Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Can Stop, Will Stop: TRP Mini-V Brakes

Honey Cyclocross, Winter Lilac
I have embarked on a long term test ride of a Honey cyclocross bike, similar to the one I rode in the Kearsarge Klassic last summer. When asked about component preferences on the demo bike, one thing I requested was stronger brakes. I had remarkably poor stopping power with the cantilever brakes on the bike I'd borrowed earlier, and I generally have not had good luck with cantis. I described these problems to Honey and we decided to try v-brakes. They suggested the TRP CX8.4 "mini-vs." 

The TRP CX8.4 linerar pull brakes were designed for maximum stopping power on cyclocross bikes. Unlike full sized v-brakes, they were also designed to work with integrated road levers (this particular model works best with Campagnolo and SRAM) without requiring an adapter - reducing bulk, weight and complexity. These brakes have a number of features to recommend them for cyclocross racing, but having no experience with that side of things I will stick to describing them in the context of "just riding."

Under my weak grip, the TRPs feel reassuringly powerful. Those with strong hands could in fact find this problematic, but for me it is a welcome change from having to worry about stopping a fat-tire roadbike with cantis at the bottom of a hill. This is the first time I have used v-brakes on such a bike, and the quality of the braking does feel different from centerpulls and cantilevers. I have to apply pressure differently to regulate exactly how much I want to brake, but it didn't take long to train my hands to "understand." When attempting to slow down at high speeds, the braking is not harsh or jerky, but it is stronger than typical - so it helps to have a gentle touch, or else to use only one finger on the lever. For harder braking, there is a luxurious, modulation-friendly margin before coming to a full stop that I find especially helpful. In the past, I have had to get creative in order to stop on downhills during unpaved rides, and I've even employed my foot as an auxilliary brake on a couple of occasions. The TRPs are at their best precisely in those situations. 

I have ridden the bike only a couple of times so far, but our winter conditions have allowed me to immediately try it on snow and slush. Getting the rims slushy did reduce braking power, but there was so much of it to begin with that it remained manageable. Basically, with the mini-vs the bike rides with slush-clogged rims like it did with dry rims when it had cantis. 

The Honey cross is set up with a carbon fiber fork, and I have not detected any judder with the TRP CX8.4s. These brakes easily clear the 700Cx35mm tires currently on the bike, and look like they could fit a fender. My understanding is they will not clear a 650B x 42mm tire; for that full sized v-brakes may be required. 

With an MSRP of $149 per set, the TRP CX8.4 brakes seem like an excellent and accessible option for those seeking extra braking power on a roadbike with canti/v bosses. As I get the opportunity to try other brakes worth mentioning, I will continue the "can stop, will stop" series (See also: Paul Racer centerpull brakes).

50 comments:

  1. Since you also like the Paul Racers, can you comment on how these compare?

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    1. I did not do this in the post to avoid confusion. Basically, a rider would never be in a position of choosing between which to put on an existing bike; the Racers reviewed are centerpulls for bikes with no bosses and the TRPs are mini-vs for bikes with canti bosses (and somewhat narrower tires).

      But ignoring all that and focusing purely on braking power: Both brakes stop well for me. The TRP mini-vs provide more power earlier in the game. They also provide a wider "zone" of hard braking toward the end than the Racer's, if that makes any sense.

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  2. I know many who have dumped their cantis and installed linear pull brakes and love them. Also, they can be inexpensive w/o sacrificing power.

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  3. Of course! Design mandating (really expensive) center pulls or (less effective) long reach calipers are vestiges of tradition and have close to zero applicability to a person who has stubbornly resisted them for so long of limited hand strength.

    Cantilevers what the heck.

    The TRP solution isn't cheap; a more cost-effective solution is cheap Avids with a linear pull dongle, as I've mentioned before.

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    1. Looking up the msrp of Avoid sd7s I see $37; I remember paying $17 sale a few years ago.

      Must be supply/demand once everyone finally figured out stopping is good. Now how to go back in time to put them on the bike that ran a stop sign in the rain, thereby installing a nice little divot in my trunk, which I get to look at. Frequently.

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    2. Brake fiasco rant... I've mentioned TRPs a long while back, they do the job but in everyone's rush to find a solution to 'problems' that have existed for a long time in the mountain bike world (tying together some recent posts including the tribes one) TRP seems the beneficiary of youngsters' desire for an integrated, iSolution devoid of simple dongles.

