August 21, 2012

Avid Shorty Ultimate Cyclocross Brake Review

So last Xmas, Cyclocrossworld had their big sale and I was able to buy both front and back brakes for almost half price. Everybody raves about these brakes, price was right, and I wanted something that was easier to swap wheels with than the mini-V type brakes. Thanks Santa. I've been using the brakes quite a bit lately as I smell cross in the air.

The good news - yes the brakes work very nicely. I only use the power setting and I can negotiate just about anything out there, even ridiculously steep mountain bike downhills where my butt is well behind the saddle. I ain't afraid of nothin (if they aren't too rocky).

The brakes seem to have found that magic balance between power and rim clearance. They have a goodly amount of both. Brakes like the mini-V versions have even more power, but little rim clearance. Difficult to swap wheels in a hurry. Brakes like the TRP Eurox cantilevers have lots of rim clearance (easy to swap wheels fast), but no power.

And they are light - mine weighed 130 g versus 160 g for the TRP 9.

All good right? Well there is a fly in the ointment. For some reason, the engineers at Avid decided to make the brakes use just about every tool in my toolbox for one thing or another. Really, 4 different hex wrenches and even a torx are required for set up. Plus a 15 mm wrench for pad clearance adjustment - feel like carrying one of those with you on your rides? Fortunately, my clearance has stayed put OK. Particularly irritating as I realized just last night, swapping out brake pads requires a ridiculously small 1.5 mm hex wrench which I couldn't find and had to buy. I guess the more typical brake pad holder hex sizes weren't good enough - far too large and ungainly.

Really? Get with it Avid. You have a good working design, but your insistance on cobbling together a multitude of nut and bolt sizes takes the shine off it. The brake pad holder micro hex is a poor design in my opinion. Some people have to switch between carbon and aluminum brake pads and I envison that teeny tiny hex is going to be quite easy to strip if you have a bit of dirt in there or you haven't cracked the hex bolt open for a while. Fortunately, you can buy brake shoes made by someone else that don't have this flaw. Some are even cyclocross specific!

So the Avids work well, but still room for improvement. They aren't the "ultimate" despite their name.. You'd think getting parts from the odds and ends bin would make these relatively cheap, but they are rather pricey. Maybe Tektro can come up with a cheaper version - you really just need to get the right arm length - and use SRAM-type brake pad holders. You could probably charge $25 and make a killing.

Of course disk brakes will take over soon. Except who wants to toss a perfectly good bike just to get better brakes? I'll have to wear my Ridley out first and I expect that will take some time. Like forever.

January 20, 2014 Update: Still using the Avids and they haven't given me any issues whatsoever. No tuning, no adjusting, they just work. Which is good, eh?

August 06, 2012

Halo Headband Review

Well now the sweaty season is well and truly upon us, I thought I would mention the Halo headband. I have noticed that with advancing years and retreating hairline that sweat now gets in my eyes quite a bit more easily than it used to. I think hair is a built in headband, mopping up excess sweat and providing a larger surface area for evaporation. That's my theory anyways.

Nowadays, I do know sweat in the eyes can be a problem, particularly with certain helmets. Stings, doesn't it? So here is an invention that I have used for about 5 years now that works. Despite the cheesy, cheap illustration the product is well made. The lateral transfer of sweat is a bit of a stretch I think. And I have never personally experienced sweat dripping down the side of my head or behind my ear. I think the rubber just stops it from running down your forehead and the sweatband provides a good evaporative surface.

Importantly, regardless of the mechanism, it works much better than no headband. This one is nice and thin so it doesn't unnecessarily add to the heating problem and readily fits under a helmet. Works great on the trainer too. It easily rinses out under the tap when it gets kind of salty and smelly. Good product that does what it is intended to do.

August 02, 2012

Wiggins Olympic TT - Maybe It's Not The Bike?

What the heck? This bike isn't high tech. The brakes aren't integrated and hidden, there is no nose cone, the forks look like they are from a road bike, no electronic shifting, and the seat tube isn't even protecting the rear wheel. What's that bike worth - 500$? How could he possibly win on that? Unless... it's not the bike that wins races? You mean if I rush out and buy the latest, I can still be beaten? This is really bad news.

Glad he wore the booties - I have booties too. Maybe it's the booties?