Wednesday, January 28, 2009

eecycle works eebrake

This is a review of the eecycle works eebrake
These are Craig Edward's latest creation, the eebrake. Craig was originally known for his "Sweet Wings" cranks that came out during the early '90's. They were superlight cro-mo cranks that featured an integrated bb design that has since been copied (incidentally, he is also working on a new and lighter crank due later this year). His manufacturing and design talent can now be found in these stunning new brakes.

* Cost: $519 MSRP (without brake pads)
* Unique industrial design
* Exclusiveness; different
* Excellent performance
* Made in the USA
* Light weight: 162 grams (pair) without pads; 182 grams with Dura Ace pads
* Very easy to change out brake pads (for those that have alloy trainers and carbon racers)
* Adjustable reach to fit many bikes


Unfortunately, the brakes didn't come with pads so I purchased a Dura Ace set. Installing the pads was incredibly easy; the holders have wide tolerances that make it easy to slip the new pad in--which you do at an angle. You then pivot the rear section down and snap them in to place. The holders have a "no-screw" feature that makes it easy to install or replace. Yet the pads definitely feel secure. These brakes would be ideal for folks that like to switch between training wheels with alloy braking surfaces and carbon rims for racing.
The rest of the documentation was a bit daunting but proved easy once the front set was installed. The major hurdle is you need to remove a retaining nut to free up a the bolt that fits into the fork or rear stay. The retaining bolt features an eccentric design that allows you to pivot the bolt up or down, extending the "drop" of the brake if needed. It also allows fine-tuning for out of true wheels. Luckily I didn't have to remove too many links from my Nokon cables (PIA alert) to fit these brakes in place of my Zero Gravity Ti's.

Dialing in the brake pads was on par with any other brake set, and the cable length was easily adjusted (though different) with the large barrel adjuster.

Thanks to Zero Gravity, who really disrupted the space about 5 years ago, there is now a lot of innovation and choice with brakes, ranging from the ultra expensive to some great stand-byes.

On my scale, the eebrakes weighed 164 grams without pads and 184 grams with. For comparison, my Zero Gravity Ti's were 2 grams heavier. Below are actual weights for these two along with MSRPs and claimed weights (pads included) for other brakes that folks may be considering. (Note: Zero Gravity produces excellent products and has fantastic customer service. I fully support their products. Additionally, I own Zero Gravity Ti, Negative Gravity Ti, and Mavic SSC brakes).

Brake MSRP Weight $/gram
* AX-Lightness Orion $1,600 144 $11.11
* M5 $ 740 202 $ 3.66
* eebrake $ 519 184 $ 2.82
* Zero Gravity Ti $ 430 186 $ 2.31
* Negative Gravity Ti $ 400 230 $ 1.74
* Dura Ace 7900 $ 440 284 $ 1.55
* SRAM Red $ 295 265 $ 1.11
* Campy Record Skeleton $ 300 275 $ 1.09
* Dura Ace 7800 $ 235 314 $ 0.75
* Mavic SSC $ 190 310 $ 0.61

As you can see, the eebrakes are toward the upper end of $/gram. This being said, Shimano 7900 is certainly raising the price bar on "mass produced" brakes. And if you are paying $440 for Dura Ace, suddenly $100 more doesn't seem so far out of the question.

I think the closest comparison to the eebrake is the Zero Gravity Ti. Zero Gravs have stood the test of time with great industrial design, incredible light weight, and very good stopping performance. How would the eebrake compare?
From my testing, the eebrake provides superior braking performance (much stronger braking), good modulation, and a slight decrease in weight. They also have a much stronger return spring; the return spring helps "snap" the brake lever back into place and creates a very stable and secure feel. This feature would be very useful with TT brake levers that rely on cable tension versus return spring. And, as stated, braking performance was excellent.

What's truly amazing, though, is that despite it's 5-pivot design, there was no flex or "slop" in the brake. I find this incredible because each pivot should introduce some degree of "play". Yet there was none with this remarkable brake set.

