that started it all. A Titanium machine bedecked in full Campag Chorus, the standard brakes never even caught a whiff of the build process; immediately making way for a set of KCNC CB1s. Those carried across to my second and third road bikes (we’re still talking in weeks and months here – the time span across all three of these frames was about nine or ten months in total) before I happened across a set of the angular, geometric, girder-like M5 brakes. They were being sold for a reasonable price, and given they were such a quirky, interesting design, I just had to have them.
It was about then that I realised how bad the CB1s had been as I nearly, very neatly, chucked myself over the bars the first time I yanked the M5s on. It had started though. The seed was well and truly sown…
After the M5s came my first set of EE Brakes – the Marmite of the brake world with their individuality setting them aside as ugly ducklings never to be approached by some, whilst others draw them up in wonderment and awe, looking them all over – perhaps to understand how the hell they actually work. A set of more normal looking, magnesium bodied TRP 970SLs followed, then came a set of the Taiwanese catalogue brakes that can be found being sold under the names of Planet-X, Feather, Token and more (yes, they are all the same brake!). A second set of EEs ended up on my newest bike at the time, and I still have these now. Not long after I finally fished out a ‘never-touched-since-buying-second-hand-with-the-rest-of-the-groupset’ set of SRAM Red brakes for my Pegoretti – the first time I’ve used road brakes from the same groupset that’s on the bike.
I think the only component I’ve chopped and changed more is saddles… and perhaps frames.
I currently have a new bike on the way, and this bike heralds a return to Campagnolo after upwards of four years on a combination of SRAM Red (both old and new) and Di2. The brakes? Bog standard Chorus (although I did spend a while trying to source a set of the older Super Record brakes without the red bit on the logo, just to make things a little bit tidier). Why the change to bog standard after a raft of aftermarket brakes? Well frankly, mainly, because I think Campag groupsets actually look better as a complete package on a bike. But there’s two other reasons: Firstly, I can’t look past EE Brakes anymore.
They’re incredible – perhaps my favourite part of my current bike. If I stick with Campag I can’t help thinking I’ll end up shunning my own thoughts about preferring the look of the complete Campag setup just to have a set on my new bike. The other? Shimano Dura-Ace 9000.
As is probably blindingly obvious, standard brakes have never appealed to me. Sure, I do think Campag groups should remain complete, but it’s not the be all and end all – they’re tidy looking brakes, but not ‘must-haves’. The DA9000 brakes on the other hand look AMAZING. Solid, beefy, a thick side profile coupled with a tidy, narrow profile when viewed end-on. I fact given their ‘real’ dual pivots, I can’t help thinking they might have been modelled on the EEs in some way… What’s more, the lever feel is rock solid and offers modulation by the truck load. I want them (of course it helps that the rest of the DA9000 groupset also feels like a step-change in lever feel and quality, but it is also an expensive change to switch the complete groupset just because I’m so smitten with the brakes!).
So instead of the return to a Campagnolo groupset being short-lived, perhaps all that really needs to happen is for me to ignore my own ‘rules’ about Campag groups staying complete – that way the EE Brakes from my current bike could find their way onto my new bike, then a set of the DA9000s can be sourced for my current bike to sit alongside the Di2, thus saving me the expense of both a new Dura-Ace groupset and the associated, unavoidable wheel switch that such a purchase would necessitate…
Brake porn. There’s a term I didn’t think I’d ever use. And then of course there’s aftermarket cranks… but I’ll save that for another day.