Crazy Cheap Disc Brakes = Junk

Well I did it again, I bought some stupid cheap bike junk online and paid for it.  I needed a new mountain bike brake when the rear Hayes disc failed recently.  While searching for a new disc brake online I came across a deal on Amazon that seemed impossible to beat.  Calipers, levers, rotors, and cables and all associated hardware for 27 bucks.

The levers and calipers came in a slick white color, and from the pictures they looked pretty nice.  I knew they were were cheap knockoffs of Avid BB5s; they have single side pad adjustment and use BB5 pads, but I figured how can they mess up a simple cable disc brake?


Installing these was pretty nice, they come all set up on brackets and ready to go.  I installed the rear caliper and did a few runs to “break in” the pads.  Soon I was stopping with mild authority.

Sunday we hit The Back Nine for some excellent Shawnee style trail riding, which is to say rough and dirty.  The new rear brake was a bit wimpy at first but after a few downhills it had easy wheel locking power to spare.  I bragged to everyone about my awesome new 27 dollar brakes.


Right before the halfway point of 7 miles I grabbed for some rear brake and felt “POP” in the lever.  My rear brake was gone.  I held everyone up for the next 15 minutes while I tried to figure what happened.  My cable hadn’t slipped, the actual calipers weren’t working.  When the brake arm was halfway through it’s travel the caliper piston would snap from being halfway engaged back to zero.  It was impossible to get any rear brake no matter how I adjusted it.

For the next 8 miles I rode with just the front brake.  This isn’t really a big deal, I’ve done it before, it just means that I had to take it extra easy on the downhills and switchbacks.  Bummer.

Luckily Amazon’s policy means I can return it for free.  I decided to bite the bullet and buy a brand new set of Avid BB7s. I’ve never really used an expensive disc brake, I had some cheap hydraulic Maguras for a long time that worked fine, and a cheap Shimano hydraulic which is currently on the front of my bike.  It Stops the bike, but it’s never felt that great.  I did have a set of very old BB7 that I bought used and gave away awhile back.  When they had good cables they were just as good as any other brake I’ve used.

So again, my friends, there are sweet deals to be had, but you often get what you pay for.

In some better news this weekend’s mountain bike ride was the first ride I’ve been on in a weeks where I felt good.  I had lots of energy and at least until my brake failed I was handling the bike pretty well.  I was also climbing far better than I have been.

About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Mountain BIking, Rants, Reviews, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Crazy Cheap Disc Brakes = Junk

  1. D D E says:

    Matt – keep articles coming. Interesting reading. My family has been town and trail riding this last month, not on your level, but having a good time. Why do bike tires not consistently hold air from ride to ride? I assume airing tires each ride is required for everyone. Growing up riding bikes, I do not recall the necessity of doing so every time I jumped on. Frustrating airing 4 or 5 bikes every ride. Most of our tires have a psi variation of 50 – 85 or 40 – 65. My tendency is to set toward upper end for weight and longer air retention. Thoughts? Danny

    • Matt Gholson says:

      THANKS! Glad to see you enjoy and thanks for the question.

      Bike tires have higher pressure at low volume so it doesn’t take losing very much air to cause a change. Also tubes are way thinner then a car tire. Your tires loose around 20% of their pressure more quickly because Nitrogen makes up about 80 percent of air and is a much larger molecule and therefore doesn’t slip through the tube.

      My road bike tires are almost always around 75 when I air them up and I usually air them up to about 110 . On my mountain bike I go for 35 usually but I often only air them up every few weeks because lower pressure is better on the trails I ride.

      As far as pressure goes there are trade offs. Too low and you can have pinch flats, and bad handling. Too high and you have a rough ride and bad handling. I usually go for the recommended pressure on the tire for road and light trail. For rough trail I try to go as low as I can without causing flats which is usually around 35 for the rear and 30 for the front.

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