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NOW, with mechanical brakes

July 25, 2008

A few weeks ago the hydraulic disk brakes on my bike tried to kill me.  I took it to the mechanic (it’s still under warranty) and said; “Put mechanical disk brakes on it”.  He said; “Naww, you don’t want to do that!”  So I said; “OK, I’ll give ‘em another shot.” 

Another shot at killing me, that is.  Last week they failed again.  In the space of one mile they stopped working.  Better than the previous time when they just suddenly quit, spraying hydraulic fluid everywhere, but still.

I again requested, but did not expect, that the bike shop install mechanical brakes.  There are many reasons why they could have legitimately refused.  For one, there’s really no way for the shop to be reimbursed; warranties cover repairs, not modifications.  For another, there are millions of bikes with hydraulic brakes and they’re generally considered the top braking solution.

But Bloomington Cycle & Fitness, 712 E Empire St in Bloomington, IL, went beyond the call to reassure a nervous customer and installed some very expensive mechanical brakes to replace the hydraulics.  (Click the pic for a closer view).

So my thanks to them, even if they are not convinced of my sanity.  If you live in McLean County, Illinois and you’re looking for a good bike shop, give them a visit.

  • Here’s a forum discussion on the pros and cons of hydro vs mech disc brakes

  • And after a few days, having used both hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes on the same bike, here’s my comparison: The hydraulic brakes had MASSIVE stopping power, but not as good control.  The mechanical brakes have notably less stopping power, but much finer control.
  • Please note in comments below that I do not think hydraulic brakes have any reliability problem; just the particular set on this particular bike. 


  1. July 26, 2008 at 01:21 | #1

    Bravo for the bike shop!  At least they understand that it’s very difficult to have repeat customers if your customers’ brakes have murdered them.  ;-)

    And now I don’t have to worry about arriving at Decrepit Old Fool someday to discover that my beloved George is a grease stain.  Those brakes had me worried, you know!

  2. July 26, 2008 at 01:24 | #2

    I bought myself Specialized Hard Rock bike and have been very happy with it. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have hydraulic breaks, just mechanical, but they are disc breaks, not V Breaks and after a few months of daily bicycle commute, they’ve been reliable. I’m very happy with my bike.

    Sorry to hear about the troubles you’re having with yours :(

    What make is your bike?

  3. July 26, 2008 at 04:23 | #3

    It’s a Specialized; the picture on your link looks like the same model.  My friend Jon bought one over a year ago and is very happy with it.  It’s really fast and I love the way it handles.

    I don’t think all hydraulic brakes are bad, just that particular set.  It might have been a bad day at the factory or something.  After all the owner of the bike shop, his wife, and the mechanic, all ride hydraulic brakes. 

    My most recent previous bike was a Haro which had an excessively flexy frame for my liking.  To be fair to the Haro it probably wasn’t the best choice for a 100kg rider who likes to ride urban crazy. 

    I’ll post a picture soon of the bike soon.  I am also thinking about building a “street” track bike.

  4. July 26, 2008 at 06:30 | #4

    Gotta have them brakes.

  5. July 26, 2008 at 17:33 | #5

    That’s crazy that your second set went out too! I love that bike shop and it’s great to hear they put mechanical set on for you. Great customer service. Hopefully you have better luck with the mechanical now! ;)

  6. July 27, 2008 at 15:00 | #6

    It wasn’t a new set of brakes; they just replaced the faulty handle.  In this failure the hydraulic fluid leaked out of a different place.

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