October 10, 2010

Tufo Elite LPS and Tufo Flexus Primus Tubular Tire Review for Cross - Update

So last year I thought putting the Elite LPS on the front and the Flexus Primus on the back sounded like a good idea and a fast combo. Uhh, not exactly. I had been running Flexus Primus front and back and they were working just fine. Then, trying to squeeze out a little more speed, I swapped out the front tire for the Elite LPS. What a disaster. Crashed about 5 times (after a while it is hard to keep count) in the first two laps of the race, got pretty sore, went off course, packed it in. Stiff for about 5 days after that little episode. I do clearly remember having only the back brake on, and the front wheel breaking loose on my last unfortunate incident as I crashed to the ground and saying to myself - Dang! That's not how it's supposed to work. Or something like that.

Worst thing is, I lost my mojo. Not the good luck charm mojo, the self-confidence in corners mojo. Next race, I just tried to finish without crashing. Lost time on every corner despite running the Flexus Primus front and back and not slipping even a tiny bit on any corner. Between my very poor bike handling (but very excellent braking for every corner) and my bruised body, it wasn't a best finish. At least I know what I have to work on - besides fitness.

Anyhow. Use the Flexus Primus or any Primus. Don't use the Elite LPS except for a Sunday ride on the bike path. BikeTiresDirect still has great prices.

Now where did I put that mojo?

November 16, 2011 Update to the Update: Well I can no longer recommend the Tufo tires for racing. Any of them. The Challenge tires have them beat in most ways (traction, rolling resistance), except perhaps for durability. If you race somewhere where flats are a big problem, then the Tufo's are for you. They wear like iron and they work extremely well with sealant because they have no inner tube - they are tubeless tubulars. And just like tubeless tires, sealant works well. Better than for tires with tubes. And for that very reason, the Tufo's are good training/trail tires. But don't buy the Primus version. Get the plain old Primus (non-Flexus) version and save a bunch of cash.

October 09, 2010

TRP CX9 and Tektro 926 Mini V Brakes for Cross

So when I reviewed the TRP EuroX Cantilever brakes that I own, I was less than thrilled. Lots of chatter, very little actual braking. Really, they suck. So I have been trying mini-V brakes as an alternative. Now I have to admit that I have never used or actually even seen the TRP CX9 brakes in person (OK, that's officially a lie now. See update below). I just used that in the title to reach people who think they are the only V-brake alternative for their cross bike. Just trying to help you save a few bucks. You can read all about the TRP CX9s here and here. And as you can see from the photo, they are very bling. They are also not all that light at 160 g per wheel and cost something like $130 US. There is a better (cheaper) way.

I have been riding a mini-v brake that works very well and is cheap, cheap, cheap. The Tektro 926 Mini V Brakes are $11.56 for one brake or $17 for one brake with the noodle, lever (useless for cross), cable and housing at Jenson. They weigh 170 g per wheel. Holy crap, that's a deal. I've been riding with one of these on the front for about a month and done 4 races now with it. Note: it wouldn't fit on the back as the brake pad holder was hitting on my seatstay on my Ridley X-Fire.

How do they work? Wow. Nice to have a brake that actually stops. The Tektro uses regular V-brake pads that are adjustable for toe-in. I have used it with both Rival and Red SRAM levers and it works well with both. I thought I would have to get a noodle with a barrel adjuster, but it worked fine with a regular noodle. Just set the cable length so that you can just barely undo the brake. Still have far more braking power than cantilevers even though the levers nearly hit the handlebar. That also gives you the maximum rim clearance. A barrel-adjuster noodle would make things a little less finicky, but it really isn't all that hard to adjust the cable length.

Admittedly, rim clearance is much less than a cantilever brake. I suppose if you ride in mud all the time, mini-v's won't work for you. Don't know as that isn't an issue around these parts. But really, cantilevers aren't great either. They give you lots of rim clearance, but they won't actually slow you down very well. Now that disk brakes are legal, they will eventually take over for the real crud I suppose. But for now, you really can't go wrong with the Tektro Mini-V. And say good-bye to brake chatter.

