Why do road bikes use caliper brakes?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by chero, Jun 9, 2006.

  1. chero

    chero New Member

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    I am puzzled as to why caliper brakes remain standard on road bikes. I recently bough a Cannondale Road Warrier flat bar road bike to replace my Giant Cypress hybrid for commuting. I was concerned that the brakes (Cannondale double pivot calipers) might not be as good as the v brakes on the hybrid, but was assured that they would be fine. Sure enough, the braking power is much less with the calipers. With the v brakes, modest pressure could stop the bike so easily that if you pushed much harder the wheels would skid. With the calipers, I have to give it almost everything I have to get to the point where the bike will stop fast, or to get anywhere close to causing a skid. They are adjusted properly, and have been like this with pads that are new, worn, or replaced. Rims are nice and clean.

    Is there something about calipers that is supposed to compensate for this rather limited stopping power?

    Chero
     
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  2. wilmar13

    wilmar13 New Member

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    There is some problem with your setup... a proper dual pivot caliper is much more powerful than a v-brake setup.
     
  3. RickF

    RickF New Member

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    Here is an interesting quote from the description of the 2006 team bike on the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team web site (http://team.discovery.com/cycling.html).


    "The Trek Madone's breaks are powerful, work in all conditions, have a long-lasting pad material, and are used to control speed, rather than stop."
     
  4. wilmar13

    wilmar13 New Member

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    My interpretation of that statement is the marketing machine at Trek is trying to say the bike is totally set up for speed, even the brakes :rolleyes: . Poorly worded IMO, cheesy, and easily open to alternative interpretations.
     
  5. Dietmar

    Dietmar New Member

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    What brakes do you have? Any decent current caliper brakes have more than enough "stopping power", even if you get an entry level group, like a Shim 105, say. If I pulled my front brakes hard, I could easily make the bike flip over and crash, or make the front wheel slip and crash. Take your pick ;)
     
  6. a1086528

    a1086528 New Member

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    i would have to disagree. I've got the new Campy Chorus dual pivot brakes and they just cant compare to my brother's hybrid with shimano v-brakes.

    V-brakes are a lot stronger.
     
  7. Eastway82

    Eastway82 New Member

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    Agreed - I can do huge stoppies on my Campag Mirage and Centaur-equipped road bikes.

    One possibility for Chero's problem is that the Cannondale's flat bar brake levers don't have the right lever ratio for caliper brakes. Or maybe that Cannondale have deliberatley specced the setup so stupid people (not anyone on this forum obviously) with no experience don't flip themselves arse over apex every time they brake.
     
  8. Dietmar

    Dietmar New Member

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    It might also be worth pointing out that "stopping power" isn't everything we want in brakes. I have very limited experience with v-brakes, except for the ones on my wife's relatively inexpensive mountain/touring bike. Even on this bike, those brakes are strong, yes, but I find them a bit overly aggressive, too. You really have to be careful not to overdo things.

    On the other hand, my Shimano D-As can not only bring any of my wheels to a dead stop immediately if need be, but they also respond smoothly and proportionately to the amount of pressure applied at the handle bars; the perfect brakes, if you ask me.

    See above. There is no point in a brake being stronger than it has to be. Plus, the requirements for a mountain bike are clearly different from a road bike.

    Also, I know that at least some of the older Campys did have "problems", where people complained about the brakes, even for the top-of-the-line Record group. In that particular case, this issue was mostly a consequence of Campagnolo's focus on professional customers; they deliberately designed the brakes to require quite a bit of force on the handle bars. Whether or not people like that may be a matter of taste, partially, but I think most non-professionals saw that as a negative.
     
  9. shokhead

    shokhead New Member

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    Best brakes i've ever used were XTR's.
     
  10. IEatRice4Dinner

    IEatRice4Dinner New Member

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    who touched them last is my answer
     
  11. waxbytes

    waxbytes New Member

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    OK, my experience is that v-brakes are more powerful (can squeeze the rim harder) than caliper brakes. Having said that all the caliper brakes on my road bikes can lock the wheels up if I squeeze firmly. So I don't know what your problem is with your caliper brakes and I suggest you find a competent LBS repair man to fix them. Something is wrong with your braking system and it probably can't be diagnosed over the Internet.
    Caliper brakes are lighter, easier to "finesse" with varing hand pressure, are more aero, and most importantly, look better than v-brakes on a road bike.

