I’ve got issues. If you’ve read any of my writing, this is no surprise.  😉 Three of my biggest issues with a lot of recumbents are:

  • Poor braking.
  • Lack of rigidity.
  • Loose seats.

I have a feeling that there are a lot of bent riders out there who will never truly feel in control of their bikes due to one or more of these issues.This makes it hard to hold a nice straight line, descend smoothly, or feel comfortable at speed in tight traffic.

This article is about the braking thing. I am talking here about Bacchetta Dual Pivot and X-Eyed Brake Calipers, but a lot of this is applicable to all braking systems.

A lot of customers ask me about the differences between Bacchetta Dual Pivot and X-Eyed Brake Calipers, so lets start there

Big pluses of the X-Eyed binders:

  • Light! Over 100g lighter for the pair.
  • Stiff!
  • Much higher quality bearings, that come well adjusted out of the box.
  • Much more functional and durable spring followers.
  • Easy to adjust toe.
  • Low aero profile.

Many of these mean a lot less maintenance. You set them up right and they stay that way. I’ve got crust and goop from 2 full brevet series, RAAM, and several Sepulveda Roubaixs on mine, and they feel smooth as ever. So if your braking power was good initially, and gets worse as they get dirty, these will be more powerful. Yeah, I need to clean mine one of these days…..

However, stopping power is a bigger function of the installation and the other components in the system. I have worked on dozens of Dual Pivot Bacchetta brakes. With some work, all of them became part of extremely powerful braking systems. If you take some measurements of the Bacchetta Dual Pivot, and compare the measurements with Ultegra or Dura-Ace (pronounced Durachi) you might get a big surprise. They are very very similar! So, clearly, the geometry has potential.

Both brakes can be set up to be very powerful with:

  • High quality cables.
  • Intelligent routing of the cables (there are over a dozen pitfalls possible here).
  • Stiff levers and lever bodies.
  • Correct lever location relative to hand location and squeeze direction.
  • Correct attention to hand size and strength.
  • Correct leverage adjustment (on some levers).

I will say this about the X-Eyed calipers: On wider rims, like the new 23.6mm wide HED C2 extrusions, you will have to run modified, or worn, pads to achieve a very powerful brake set up. I know Bacchetta is working on this, and I hope Feather is too. The latest trend in road rims is wiiiide. The Dual Pivots fare better with wide rims.

I have tried some other exotic brakes, but so far the X-eyed is my hands down favorite. I put something else on to test for a bit, and am always happy when I can put the X-Eyed back on.

Now for some general tricks that can make or break any braking system, even with a good caliper:

  • Run the rear cable outside of the hole in the seat clamp, especially if you have the seat farther back. Housing constriction near the caliper is a no no.
  • Most of the pivots on the Dual Pivot are overly tight. To get good braking you will have to tolerate a bit of slop in the brake bearings (bushings in this case) to reduce friction. This is one of the first things I adjust when I am attacking a set of these.
  • Put a drop of oil on everything that moves against anything else: brake bushings, spring stops, spring followers, spring coils if the touch each other, lever pivots, cable end cradle pivot, cable end in cradle.
  • On the X-Eyed, make sure that the front brake cable housing is held vertically under the brake, as the housing stop on the brake will not hold it vertical, and if its not vertical the first part of every pull on the lever will allow the inner wire to slowly put a groove in the red roller rocker  that the housing stop sits in.
  • I have seen overly tight bend radii in the cable housing on new bikes. This adds friction. Friction is very bad. No friction.
  • I’ve seen some really kinked inner cables on new bikes. Kinks are bad. No kinks. Kinks mean friction. See previous.
  • I have seen overly short housing runs on new bikes, so short that when you release the lever, the housing end comes out on or more housing stops in the path. This is a no no. If part of your hand squeeze goes to seating the housing, you are behind the eight ball already. 
  • Realize that moving your pads away from the pivot (usually called lowering them) results in reduced leverage! So, only buy a frame with as much tire clearance as you need. The farther the brake fixing bolt is from the rim, the less leverage. This applies to every caliper brake I can think of, but not to cantis, U, V, or X(scissor) brakes.
  • Your hands are stronger the more clenched they are.
  • On tweener or U bars, keep in mind that you are pulling aft on a lever that wants to pivot upward. Mount levers as close to actual hand position as possible.
  • Make sure you pads and pad holders do not come in contact with the frame during their travel, statically, or dynamically (when the arms are flexed one way under hard braking). 
  • The Dual Pivot used to come with these little plastic sleeves between the spring and the follower cast into the caliper arm. These either wear and fall off, crack and fall off, or just fall off. The new brass sleeve is a big improvement, and can be retrofitted. 
  • With the proper ferules, shift housing can be used for brakes, its a lot less compressible, but not as flexible, so beware small bend radii.

With a well designed and installed brake system, there is no reason that recumbent brakes can’t feel just as snappy and powerful as the ones on top end road bikes, it just takes some attention to the details!

One Comment

  1. I just ordered a new 2012 700C Corsa. I had heard they are installing the X-eyed as standard, but I am waiting on word about that. My current Corsa (2009) has the standard brakes and I can attest to everything you said. The back brake is really lacking especially at speed coming into a corner. It is really too late to apply them to stop. I have crashed twice into corners when I thought the brakes would help and they seemed to fade away rather quickly. So, now I don't come into the corners nearly as hard or as fast. The front brake seems to work well, but it too lacks in power and response. I keep my rims and brakes clean as possible but you know how that goes.
    When I get the 2012 it will have the X-eyed and if I have to pay $200 extra, so be it. I may come back and tell you about it!
    Kerry in Tucson AZ. 2009 Corsa Black.

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