These brakes do their functional job extremely well; I don't think there really is a set of better stoppers out there. This being said, this brake isn't for everyone. They are very expensive. And they have a polarizing look; some may think it's ugly, others might think they are beautiful. As my friend said, "They aren't brakes. They are artwork"--I couldn't agree more.
On my carbon Cervelo R3, I found these brakes to look a bit out of place; something so classy and mechanical on a modern black carbon frame. Where these brakes would truly be at home is on a classic lightweight steel or Ti frame--Schwinn Paramount, Indy Fab, Colnago, Moots, or Cervelo Prodigy. It would be outstanding to see these calipers on the latest Reynolds 953 steel frames.

These brakes offer outstanding performance, a unique look, and exclusivity--but at a price.
If you are lucky enough to afford components in this price range, the eebrake is a compelling choice.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fizik Antares Saddle

Fizik Antares Saddle

  • Cost: $199 MSRP

  • Comfortable yet very light weight

  • Natural Leather Seat Cover

  • Made in Italy

  • ICS bag compatible

  • Weight: Claimed 175 grams. Actual: 177.

This is a review of the Fizik's latest saddle, the Antares.
It's supposed to be the "third dimension" between Fizik's excellent Airone and Aliante. I'm not sure what the third dimension really means but what I discovered that it's really a comfortable alternative to minimalist saddles like the Selle Italia SLR.

I decided to compare the Antares not only to it's brethren but also to the
Selle Italia SLR. Here's how they measured up:

  • Antares: Width: 140mm, Length: 275mm, 177 Grams

  • Aliante: Width: 135mm, Length: 265mm, 215 Grams

  • Airione: Width: 128mm, Length: 302mm, 241 Grams

  • SLR: Width: 125mm, Length: 275mm, 135 Grams

Comparing the saddles

My first experience with Fizik saddles was the Airone. It's a great
looking saddle that is much longer (25mm more than the Antares and SLR) than
most saddles. I suppose this is to give you more freedom to move for/aft for
spinning or pushing big gear. But despite it being the narrowest of the four--and with it's built in "wing flex", I've found that this saddle hits in the wrong places and is actually a bit of a disappointment; I tend to "get numb" when riding this saddle, especially when on the trainer. Lastly, the Airone isn't ICS compatible. ICS is Fizik's built-in adapter that allows you to clip in Fizik brand accessories like saddle bags and lights. The other two models are
ICS compatible.

I purchased the Aliante about 9 months ago -- and found it to be the
absolutely most comfortable saddle I've ever tried. I believe the secret to the
Aliante's comfort is its suspension; the seat is suspended like a hammock.
Notice the gold mesh in the picture above; it's essentially a fabric weave that
allows floatation. The Airone and Antares have more traditional carbon shells
(as does the SLR). The Aliante is supremely comfortable whether pushed back
against the upraised back or pushed forward on the padded nose. With the Aliante, it feels like you sit "in" the saddle versus being perched "on" it. I can't say enough great things about the Aliante.

So how would the Antares fair? Oddly, the Antares is the widest of the
bunch and slightly longer than the Aliante. It has a much slimmer profile and
weighs a very respectable 177 grams (there is a carbon railed version with a
claimed weight of 145 grams that costs $30 more). At first look, I thought it
would mimic the feel of the Selle Italia SLR: ridable but not exactly
comfortable. Amazingly, the Antares was fantastic. Despite it's slim profile,
the padding is dense yet comfortable and it's width fully supports your sit
bones. As with the Aliante, it was comfortable sitting toward the rear yet still
offered enough padding in the nose for spinning up hills. The saddle was very
comfortable over a 40+ mile ride, something I could never say about the Selle
Italia SLR. I'm looking forward to trying this on my tri bike--as I the nose has
more extension than the Aliante while also offering enough cushion for forward
position aero-bar riding.

Overall, I still think the Aliante is the most comfortable road bike
saddle--ever. The Antares is my second favorite saddle -- a lightweight
alternative for the weight weenie crowd that might even prove to be a good
solution for triathlons and time trials. I'll update this review when I've spent
some time on the tri bike with it.