    PS-I just remembered reading online somewhere that v-brakes have so much force that they can actually bow out the fork legs on a lightweight road bike. I know this must be true, because I read it on the 'net ;)
     
  12. esandman

    esandman New Member

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    The braking is only as good as your tire traction and on a road bike with skinny tires the limiter isn't the brakes it's the tire friction when stopping. What good is it if you can lock up the tire 3 times as hard, the stopping power is the same.

    Erik
     
  13. Insight Driver

    Insight Driver New Member

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    chero,

    What you might learn is that caliper brakes have been around a long, long time. The big change in braking was the change from steel rims which would lose all stopping power when wet, to machined-sidewall aluminum rims. Shimano, Tektro and Campy all make (the list is not exclusive, just the big three that came to mind) caliper brakes that have more than adequate stopping power.

    I grant that V-brakes have more grab, but on a road bike, it is overkill since, as others have pointed out, tire friction is the bigger limiter. On a mountain bike and hybrid with big knobby tires, the friction is higher. Also, the braking needs of a mountain bike are more extreme than a road bike.

    There is an advantage to caliper brakes is that they have only one mounting bolt. They have an aerodynamic advantage as a result. V-brakes require mounting studs on the fork and rear stays somewhere, so are mechanically more complex.

    At no time, on my road bike have I ever wished I had more braking power for my Shimano Ultegra dual pivot calipers have more than enough to spare. I am pleased with the modulation I have so I can use the brakes to slow down without accidentally initiating a skid. I find I can keep my bike slow on a steep incline with just light finger pressure as well.
     
  14. shokhead

    shokhead New Member

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    Koolstop pads,keep them clean along with the braking surface of the rim and you'll brake as good as you need to.
     
  15. chero

    chero New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies, lots of helpful information. I see the point that clenching the rim harder is not the be all and end all, that modultion is important (and my calipers are better at that no question), and that once you can make the wheel skid you don't need anything more than that. And the aero advantage is something too (for faster riders than I). I am still a bit dissatisfied, as I have to give it just about everthing I can to get close to a skid, and that doesn't seem right when I could lock up the wheels with v brakes at about one quarter maximum effort. Maybe the comment that the leverage on the hand lever might be poorly matched is on target, or maybe these are just not good calipers. (BTW, they are Cannondale brand brakes.) I don't think it is a matter of poor adjustment, as my LBS is really quite good and they have adjusted them several times. I still would rather have my old v brakes back, but thanks for telling me the benefits of calipers, and that most of you are pretty satisfied with yours, apparently for good reasons.

    Chero
     
  16. artmichalek

    artmichalek New Member

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    The Cannondale brake calipers aren't too bad, but as shokhead mentioned the pads are what matters. Upgrading the pads could get quite a bit more stopping power out of your current setup.
     
  17. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Like others have said, try switching brake pads. On caliper brakes, brake pads make the biggest difference. Salmon Kool Stops or Green Swissstops are two sorts that provide mucho friction.
     
  18. chero

    chero New Member

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    Thanks shokhead, artmichalek, and alienator, I will try one of your recommended brake pads. I appreciate your advice.

    Chero
     
  19. hd reynolds

    hd reynolds New Member

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    MTB V Brakes are stronger than road bike dual pivots simply because they have greater leverage. Having said that, normal (non-dual pivots) road bike calipers generate more than adequate stopping power. Dual pivots get their increased stopping power from the re-location of the pivot where the 2 caliper arms meet. This increases the leverage therby increasing the clamping force.
     
  20. mnr3

    mnr3 New Member

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    I may have read the thread too quickly, but don't forget about the cable set-up: the cable runs should be as short and straight as possible while still allowing the front wheel to flop about. sponginess in brakes is worse with long sweeping cables. it's an easy fix. if the flat bar uses v-brake/linear pull levers for calipers, that would def. be a problem: was that the stock set up? can't imagine they would be wrong
    then there's technique: for a panic stop--the only time you would want to stop on a dime--don't forget that the front brake is much more effective and that you should squeeze it the hardest while throwing your weight to the rear so you don't flip. road brakes can't be too grippy because anyone sitting on your wheel would get a nasty surprise if you couldn't feather (modulate) the brake at speed
     
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