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EE Vs M5 – Long Term Brake Test

And so the Bike Tart’s posh brake fetish continues…

Now that the EE Brakes have been on the Cannondale for a couple of months I thought it would be a good time for a longer term review. Like the Reynolds wheel review it seemed like a good idea to use my experience of them to pitch them against and equivalent – in this case, their equally lightweight predecessors, the M5s.

It’s been quite a while since I ran standard groupset brakes on a bike – I have a bit of ‘a thing’ with brakes where I believe a bike can be visually transformed by a bit of careful consideration, planning and choice on the brake front. Different brakes always get noticed, and the quirkier the better as far as Bike Tart is concerned…

That statement alone should provide some insight into why I previously chose the M5 brakes with their big, beefy construction-like machined appearance and probably quite clearly explains why I run the EE Brake now. Thankfully both also have the marginal benefit of being quite significantly lighter than standard groupset brakes, not to mention the rather more beneficial factor of actually stopping you quite well – let’s not lose sight of their primary purpose here after all!

But what is there to say about brakes? Well, quite a lot as it happens.

I first came to a lightweight set of brakes with a set of KCNCs – they looked lovely on my Ti Omega but they didn’t stop me so well. I just accepted this as a downside of the lightweight option… and then I tried M5s and promptly nearly chucked myself over the bars when I grapped my usual KCNC-tuned handful of Campag lever. Their stopping performance was incredible, and with them looking so chunky and purposeful I absolutely loved them. Suddenly downhills were less daunting as I was safe in the knowledge that I could stop myself from ploughing across the inevitable dual carriageway which would no doubt be at the bottom of said downhill (this is the UK after all). I still love the M5s, but something the EEs have made me realise is that despite the power available from them there is very little modulation – the brakes are basically either on or off. Something highlighted by a fairly regular locking up of the back wheel (which isn’t favourable when your fragile tyres are £40 a pop).

So already you know the EEs are much better modulated than the M5s – ultimately this means more control, which can only be a good thing and means my rear tyre should now only go bald through overuse rather than unnecessary schoolboy skids. All is not entirely positive though as some of that almighty M5 power is missing with the EEs. This is a slightly odd one though as it seems the front brake has plenty of power. Coupled with the modulation means the front will stop me much less brutally than the M5s, and for this I love the EEs. For some reason though the rear brake does not exhibit the same braking prowess, and despite numerous realignments of the pads to try and achieve an optimum I still find myself reverting to that old KCNC-tuned handful of lever (albeit a SRAM one these days). The positive outcome of all this is that I now find myself descending faster, opting to grab a tidy handful of front brake much later than I previously would have done rather than riding the rear brake in an attempt to scrub off speed so that applying the front brake doesn’t quite have that ‘ejector seat’ effect…

A few points on the EEs are so good however that they’re worthy of their own paragraph – high praise indeed. The quick release is possibly the only true quick release brake, and if / when you see it and try it you’ll understand what I mean. A quick squeeze of the brakes and a flick of the finger to release the lever renders the brake wide open and ready for that wheel change (which could save vital seconds on an all important road race, although clearly not for this Bike Tart). And talking of wheel changes, imagine you’re about to step out of the door with your bike but you realise you’ve left your expensive racing tubular wheels on. Normally you might recoil in fear of ruining them, or flatting on the tub and having a long walk home (or just think f?&k it and go out anyway!), but with the EEs that quick release can be flicked open, the wheels dropped out, the pads changed from those garish yellow Swissstop carbon ones to the frankly dull by comparison alu-friendly greens and your heavy-but-trusty Open Pro handbuilts slipped in – time taken? 1 min, tops. Seriously. And that is some amazing thought, innovation and ingenuity.

And the looks? Well, let’s be honest – neither are particularly ‘beautiful’. That said, both are quite wonderfully ugly, and as such are beautiful in their own right. The M5s are wide, thick and structural whilst the EEs are almost streamlined by comparison (they actually look quite small when you look at them front-on). The EE brakes do have a very deep pivot which makes them look quite chunky in profile, and I like that, and the way the cable enters the EE Brakes really sets them apart – that is the midas touch to me, the one thing that really identifies them to ‘those in the know’ and shows that little extra thought has gone into their creation.

So which one wins the day? For me, the EEs. And that’s a fairly simple decision.

I think it might be a consequence of the single pivot design on the M5, but I found them quite fiddly to set up and tricky to keep centralised. The rear one also suffered from muck and gunk filling the deep pivot hole which I just found annoying. Add to that them being a pain in the ass to keep clean (all those nooks and crannies!) along with the poor modulation and they just don’t stand up to the EE Brakes quite so well.

The EEs have been talked of as being tricky to setup, and whilst I can see this would be true the reality is that their tricky setup results in a perfectly centred brake which ultimately leads to perfect braking performance… for the front brake at least… but damn it I’ll get that rear one sorted if it kills me. Then there’s those innovative little tricks…

They’re both good – it’s just that the EEs are more good… awful English, but in this case I think it fits the bill.

Rich [@RichTheRoadie]

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