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by Matt Wikstrom
November 25, 2015
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
Eecycleworks introduced the eebrake to the world in 2008 and the company has been steadily refining it ever since. In this review, CTech editor Matt Wikstrom assesses its performance against calipers from industry leaders such as Shimano and Campagnolo.
Craig and Bruce Edwards established eecycleworks in the US in 2007, and while Bruce subsequently stepped aside to continue working as an engineer at Tesla, Craig has been running the company on his own terms ever since.
Craig is an architect with a passion for designing and building things. He started working in the bike industry in the ‘90s as a designer for Sweet Parts and was responsible for developing Sweet Wings. After the demise of the company, Craig kept working on his own projects, which included a new brake caliper.
Craig’s ambition for the eebrake was simple: “I want to build the best brake I can.” He spent a few years developing the design before eecycleworks started selling them in 2008. Since then, he has been refining the design. “If I see something I can improve, I do it.”
According to Craig, there have been four major iterations for the eebrake, and the latest revision includes new versions to suit direct mount frames and forks. All versions employ Craig’s distinctive linkage, offer significant weight savings compared to other brands, and are compatible with road brake levers from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo.
For this review, I spent a few weeks using eebrakes on a couple of different bikes to assess their performance with Shimano and Campagnolo brake levers, thanks to eecycleworks and their local service centre, Skunkworks.
Eebrakes are constructed from forged aluminium alloy parts with oversized pivots and bushes. Titanium bolts and hardware is used to save some weight while the bearings are self-lubricating in the sense that the materials used for the bearing matrix provide lubrication.
The linkages above the caliper are designed to translate cable pull into brake pad force in a largely linear fashion with a bias towards increasing leverage. However, according to Craig, cable pull is only part of the equation for a well-modulated brake.
The other important component is the stiffness and rigidity of the caliper. “This is important in terms of pad clamping force and in terms of the brake’s ability to resist forces pulling the brake in the direction of the rim’s movement,” he said. “Deflection in these areas kills good modulation.”
But, as Craig notes, trying to create a stiff and rigid structure that is also light is very challenging. “Making something with both takes extreme structural efficiency.” Hence, the brake has a pragmatic skeletal structure that lacks much of the sculpting that defines other calipers.
Craig is not oblivious to criticism about the appearance of eebrakes but it was something he was prepared to compromise on. “Looks, obviously took the back seat,” he said wryly, “but I have always felt if you make something real, real ugly, sometimes it can start to look good.” If nothing else, there is no confusing eebrakes with any other caliper on the market.
In the past, eebrakes utilised an eccentric mounting bolt that provided adjustment for brake reach and tyre clearance. Now the brakes use a standard bolt—which simplifies installation—and the arms are a little longer to preserve the reach of the calipers. Accordingly, eebrakes can accommodate 28mm tyres but anything larger (including a 28mm tyre on a wide rim) is likely to rub on the caliper.
The pad carriers that are supplied with the calipers can be adjusted with spacers to suit different rim widths up to a maximum of 28mm. The carriers also offer tool-free pad changes: just pry the pad away from the rear of the carrier (where there is a ridge to lock the pad in place instead of a screw) and slide it out. The carriers are only compatible with Shimano/SRAM-type brake pads but should be welcomed by riders that regularly swap between carbon and alloy wheelsets.
There is another tool-free function on offer with eebrakes: the caliper can be centred with a small rod located behind the linkage. Winding it in or out makes a fine adjustment to the location of the caliper over the rim.
Eebrakes are reasonably easy to install. A standard 5mm Allen is all that is required to fit the calipers to the frame, while a 4mm key is needed to tension the cable pinch bolt. Threading the inner cable through the brake requires a bit of concentration because the pinch bolt is recessed, but once the cable is inserted, there is nothing else to fuss over.
The front and rear single-mount calipers supplied for this review weighed 86g and 84g (sans pads), respectively, compared to 143g and 136g for Dura Ace and 137g and 133g for Super Record. Weight-weenies will no doubt get giddy at the prospect of saving 100g but the weight savings come, unsurprisingly, at considerable expense.
