Editor’s note: This product review by Adam Lipinski first appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #56, published in February 1997, back when V-brakes were all the rage.
Welcome to the Dirt Rag V-Brake Clone Linear Pull Plus Shoo Tout. This test consists of the Curve Jaws II FS, Hershey Longneck Billet, Paul Motolite, Shimano XTR V-Brake, the Control side-pull brake by Control Tech and the Magura HS-22 Classic, which was included simply because we liked it. All the stoppers were activated by a Curve/Tektro long-pull lever and we used Ritchey pads whenever possible.
Curve Jaws II FS
This test brake came in the ever-so-popular canary yellow powder coating, which, toward the end of the test, began to chip off in small pieces around the brake arm where the brake pad connects. The Curve’s pad adjustment was a breeze, just be sure to get the bolts tight or you may find the pads moving out of position. For my hundred bucks, I would have liked to have seen aluminum spring adjustment nuts, although the hard plastic does shave some weight from the brake. The Curve’s long solid Magnesium arms produced very strong power and great modulation when properly adjusted. One must give a little extra care to using the proper size wrenches to avoid stripping any of the hardware, especially the spring adjustments. Keep the pivots clean and greased and keep things tight, and the Curve will respond with well-modulated, consistent braking.
Weight: 191 grams with Ritchey pads. Price: $119 per wheel, includes Ritchey pads.
Hershey Longneck Billet
The Hershey Longneck was a favorite when it came down to craftsmanship and construction. A small hole drilled in the one arm for the extra cable end was a nice touch, as it kept the cable out of the way without bending it in multiple directions. There was no slop in the bushings, and the abundance of seals kept the internals clean. Hershey’s dedication to detail was prevalent in this brake, every aspect of construction was beautifully executed. Its performance was also on par with its craftsmanship. It had simple and effective pad adjustment, and the power and modulation were top notch. The Hershey’s magnificently machined arms, its precision bushings and hardware all contributed to its smooth, light and powerful feel.
Weight: 183 grams with Ritchey pads. Price: Not sure.
Paul Component Engineering Motolite
Paul, like Hershey, spent much time on small details that can make a good brake great. All of the Paul’s bushings, seals, hardware, arms, cable housing/noodle connections, etc. are constructed with high quality materials and precision machining or tooling. It even comes with titanium eyebolts and anchor bolts. Now that’s class. The performance is as impressive as the quality of the brake. They stop the bike with a smooth pull of the lever—and while the brake felt relatively soft at the lever, it would still easily lock up the front wheel.
Weight: 166 grams with Ritchey pads. Price: $125 includes Kool Stop pads. The MC Version, which is 30 grams heavier, due to lack of Ti hardware, is available for $90-95.
Shimano XTR V-Brake
What’s left to be said about this well-priced, powerful, noisy, high maintenance, super leader of the V-brake revolution? While the others tend to keep it simple, Shimano’s exclusive Parallel Push mechanism keeps the pads hitting the rim straight on, all the time, which gives them an extra edge when it comes to raw power. Many an inexperienced rider has been thrown over the bars with these.
A common complaint is the short pad life and sloppy pivots. The pivots must be kept clean and tight, via shim kits available from Shimano. The shims go on the pivot between the pad bracket and the brake arm. The process is easy but must be done to keep the pivots tight and the pads somewhat quiet. The brakes require more pad replacement, pivot service, rim cleaning and more technical set up than most. However, your time spent on maintenance will be returned in the form of pure stopping satisfaction.
Weight: 188 grams with Shimano pads. Price: $78.
Control Tech Control side-pull cantilever
The Control Tech brake is the lightest in the test, weighing in at 158 grams with Kool Stop pads. While being the lightest, they give up nothing in the area of stiffness. The Control’s machined box section arms keep flex to a minimum. They also use threaded post brake pads which resist flex better than standard post pads. The threaded post pads also reduce brake pad options when they need to be replaced. The set-up was simple and easy to adjust. Simply position the pads and tighten single the 10 mm nut. The brakes also use a linear return spring instead of the usual coil spring, reducing weight and allowing more precise adjustment.
Another cool aspect of the Control Techs is their lack of a cable noodle. The cable housing runs directly into the bail. The noodle usually found on this type of brake may provide a better cable run, but this way seems cleaner and simpler.
Control Tech offers some of the smoothest and most satisfying action and modulation of all the brakes tested.
Weight: 158 grams with Kool Stop pads. Price: around $85.
Magura HS-22 Classic
The next brake is, for me, the standard to which all other brakes should be compared. The Magura HS-22 Classic brakeset (the “Plus” referred to in this article’s title) is sold in sets containing one or two wheels worth of equipment. Everything you need to stop comes in the kit: brake lever, hydraulic line, calipers, pads, quick release, extra fluid and bleed kit. Set up can be tedious the first time, but the second wheel should be easy. Once set up the only adjustment is a single Allen screw, located in the brake lever, to position the brake pads as they wear. Pad replacement on the Magura takes at least a grueling 10 seconds. With the wheel removed, simply pop off the old pad, snap in a new one. Pads are available in a multitude of choices, from hard, dry-weather compound to a soft, wet-condition compound.
As for the power, only the XTR can compare. The Magura is strong and consistent in all conditions. They even give you some limited stopping power with ice-caked rims that you won’t get with any other rim-activated brake.
On the other hand, the Magura’s don’t have a lot of modulation. They can, and will, put you down if you get a little hamfisted. The only other arguable drawback is their weight. At about 413 grams per wheel, including lever and brake line, they are on the heavy side, but I feel they’re worth the extra grams. Consistent powerful braking, to me, is a better choice than the lightweight temperamental alternative.
Price: $225 a pair, $117.50 for a single wheel.
All of these brakes are worthy stoppers. Forget cantilevers, they’re gone. But some of the brakes shine in different categories than others. The Curve is strong and super easy to set up. Ideal for a rider looking for a powerful brake in Judy yellow or red. The Hershey and the Paul are both great choices for a rider who is in search of the coolest design which still delivers functional, strong braking. The Shimano is just plain strong. It is ideal for a rider who wants tons of power and light weight regardless of maintenance. The Magura is consistent and strong in all circumstances, plus has almost no maintenance. Perfect for someone seeking great braking, who does not mind a little extra weight. The Control Tech offers superb braking, set up, maintenance and is the most weight conscious of all the brakes.
Note: if you don’t want to spend upwards of $85 a wheel for killer brakes, check out the lower-priced XT and LX models from Shimano. They work well.
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