      Must be clean, elegant and modern and really expensive. The MTB world has been using vees for almost 20 years. So I just gotta laugh at the entire situation, whether it's pros dnf-ing due to state of the art tech or whatever.
      /rant off

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    3. Okay, 2 questions:

      Do I need to add $32 for 2 travel agents (you need, 2 right?), or does this model not need them?

      Will the Avid SD7s clear 650Bx42mm tire + fenders?

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    4. I'm seeing $26/pair for sd7s on amazon... You need two Agents but they're that much now?

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    5. They should clear but what do I know? If not you could cut a groove (gasp) or bisect (shudder) the fender.

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    6. I am sure they can be found cheaper than MSRPs (as can the TRPs, esp if not picky about colour). I will have to try the Avids. On the Honey, I expect they wanted to avoid the need for a travel agent.

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    7. Tektro has these: 926AL(Mini-V).

      I have cantis on a bike that wouldn't stop. Kool Stop Salmon Pads have made them nearly good enough, but maybe G-Ted is right and mine are set up wrong.
      http://g-tedproductions.blogspot.jp/2012/10/gravel-bikes-canti-or-disc.html

      I'll try adjusting, but otherwise, cheap mini-v for me!

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    8. Seems like TRP EuroX cantis are ubiquitous in cyclocross. I can't tell if cx folks know a trick to make them work or if they just don't care if the brakes don't stop that well.

      Either way, seems like you have a nice solutions for context of just riding.

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  4. The wet mini-v and dry canti comparison is a good way to put it.

    One thing I love about the TRP 8.4CX's is the ease of set up. There is really nothing to it, none of the canti fiddling, yoke height, toe-in etc. They just work.

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  5. Extremely timely for me and informative, thanks for posting. I ride a cross bike for commuting 70% road/30% dirt+gravel and have been frustrated with the weak stopping power of my cantilevers compared to my other bikes. I understand that canti's are probably the way to go for serious cross racers where mud accumulation is a problem but for the rest of us, linear-pull seems like a much better solution. I'll probably fly over the handle bars the first time I try them on my CX bike.

    Now to figure out the difference between TRP CX8.4 and CX9!

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    1. "Now to figure out the difference between TRP CX8.4 and CX9"

      I think I understand it. The CX9 have a longer arm length (90mm vs 84mm, hence the model names) and work with recent model Shimano levers, whereas the CX8.4 do not (or not as well). Also, I don't think the CX9s include a barrel adjuster like the 8.4s.

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    2. I would recommend the 8.4s regardless of the brake lever. Shimano levers don't pull that much more cable (the older models don't pull any more cable than do Campy / Sram, iirc).

      Tektro (make TRP, if that isn't obvious / hasn't been mentioned) also sell the RX5, which is quite a bit cheaper than the TRP 8.4, and it is an excellent brake, particularly when upgraded with an adjustable noodle arm. (I think it's also a few grams lighter than the 8.4, if that makes any difference to anyone).

      The only issue I have with v-brakes is the tight fender clearance, and for that reason, I run v-brake front, canti rear on my rain commuter / beater bike. That works out pretty well too.
      ~timo

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  6. I like Mini-Vs.

    IMO the Paul Mini-Vs are prettier.

    Far more important than looks are stopping power and ease of use. It is good to see there is more than one player in this segment.

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    1. Must admit that I do not have an eye for prettiness when it comes to brakes and many other components. A brake is a brake to me, a derailleur is a derailleur. The better they work for me, the more I like them. Maybe over time I will develop visual preferences, but at the moment I am just delighted to find stuff that works.

      I like Paul's components, because they are US-made and they tend to work very well for the task. The problem of course is the cost.

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    2. b.s. you've been blinded by many things over these last few years!

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    3. Oh sure. But not really components. Not most components anyway.

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  7. I switched from cantis to the mini-v's on my cross bike this season and OMG THEY ARE AMAZING! they actually stop my bike! and now i can use my cx bike as a winter training bike on wet roads. worth every penny of the upgrade.

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  8. I love the TRP CX8.4 and CX9s; I just put a set of 9s on my dad's Ritchey and the improvement in brake shudder (over the Tektro Oryx cantilevers that the bike previously wore) alone makes it worth it.

