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SRAM Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes for Road

Review: SRAM Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes for Road

Elaine Bothe's picture

We Liked

Disc brakes are a big deal, so many people are talking about them as if they will revolutionize the cyclocross industry. But yay or nay? Are they for you or not? UCI finally said yes and we finally got the chance to test a set out. We got a disc ready cyclocross bike, the Colnago World Cup 2.0 in but we were dissappointed when it arrived with rim brakes installed. Oh well, we rode it, enjoyed it and wrote about it. Then, we got a perfectly good set of the SRAM Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes, and set them up on a set of disc ready wheels we've had hanging around for a while, waiting for a disc-equipped bike. Score! we finally had all the parts, and Seven Corners Cycles in Portland, Oregon set us all up.

Away we went! First stop, find some mud. Rumor has it disc brakes are the best in mud, and I've personally enjoyed my disc-equipped mountain bikes in the nastiest conditions you can imagine and they work great. Alas, this is early summer in Oregon, which can actually be pretty nice. I rode out to one of my personal favorite test tracks, Fire Lane 5 in Forest Park. It's short, but it dishes out some of the best mud slip-n-slides this side of Panama Canal on the Mudslinger MTB XC course outside of Corvallis, Oregon. I set out to see if there had been enough rain lately to keep the lane at its slimy best, and I got lucky. Slippery, gritty and deep. Wet mud puddles as well as sticky stuff. I hit every single one of them.

Guess what, I love these disc brakes! The SRAM Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes are so simple and straightforward. They are cable actuated, which means you can hook them up to any bike as long as it has disc brake mounts and rotor bolt holes on the hubs. No need to mess with hydraulic fluids, master cylinders and bleeding the brake lines. Just install, adjust and go.

The rumors are correct, disc brakes are amazing in the mud. At least the SRAM Avid BB7s are. Who cares if your rims, which are conveniently located close to the bottom of all mud puddles, gunk up with slop and slime. With disc brakes, your braking surface is spotless, which comes in handy if you plan on slowing down. Plus, the calipers are also close to the center of the wheel, also far away from collection points for grit and grime.

No rim brakes means fewer places for the sticky stuff to accumulate, and clean brake surfaces means you'll have stopping power when you need it, which is usually after you've had time to forget that you just massively gunked up your wheels, then you fly down something steep with a really sharp corner at the end.

I love the feel of these BB7 brakes. The SRAM Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes are also great in just plain wet conditions. And in the dry. I took the BB7 equipped Colnago out for road rides, commuter errands and on dry gravel roads. Stopping power and modulation is exactly as you'd expect from the amount of force you add to the lever. Pull harder, you stop faster. Pull softly, you feather the brakes nicely to control speed. Even down some long paved descents, I never had a sense of brake fade from overheating.

I also like how easy the BB7s are to fine tune and adjust. I mounted up a new set of disc wheels, and, the rotor placement was a little different so I got some masive brake pad rub and the wheels wouldn't turn. Not good, but not uncommon with swapping disc wheels. I tried adjusting the red adjustor knobs and the front wheel was perfect. The rear was not. I loosened the rear caliper bolts a little, squeezed the brake lever a couple of times, held the lever and tightened up the bolts. That's what I do with my mountain bikes. Better, but not perfect. I tried the inside big red knobs, they can be a little harder to turn than the smaller ones, but finally I got it to work. Whew! And, if all that fails, you can still adjust the cable!

We Didn't Like

The only thing I don't like about the SRAM Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes is the weight penalty over a good quality rim brake system. The disc brakes work very well, better than rim brakes in a lot of conditions. For me, though, I would think long and hard about adding well over a pound to my race bike. For muddy conditions on a hilly course, your bike would be heavy from mud along with everyone else's. The difference is that you'd have brakes, they wouldn't, and you could go faster into corners and before barriers.

The Final Say

If you want disc brakes on your cyclocross, commuter or road bike, the SRAM Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes are a great way to go. Easy to install, easy to use, easy to maintain. If you're trying to decide on a 'cross bike with disc or rim brakes, think about the conditions you usually ride in. I personally want a disc-equipped bike as a spare and as a winter training bike, but not my main race rig. I'd pull the disc bike out for very techical or muddy courses, keeping a lighter traditional rim brake bike for fast, flat and dry courses.

I'm hoping the demand for disc brakes will grow, and as the systems have gotten lighter for mountain bikes, so will they eventually for road and cyclocross.

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