June 26, 2011 Update - Well after a solid season of cross last fall, no problems. This spring I bought a Nashbar 99$ cross frame for a commuter and put these brakes on it too. Working great in the many rainstorms we have been blessed with this year. I also figured out how to get them on my Ridley seatstays for racing. Basically, I scavenged parts from conventional brake pads so now they clear the seatstays. If you look at the photo, I replaced the fat washer near the brake pad with a thin one.

Only one problem. I had to buy 5 sets of brakes to get 4 and a half good brakesets. One brake caliper was screwed up - the return spring wasn't the right shape and didn't work. Even though the price has gone up to an outrageous $11.95, I didn't bother returning it. I just ordered another set. The brake pads are still good, so that cuts my losses.

The other thing I did was buy the adjustable noodles. At $6, they cost almost as much as the brakes which seems a little unfair, but they do make life easier. And I'm all about an easy life.

Tektros on Nashbar 99$ frame, no clearance issue
Update Sept 3, 2011 - I broke down and bought a pair of TRP CX9s for my Ridley Cross bike. Yeah I got the Tektros to fit the back wheel, but I could only remove/insert a wheel if I deflated the tire because the seatstays blocked the brakes from opening all the way. A very cumbersome and irritating situation for a racing bike. Basically the Tektros don't fit the Ridley carbon seatstays partly due to their assymetrical design and partly due to the Ridley brake stud base being almost flush with the seatstay. As you can see in the photo to right, the base of the brake stud has to be 5 mm or more from the seatstay (or fork) for the brakes to clear them. The TRPs have the brake pad centred in the brake arm so they work with 0 mm clearance. On the Ridley fork, there is 5 mm clearance and the Tektros worked fine. The Nashbar frame in the photo at right has more than 10 mm clearance.

So how are the TRPs? Well they fit the Ridley perfectly and they do look very bling bling. And they are slightly lighter in the hand, although I did not weigh them. Because the Ridley is a star, I don't begrudge the expense too much. But the TRPs are indistinguishable from the Tektros in performance. If I was blindfolded and riding my bike, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. (Although I cannot actually confirm that). Which means they both work great. Kind of cheap of TRP to not include adjustable noodles at that price though.

Bottom line: I would never buy the TRPs over the Tektros unless you have lots of extra cash, and/or an overdeveloped aesthetic sensibility, or a lack of clearance between the base of the brake stud and the seatstay/fork. I would have stuck with the Tektros, even on the Ridley, if they had fit. They look awesome on the Nashbar.

Update 24 October 2011 with thoughts on the TRP CX8.4 brakes - So I was working on the commuter bike today doing a few adjustments, truing the back wheel, etc. and I thought to myself..... The Tektro brakes seem to have more clearance and have less lever travel than the TRP CX9s? So I pulled out my trusty tape measure and the Tektros are 1 cm shorter from the pivot to the cable anchor (8 cm vs 9 cm). Therefore, if the old TRPs are CX9s, and the new TRPs are designated CX8.4 because they are 0.6 cm shorter than the CX9s, the Tektros are essentially Tektro 926 - CX8s! What does this mean? It means that you get more brake movement with less lever pull for the Tektros, even compared to the TRP CX8.4. Which translates to slightly improved brake modulation and slightly reduced (but still extremely strong) braking. It also means that you get 1 cm (or 0.4 cm) less brake cable to tire clearance. If mud creates a brake cable clearance problem for you, holy cow.  I'm guessing your bike is totally clogged with mud and your screwed anyway. Start running.

With the advent of the CX8.4s, there is no value in the CX9 brakes. The 8.4s will work better for all levers, including Shimano. More cable pull just lets you set the brakes farther from the rim for the same amount of lever pull - always a good thing if your wheel takes a hit and goes a bit out of true. And the 8.4s should be a bit less touchy to modulate. But if you really want the latest and greatest linear pull technology - go Tektro, and save $$.  Even more brake pad clearance and even better modulation. I'm finding them very easy to modulate on my commuter bike, even in winter ice and snow. But then I'm not screaming down hills with an off-camber slippery turn at the bottom seeing spots because my heart rate is 95% of max. So not the same as a cross race where the brain starts to go and mistakes are made.

If you are interested in the Avid Shorty Ultimate (good but not quite the ultimate) brakes click this.