    I will admit to a downside, though: with quite a bit less clearance at the rim than cantilevers provide, smaller imperfections in wheel trueness lead to brake rub. Certainly no deal breaker but if you are rough on your wheels, you'll likely have to true them more often.

    -Matt

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  9. I switched from Tektro cantilevers to the TRP CX 8.4 last summer and used them in a dozen cross races. They're easier to adjust, stop better and eliminated fork shudder. I'm never going back to cantis

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  10. "Reassuringly powerful" is how almost all brakes have always felt to me. Only a few won't make the grade after a little bit of fiddling. I just wouldn't leave the house without "reassuringly powerful". You should expect that much.

    It's a hand strength thing.

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  11. Now I'm wailing and gnashing my teeth at the fact these and the Paul equivalent weren't available when I got fed up with the stock Avid Cantis on my Kona and replaced them with the Paul Retro/Touring combination. These V's designed to work with drop bar levers sound like they perform well. No matter how much I fiddled with the stock brakes they were still the second worst I had ever experienced (the worst being the sidepulls on a late 70's Apollo which had chrome plated steel rims!). The Paul replacements were substantially better but still not quite up to the braking power I got from my cantilever equipped mountain bike (Avid Tri-Align front, stock "Coda" - Dia Compe really - rear)

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  12. Almost all my bikes have had drop bars, and I have never been able to set up cantilevers to work powerfully with drop bar levers. New, old, wide, narrow, Mafac singles, Mafac tandems, red pads, black pads -- no damn' good. Until! Until I tried the IRD wide profile ones on the Sam HIllborne I bought from Rivendell -- set up by Rivendell, of course. Those particular brakes are now my benchmark: I judge how well Vs and disks stop and modulate with reference to those IRDs with salmon pads.

    So, upshot, it can be done -- it's just that I, and apparently you, don't know how to do it.

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  13. Reading some of the comments about people switching, etc... I think a big issue here is that the "narrative" on both canti brakes and v-brakes has changed a lot over the past few years.

    3 years ago people were saying that cantis had superior stopping power. I don't know where this idea came from, but I was told it repeatedly. When cantis did not work that well for me, I questioned this and was initially given all kinds of explanations from "yours must not be adjusted right" to "you need better cantis" to "I bet the bosses are brazed on crooked." I was also strongly discouraged from using v-brakes on a bike with drop bars by anyone whom I asked about it. I do not remember the exact explanation now, only that it was a bad idea. Possibly they thought the brakes would be too strong, or the setup inelegant, or the appearance "incorrect" - I no longer remember.

    Point is, something changed along the way and gradually it became okay to admit that cantis don't work all that well, to the point that now it's almost taken as self-evident. Now suddenly v-brakes are okay on a roadbike and the wise thing to have done all along. I suspect the change has to do with an exponential increase in the number of people actually riding roadbikes set up with said brakes. It's good. But it's also funny, when I remember being scolded for questioning the power of cantis. Funny in a frustrating sort of way.

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    1. Four years ago I bought a bike with canti brakes and the salesperson, who rode the same bike, suggested switching to v-brakes. This is not new. Nothing has changed.

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    2. Of course I remember that, especially when I wrote repeatedly, 'any of youse who think cantis stop just a week as discs or vees are crazy.'

      And I will also say, for the umpteenth time, why don't you ever listen to me over a bunch of people with beards longer than Sheldon Brown's?!

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    3. V brakes of decent quality that work with drop bar brake levers are relatively new. I'm used to hearing that cantilever brakes have stopping power that is superior to caliper brakes (but in most situations, a good set of calipers have enough power to lock a road tire on dry pavement anyway) which is why they are used on touring bikes, but I've never heard that they are more powerful than Vs.
      Many say that cantis are "good enough," but I like the control that the V brakes' power gives me when my rear wheel is off of the ground. Usually, this only happens when I'm screwing around, but still...

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    4. It is odd how cantis are so misunderstood, and how their poor stopping performance for a given level of grip and fussy set up are overlooked by a great many cyclists.

      V brakes are simply better--they were even three years ago, but in the interim, plenty of folks got into utility cycling, were taken initially by the aesthetics of traditional equipment, but after three years are more up the learning curve on function.



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    5. I stumbled onto V brakes 4 years ago but not necessarily for the best reason which has to be the stopping power. Rather, when I built up the Rock 'n Road for my cross country tour, Cantis seemed harder to set up and maintain than Motolites.

