I hit both ends of the trails this weekend. I got a good hour and a half mountain bike ride in yesterday afternoon with Dom and Lou, and then a 5 mile-ish trail run in with Tim in the morning, in the rain, in the mud. I forgot how hard trail running is. I havent done it in quite some time. Tim and I ran over at Smedley and I had to walk some of the hills, and it doesnt help that he is a good trail runner. Trail conditions were nice and sloppy after a steady rain overnight. Given the conditions, and the fact that my trails running skills are rusty, I am lucky that I didnt take any major ass-over-teacups spills today.
Yesterday’s ride at Valley Forge was the first quality ride that I have had in a long time, which is surprising considering that I havent been on a bike in three weeks. The trail conditions were perfect. I am very close to getting the bike “dialed in.” In the past couple of months I have added new rear suspension, new (used) front suspension, and just this week, I installed a used Magura hydraulic rim brake. I got the set (front and rear) for a steal on Ebay. They are very much used, but they work, and they are a vast improvement over the V-brakes that I had on the rear wheel.
V-brakes are a style of mountain brakes that utilize a side-pull brake actuation. The brake arms, when mounted on the brake bosses, for a “V”. The side pull actuation creates a tremendous amount of leverage, which equates to generous stopping power. V-brakes were the successor to “cantilever” style brakes. Canti’s, as they are affectionately called, use a top-pull mechanism. Canti’s ruled the game for many many years until V-brakes came on the scene, and V-brakes held the mountain biking braking crown until disc brakes became the norm. Early disc brakes were very expensive and very heavy. But, as with anything, prices have come down significantly, and cable-actuated disc brakes have taken over the market. Hydraulic disc brakes are still out there, but they are really focused on the “all-mountain” or “free-ride” bike market. Cable actuated disc brakes are easier to maintain and they are cheaper than their hydraulic brothers. But, some will argue that the stopping power and “action” of cable disc brakes arent on the same level as the hydraulic brakes.
I’ll admit, as one who as owned both cable and hydraulic disc brakes, the hydraulic brakes are definitely smoother. Its night and day. I’d have to look it up, but there must be something with the hydraulic actuation that makes the stopping action more progressive.
As an example, the bike felt unbelievable yesterday. It was like a new bike. The biggest improvement: braking in the corners. With the new brakes installed, I felt like I could control the braking and speed in the corners much better, more fluid. With my pevious setup, braking wasnt so much linear as it was “slow” and “Stop” with nothing really in between. The result? Over braking into a corner, or under braking and popping out of a corner too fast and loosing my line. Yesterday, everything just flowed. I have some further work to do on the bike, and once that is done, the bike will be 100% dialed in.