One pair of calipers retails for US$630 (~AU$870, shipping extra), direct from eecycleworks. Alternatively, local buyers can purchase the brakes from eecycleworks’ Australian service centre, Skunkworks, and save a little on international shipping.
Eebrakes are available in one colour only (black) but there is a choice of eight colours for the logo badge (black, grey, white, red, blue, yellow, green, and orange). The brakes are supplied with a three-year warranty, mounting hardware, and instructions, however brake pads are not included. For more information visit eecycleworks.
For this review, I installed the eebrakes on two bikes, one with Shimano’s Dura Ace 9000 levers, and one with Campagnolo’s Super Record RS levers. In this way, I was able to compare the performance of eebrakes with different brake levers and against different brake calipers (ie Dura Ace and Super Record calipers). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to test the eebrakes with SRAM levers.
Eebrakes paired well with Super Record levers to offer sure braking with ample modulation. Indeed, the quality of braking was very similar to Super Record calipers, with no noticeable difference in power. The braking action was a little lighter because eebrakes have less spring tension than Campagnolo’s calipers though, but it wasn’t so light as to ever feel vague.
Eebrakes also worked well with Dura Ace levers. The brake action was a little lighter (because of the lower spring tension described above) while the modulation was equivalent to Dura Ace calipers. There was, however, a small difference in power, with eebrakes approaching that of Dura Ace, but not quite achieving it.
The difference in braking power was barely detectable for alloy rims in dry conditions; it was only after riding on carbon rims (Giant’s SLR 0 climbing wheelset) in the wet that I was sure of the difference. There came a point where I couldn’t extract any more power from the brakes, no matter how much force I applied to the lever. In contrast, Shimano’s calipers always seemed to have a little extra power in reserve.
It is well known that Shimano’s current road levers have more cable pull than other brands. It was increased with the introduction of Dura Ace 7900 in order to suit Shimano’s new brake caliper design, called SLR-EV. A linear-pull mechanism was developed for SLR-EV calipers in order to provide more braking power and now all of Shimano’s road levers with gear cables routed under the bar tape use the design.
The eebrake isn’t a linear-pull caliper, but Craig Edwards was able to allow for the change in cable pull from Shimano’s newest levers with his latest iteration of the eebrake. However, optimising the eebrake for these levers would mean sacrificing compatibility with other brands (and older Shimano levers), so Craig settled on a compromise. I must stress that the difference in braking power compared to Shimano’s SLR-EV caliper is small, and more or less noticeable, depending on brake pad and rim choice.
The tool-free functions offered by eebrakes seem a small luxury, but they managed to overhaul my expectations for a brake caliper. The brake pad carriers in particular simplified what is otherwise a tedious task, allowing me to quickly swap between alloy and carbon wheelsets. The centering function was equally simple to use and very precise. Taken together, both tool-free functions add value to the eebrake.
Craig Edwards set out to build the best road brake he could, and the result is a lightweight, distinctive caliper that is essentially interchangeable with every road groupset. However, the asking price is extravagant, which is perhaps the biggest obstacle to the appeal of these brakes.
Whilst I have noted that eebrakes haven’t been optimised to work with Shimano’s latest brake lever design, I don’t consider the combination unsafe. Indeed, the eebrake can be viewed as an heirloom purchase because of its compatibility with all groupsets. However, if braking power is an important priority then I can’t recommend the eebrake over SLR-EV calipers for Shimano’s latest brake levers.
The recent growth in the popularity of wide rim profiles and larger tyre sizes has created problems for some bike owners because their current brake calipers cannot accommodate either (or in some cases, the combination of both). The eebrake is something of a problem-solver in this regard, offering more tyre clearance and brake pad adjustability than any other brand. Add to this the clever brake pad carrier design and the eebrake could have broad appeal, if only it was more affordable.