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Is it the brakes or is it the brake pads?

I always wonder what’s the minimum level of hardware you can really buy for a bike. Do you need a carbon fiber frame, or is an aluminum or steel frame just fine? Are Dura-Ace parts more reliable or just lighter? I had a chance to test this out recently when I realized that for a little bit more than the cost of a fresh set of pads for my no-name brakes, I could get some highly regarded V-brakes.

The clincher is that there is no PDF manual for my generic ProMax brakes to be downloaded. That bugs me. So, I got myself some Avid Single Digit 7’s to replace them.

I started with the rear brakes, figuring if I was going to screw up a brake install, I might as well use the less powerful of the two brakes, and make sure I biked on the brakes for a bit to see if anything goes wrong. Suddenly, my rear brake was far more powerful than my front brake. So, clearly, spending money on better brakes was worth the trouble. But was it really the brakes, or just the brake pads?

So, the next step was to replace the brake pads in front. I almost went over the handlebars testing the brakes because suddenly the brakes were far more powerful. So, just the pads?

Then I swapped out the rest. Nope. Better feeling of control with the new brakes.

There are other advantages to using the better brakes, of course. I found the weight of the brakes hadn’t changed by that much, but the Avid brake takes the now-standard V-brake inserts, the screws are slightly easier to adjust, and the noodle and boot are better designed. I was actually hoping the old ProMax brakes were heavy or something just so I could laugh about being a weight weenie.

It’s just now I can go over the handlebars if I’m not careful. So I’m going to have to get myself adjusted to the new brakes while I also get myself adjusted to the new clipless pedals and shoes that I picked up today…