COACH ROBERT’S Picks–
When I did my last blog post on ‘Robert’s Pick’s’, it focused on winter apparel and the best items (in my opinion) that have worked the best for me over the years. I had no idea the amount of responses I would get you but they exploded from calls, texts, emails, Facebook, etc. WOW!!!
The biggest comments were folks trying to order the RavX gloves, only to find out they were on backorder. Hmmm, wouldn’t that be cool if my blog post caused them to sell out. Hey, one can dream, right? Needless to say, that post was a huge success and I still receive thanks from folks I see at different rides.
Well, I’m at it again but this time it’s about a component on your bikes: your brakes. By design, I stay very neutral in all regards, so that when I get requests for my recommendation, having no allegiance to any one manufacturer, accessory, etc. With that said, I have been SO impressed with my newest addition to my 2015 Cannondale Hi-Mod EVO and my 2013 Cannondale CAAD 10, that I just HAD to share.
To start off the conversation, there seems to be sort of an unofficial formula when it comes to buying carbon accessories vs. other materials. If you know anything about carbon parts, you know that a really good lightweight carbon stem could easily cost you $300+. However, when you compare the same stem specs but change to a high quality aluminum (e.g. Thomson– my favorite BTW), the price can be as much as half of what its carbon competitor. Also, the weight savings on the carbon vs. the aluminum generally is about 1 oz or less. The unofficial formula floating out there seems to be $100+/- per ounce if you elect to pull the trigger on the carbon option. Remember this formula as I share my brake phenomena.
As I was getting my EVO frame/fork painted, it was the first time I had the chance to really deck out a bike with the color that has become my branding (on purpose)…..YELLOW!!! Hey, the more the better…to a point but I DO love my yellow. When I was about to order my new 11-speed groupo, I remembered some guys I rode with several years ago, talking about Zero Gravity brakes. For whatever reason, that popped in my mind, so I went into my research mode. To my surprise, after reading a review about the brakes, it included the owner’s (Ted Camillo) cell number. Heck, I grabbed my cell and dialed away. To my surprise, Ted answered and I unloaded all the questions I had written down. He answered every one to my satisfaction and after learning he passed by my exit of I-85 every week, we even set up a meeting so I could actually see his latest version of his brakes, called the Micro.
We met and talked for over an hour. It doesn’t take a genius to realize very quickly that this guy eats,
drinks, sleeps design and innovation; he is passionate about what he does. Oh, I brought my Dura ace brakeset with me to compare to his Micro set. Without a scale, it was a no-brainer that just one Dura ace caliber felt heavier than BOTH Micro calibers. My brain was having a hard time computing that. Long story short, I placed my order on the spot for both bikes and couldn’t wait. For you gram weenies (and I am one of them) the Micro set weighs 150 grams…less than half of my Ultegra and Dura ace brake sets. YES< that means I was going to save over HALF A POUND of weight for each bike. Oh yeh!!! The cost? $299 each.
By the way, I didn’t switch to Micro brakes just for the weight savings, but I also switched for braking power that I have never experienced before. To better grasp this, you need to know ‘how’ I ride…especially on descents. I used to race motorcycles at speeds of 200 mph. I use to lean off at speeds in excess of 150mph, dragging my knees through high speed turns without flinching. When I started riding bicycles, I attacked my first descent and haven’t changed since. For a overwhelming visual, watch these videos of me descending all 6 GAPS in N. Ga…and I promise you the only reason I wasn’t going faster, was that I ran out of gears. Scroll down the page and you’ll see the descent videos listed. Get ready cuz you are gonna get blown away (pun intended)!!!
Now that you have seen my very aggressive riding style (especially descending), I put the Micro brakes to the ultimate test on their maiden voyage when I rode the Hincapie Gran Fondo November 2014. The Skyuka descent is THE most technical and most difficult descent I’ve ever done…now THAT’S saying something…especially if you watched my descent videos. I’ve ridden the Gran Fondo before so I knew what to expect. Not only did I ride my Zipp 404 carbon wheelset. I descending faster last year than I did in 2013. Without a doubt, the braking with the Micro brakes was far superior than my first encounter with Skyuka the year before using Dura ace brakes. Because I gained confidence that these brakes provided quicker response time vs Dura ace, I started to attack the turns just a bit more by ‘late braking’. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous braking SO late but the more tight, steep turns I went through, the more confidence I felt. To literally say I pushed every single descending turn over the 82 miles, to my absolute limit, is a big understatement. Nobody passed me. Nobody even came close to catching me. Trust me, I had quite a few try. No way I could have descended like that with my Dura ace set; I already tried the year before.
Now, remember I said to keep that unofficial formula in your mind? Well, now let’s compare these brakes to see how it works out. The carbon stem option above cost you $100 an ounce (trust me, I’ve done the research). If you take that same formula, then $100 x 8 ounces = $800; that means by the same sliding scale, that folks who buy those lightweight stems, would pay an extra $800+/- to save 8 ounces on the Micro brakeset, right? But, the pair only costs $299, which means you are now paying $37.37 per ounce to save the 8 ounces. Oh, I actually prefer to say ‘half a pound’, as it sounds like a whole lot more. $37.37 is a heck of a lot less than $100+/-, don’t you think? To me, it was a no-brainer and was even less, if you take into account what I would have paid to add the Dura ace brakeset to my groupo.
OK, let’s talk customer service. I quickly learned that in the recent past, there were problems with folks getting their new brakes, as well as others having issues with the brakes not working once installed. Before I lend my name and reputation to anything, I peel back all the layers, in order to know as much as possible; the last thing I need is to be blind-sided with negative comments regarding a recommendation, etc. After talking with Ted at length, I learned that his business grew like crazy, so he hired many employees to help with manufacturing. After a few months, he noticed serious quality issues and eventually cleaned house and let them all go. They were putting out brakes that didn’t measure up but he realized that countless pairs went out the door that were not 100%. Now, he is doing 100% of all manufacturing, to ensure every set is dead on perfect. That solved the manufacturing issue.
Next, was the lengthy time it took to respond to customer inquiries, complaints, etc. He explained that taking his total focus off of customer service, just to get the manufacturing back up to par, created a back log that just kept building up. After some time, he now assures me his customer response time is within a couple of days, which is quite reasonable…especially for a someone who is doing everything. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to do this Blog for a while, but I purposefully waited until his customer response was all caught up, as well as manufacturing.
Third, let’s address folks complaining that their brakes didn’t work once installed. Bike shop mechanics seemed to approach Micro brakes, just like any other brake caliber, not realizing the install and setup for these brakes is very precise. If not followed exactly to instructions, then the brakes won’t function as designed; a cyclist would benefit from the weight savings but certainly not the superior braking these provide. Since it was impossible to travel to every bike shop, Ted’s only alternative was to bring the install process back in house; this way, he had total control to ensure correct installation every time.
Bottom line, yes there were some real issues with the Micro brake process, but now all is well, both in quality and shipping of orders, as well as customer service. And, if you are a color-coordination junkie like me (those who know me are laughing and nodding their heads in affirmative), then you can get custom colors to match just about any bike color scheme you can think of. I did.
Here’s to go much faster….