Monday, October 7, 2013

It's a love hate relationship.

Normaly, my retro-grouchery would kick in and I would be all, "back in the day, we used V-brakes, and they were great!"
I spent many years avoiding the inevitable switch to disc brakes. Evey one was saying that disc brakes were "the future." But one day I gave in, and now I hate myself. (Just kidding, but seriously).

I recently switched to disc because my newest bike (2001 Gary Fisher Super Caliber) had disc and V brake mounts. Plus, building wheels nowadays, you would be hard pressed to find non-disc hubs that would be worth a damn. 

So I built these, 
For this,

And they were great! least I thought. 

We recently raced in a local series and had a blast doing so. 
The most popular race got canelled due to 3" of standing water on the trail. 
That is understandable. You should NEVER ride a trail in those conditions, you can do serious damage to the trail. 
That said...
The last race of the year was at the same trail and we would be damned if we would call that one off on account of rain.
(Only because we all volunteer to fix them after we trash them if need be)

But It rained...

The two days leading up to the race we Probably got 3" of "liquid sunshine"

I rode the trail early the morning of raceday. It was spectacular!  It was drizzly, but not too bad out. 

Then the Experts took off, it started raining heavily.  
After the first lap they were riding by us covered in mud saying "I got no brakes!" And "There won't be a trail left when you get out there!" 
It continued to rain...

As the experts were starting the 3rd lap (at which point there were already 6 DNF's), Sport and Beginner cats were heading off. One and two lap journeys that would bring the strongest man to his knees. 

It rained harder. 

1.5 miles is all it took. My brakes failed me going into a turn and I went down a hill. Managed to stay on the bike, but lost 8 places! (This cost me the series points championship. I lost by a margin of 5 points!) 
I had absolutely no brakes for the last 
5 miles and had to "Flinstone" it thereafter to slow down enough not to die.  

There were many DNF's but those of us who charged on hung out after the race drinking beers and retelling the stories of our epic adventures...
We almost all had disc brakes. 

In the end, My bike looked like this. 
My brake pads, looked even worse. 
The next day at work, the bikes started rolling in. On Monday alone, we changed all of these...
For reference, this is an old and new pad side-by-side. 
(The new one is on the right. ;)
Needless to say, this person spent the next 6 miles in what she called "30 minutes of terror." 

The events of that day were the most ridiculous yet memorable moments of my life. 

But here is where I digress...
Back in the day, V-brakes were all we had and they did work well. 
On the other hand, they were prone to high-pitch squealing if; 
A) they were not aligned properly, and,
B) if they got wet. 
Unfourtunately, they almost always got wet, and if they picked up sand and mud, would damage the shit out or your braking surface. 
Brands like Shimano fixed this with the introduction of XTR linear pull brakes that worked really well and eliminated (most of) the noise. However, to further the point i made about bottom bracket standards (in an earlier blog), technology of course found a way to fix a perfectly sound component. 
Under the guise of "stopping power" disc brakes came upon on the scene and appeared to work. 
If disc brakes had one flaw, it was that they too, squealed. Lets face it, metal on metal makes noise. Period. 
Did rubber pads make noise? Sure. 
Did they wear out in ten minutes? 
No fucking way. 
So what did they do? Made cable actuated disc brakes, hydraulic instead. In theory, they would provide more even stopping power and adjusted themselves automatically which reduced issues brought to the surface by poor set up of cable actuated disc brakes. 

They still squealed...

So what then? 
"Let's make the pads out of organic materials! That should reduce the squealing!" (Insert sound of dorks jumping in the air as they high five, for again, solving a problem that did not exist)

Sure. That reduced the squealing. But then the rain came. 
Now, other, abrasive, organic materials (dirt, mud, water...)
get forced into the pads and Voila! 
No fucking brakes in the first two miles of the most important race of my life (thus far). 
(Just ask the dudes that raced in the cyclocross World Championships earlier this year how I feel. The Belgians won becuase they were running cantilever rim brakes. We, on the other hand, did not fair so well). 

( this is the part where I spare you the details of how I personally feel about disc brakes on cyclocross and {God forbid} road bikes, until the appropriate blog is reached)

Now here is the part in the story, as the life cycle of brakes came full-cirlce right before my eyes, BAM! 
 I rounded a turn in the last half mile and someone yelled, "you should get V brakes!" 

Sure asshole. 
I'll get right on that.