      Once I started using them, I was sold. Stopping power, modulation, and yes, easy maintenance made them the perfect brake for my trip.

      Lucky you have not succumbed to the parts luv disease. I would have used Motolites on all my builds since but for the fact they are kind of homely. You can bet I have something planned for the Mini-Vees.

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  14. I think ultimately the only solution will be hydraulic disc brakes. I have them on a 29er and I can't wait until the cost comes down for the integrated brake/shift levers for cross bikes and road bikes. The wet/dirt braking power is phenomenal and finger tip control, so you would not have any grip strength issues.

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  15. I switched from my first bike in many years (a hybrid with mountain gearing and v-brakes) to a Long Haul Trucker 2 years ago. The one feature I didn't like when I test-rode the LHT was the cantilever brakes, which with my weak hands barely stopped the bike on a maybe 4% downhill grade.

    I had test-ridden an Atlantis before deciding my budget didn't extend that high, and Rivendell had discouraged me from v-brakes: "They don't modulate as well." I knew I didn't want modulation, I wanted stopping. My wonderful LBS switched out the LHT's cantis for some v-brakes, and I was very happy with the LHT (until I wasn't anymore). I was able to descend mountains as slowly as I wanted -- which meant I was able to increase my speed on descents, since I was confident that I'd be able to stop.

    I had a bad crash last spring, and I don't think I would have been able to get back on a bike if I had cantis, if I could modulate but not stop.

    I've upgraded from the LHT -- as my rides grew longer, its poor fit became more of a problem. My newest bike is a custom, roadish bike. I told the bike shop, "I spend randonneur kinds of hours on my bike, even if I'm not fast enough for randonneur kinds of mileage." I wasn't about to give up my v-brakes, though this time I have mini-v-brakes, because I want to be able to switch to STIs if I ever get strong enough to give up my mountain gearing.

    Hurray for brakes I can trust! They let me go up mountains!

    Teacher lady.

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  16. I've had brake judder with every type of brake. Much as I remain faithful to cantis I'll admit it's more common with them. But the problem is not always the brake. After you've eliminated obvious problems with pads start looking lower down. Look at the axle. Is it sitting in the fork just the way it should? Is it bent? Locknut presenting a square flat face to a square flat surface on in-plane parallel dropouts?

    Then check your wheel. Lateral runout and hop you look at by spinning the wheel and everybody does that. Is the wheel centred? If it's not the brakes will judder. Fashionable stickers and high price tags do not mean your wheel is centred. Quality control is just not there on this one. (Except Campy. Maybe a few others.) Put a dishing tool on it. Plenty of high-end wheels are .020 or more out and shopbuilts are just silly. I see shopbuilts that are straighter and more uniformly tensioned than I've ever managed but my wheels still ride better because I use my dishing tool.

    Then check fork alignment. The bike probably needs it anyway. When you're done with all this the brakes might still judder. If you've done all this your bike rides better and the brake problem is probably the brakes. If you just expect and imagine that all this is perfect on your bike already I have a portfolio of bridges available for sale.

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  17. Cantilevers aren't bad. For large tires and fenders they have the best clearance, next to disc brakes.

    A lot of the braking efficiency has to do with the brake pads and the condition of the rims.

    One drawback of v-brakes is that they move less for a given movement of the brake lever; so you have to set them up closer to the rim. For that reason I find it easier to set up cantilever brakes.

    But let's face it, they all slow down the bike well enough don't they? I've never crashed into something because of inadequate brakes.

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    1. Well returning from a trip just now with about 330lbs. Of total load going down a 15% hill I was reminded of your comment, which made me laugh so thanks for that.

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    2. 330 lbs. of load plus bike/truck plus rider? Yeah for a 2 wheel truck like that on a 15% grade you might want special brakes. And the proprietor here with the hand problems needs special brakes. Ordinary people doing ordinary things on ordinary bikes do just fine with ordinary brakes. There's a point where the pursuit of ever more fantastical equipage tells me something is wrong. People who "need" this stuff who aren't doing the things you do, they don't know how to operate a bike. They should learn technique and maintenance and stop buying product. Their problems will not be solved by product.

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    3. Anon - You cannot make that kind of conclusion for other people. I know plenty of cyclists, particularly women, who cannot use cantis despite not having distinct hand problems and despite not operating a loaded cargo bike downhill. Please watch the moderating rules.

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    4. I'm all about technique and maintenance but anon is conflating his experience with all, which of course isn't accurate.

      I've ridden in SF for decades (how I'm still alive I wonder); one can not have enough brakes for many of the hills there, even when I was on my 17lb. bike.

      Sightlines are always poor, people back out of driveways and simply can not see. I can't tell you the number of stoppies, very rapid veering into the oncoming lane, and curb hopping sidewalk riding to avoid becoming a statistic.

      To each their own, but environment, weather, speed and riding style, strength determine braking efficiency. It is certainly not an absolute quantity.

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    5. To clarify 330lbs. of load = total rider/cargo/bike. I tried front brake only (vees with salmons) not so good.

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    6. Jim

      I've worked a few months in SF on a bike. If I get to include rider weight sure I've done 330#. Learning curve coming from Chicago was zero. It's a bike ride. With your hills I was not able to sling the ladder over my right shoulder, no other changes.

      My rig for SF was a '69 Raleigh Competition, Claud Butler/Karrimor rack, oversize AC Sologne panniers, Weinmann 610 caliper on the front wheel and a fixed cog at the rear. 42x22 did the Peninsula and 42x24 for the City. Yes, 24 exists. Mine was a TDC, 50 pence.

      I was young. No way would I try it now. If I made any effort at all now I'd use a rig much as you've described. Though it would likely be the Record OR cantis moved to yet one more frame.

      The one mechanical I had was a car out of drive, just as you have it, and I twisted a Cinelli 1/A stem. Hadn't known that was possible on a single. At the time the problem was 'fixed' with a steel stem but in retrospect the twisted stem was telling me I was right at the limit of the shenanigans you can pull on a conventional single. Braking power was never close to an issue.

      I have a lot of faith in riders and their native intelligence. They figure stuff out. They amaze me. If you instruct them the way to address their issues is dollars and new bike parts and they believe you they will not make the effort to figure it out.

      Every mechanic I've ever wanted to know has done his best work creating solutions for riders determined to ride who had physical limitations. I've never seen a mechanic quit on a determined rider. If the solution is tandem brakes or downhill brakes or something that never existed before on a single, fine with me.

      Our hostess has made a suggestion and I will take the hint. I'm out. Enjoy your ride.

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    7. Canti brakes are polarizing, aren't they?

      Mini-Vs have more curb appeal IMO.

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  18. On my Surly Cross Check, the V-brakes and Tektro pads were not adequate. I switched the pads to Kool Stop salmons and it improved my stopping power substantially. However, on a 15 degree grade descent, they still are not totally adequate near the bottom. I often see cross bikes with mechanical disc brakes these days [like on Salsa]. Thanks for the mini canti info.

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  19. i have IRD Cafam cantis on my Atlantis. im able to lock up with one finge,r something i could not do with Tektro Oryx or modern Shimano cantis

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  20. Those were the brakes on the Sam Hillborne I bought from Rivendell -- they set them up properly, and with Kool Stop salmons they were the best brakes I've ever used: excellent power and excellent modulation. I've never got a vast number of other makes of cantis to work anywhere near as well.

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  21. I've just installed a cheap pair of mini-v brakes (Genetic) on a bike that I just couldn't get cantis to work properly on.
    Here is my mini review:

    Setup
    Genetic mini-v, Mavic T261 rim (like A319), Tektro RL340 levers, Genetic pads (came with brake)

    1, Brakes do not move as far so less tolerance for rim out of true. Not a problem if you have good rims and a spoke key to keep things lined up.

    2, Brakes easy to center, adjustment very obvious.

    3, Clearance for Schwalbe Marathon 37-622 tyres with mudguards, but not a lot else. These tyres tend to be high rather than wide so a wider but more supple tyre might fit.

    4, Brake levers feel spongy, very different from cantis.

    5, SO MUCH BRAKING POWER. Way more than any of the canti/pad combinations I've tried on that bike before. Not difficult to modulate in practice.

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  22. Thanks for the post. I'm currently on the market for a new frame, as you already know, not a lot of bikes designed for caliper brakes have sufficient clearance for a 32-ish tire and a fender. I'm thinking about TRP cx9 brakes, and I would like to run a 45mm velo orange full fender, do you think these would clear the fender?. I've never used cantis, but coming from a brakeless track bike, I now value stopping power a lot.

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