With last weeks industry news that eeCycleworks is now partnering with Cane Creek, it seems to be ideal but coincidental timing for an in-depth review of the eeBrakes. This new partnership is expected to bring additional resources to the production, distribution, and marketing of eeCycleworks products. That's all good news but this is a review after all so let's get to it.
In the pursuit of speed there is an endless list of solutions to find, save, and just about buy watts. But if you're going to go fast, you're going to need to stop fast too. The bad news is that when it comes to stopping, the field of after market options is a lot thinner. Don't worry, there is good news too. Founded in 2007 by Craig Edwards and his then partner, eeCycleworks has spent nearly a decade engineering a set of aftermarket brake callipers that represent the pinnacle of braking performance. If you don't recognize the name you'll definitely recognize these visually distinctive brakes because they adorn some of the most incredible and aww inspiring dream builds. With a retail price of $630USD a pair, these are among the most expensive brakes on the planet. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to get onto a set and have been riding on them for the past ~1500kms. In my opinion they are without a doubt an impressive piece engineering.
You'll have to read through this detailed review to find out why the eeBrake is the name most called upon when stopping matters most.
Design & Construction
Why make an aftermarket brake calliper? That was the first question I asked Craig Edwards, designer and founder of eeCycleworks. Back in 2007 when eeCycleworks was founded, Craig looked at modern callipers and saw that the current designs did not reflect the ideal structures needed to apply optimal forces to the rim. They were thin where they should be thick and overbuilt where they should be thin. Overall they lacked innovation and hadn't changed much overtime. But what would define a better brake performance? Lighter weight, greater stiffness, better modulation, and wider versatility all without sacrificing performance. As an engineer, Craig knew he could do it.
But to deliver on these goals Craig would have to resolve a lot of large and complex design elements all at once. This is why Craig utilizes a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) approach which breaks down the larger complex problems into smaller, easier to solve but related ones. The key is that as you solve the smaller problems, the combination of their gains will create larger net benefits.
With attributes like such as their unique cable path, the eeBrakes have a very distinctive 'love em or hate em' look. As a true engineer, Craig was proud to say that aesthetics have never been a top priority. Especially over realizing any performance gains. If you can get past the looks you'll be able to appreciate the incredible level of craftsmanship put into their manufacture. The main components are made from forged aluminum. This is a process where the aluminum is shaped under great pressure in molds rather than milled from a solid block. The specific process used for the eeBrakes is called closed-die or impression-die forging. In impression-die forging, a series of positive and negative molds are brought together with the raw aluminum stock sandwiched between them. As the part moves through each subsequent mold in the series, more and more detail is added and the part gets closer to its final form. The last production step is to mill any cavities or holes required. The choice of impression-die forging is ideal as it results in high strength parts with finer details when weight is an important performance criteria.
One of the greatest touted benefits of the eeBrakes is their weight savings over stock callipers. Believe me, it's true. Thanks in part to the titanium bolts and hardware, the claimed combined weight of the eeBrakes is sub 200 grams. When I measured mine they came to 170 grams without pads. Comparing this to the stock Shimano Ultegra BR-6800 callipers at 309 grams, this is a weight savings of 139 grams or ~.3 lbs. Considering how hard it is to find a quarter lb of weight savings anywhere outside the frame and wheels, that's pretty impressive.
For many people a key defining feature to the eeBrakes is their incredible versatility. The cable pulls are compatible with Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo brake levers and through a set of spacers they work with rims up to 28mms wide at the brake track. Fine tuning the pad width has become even easier thanks to the forged wing nut design of the barrel adjuster on the latest generation. Centering the pads is now done through an allen head bolt. The versatility doesn't stop there. The eeBrakes have a patented brake pad carrier design that requires no tools for pad changes so you can quickly swap from aluminum to carbon pads. So no matter what's inside your arsenal of wheels, it's a very safe bet that the eeBrakes can handle it.
The included 8 step instructions are clear, detailed and complete. For me, setting up the eeBrakes was a bit tedious as the adjustment pad kept falling out when I was trying to line up and insert the barrel adjuster. It took a few tries but it worked. If you're setting up the eeBrakes yourself, you should know that careful attention needs to be paid when routing the brake cable through the calliper and under the pivot.
When putting the eeBrakes on my Scapin Anouk one change I had to make was with the spacers. The eeBrake instructions called for using the included thin steel washer between the front calliper and the fork. I found this was not enough to create the required clearance for the heel of the brake pad in front of the fork. Working around this I used a thicker stock Shimano washer after checking for an OK with eeCycleworks through their contact page. Craig replied himself... more on that below.
From there it was straight forward to set the pads and dial in the setup. If you're a more visual person, the eeBrakes product page has a few but very helpful videos on pad alignment and pad changing. Overall I'd say setting up the eeBrakes is easy but they are harder than installing traditional callipers. It requires an allen set, torque wrench, and cable cutters, and some grease for the threads if you've got some.
The very best compliment I can pay to the eeBrakes is that they work so unbelievably well on the road. At the end of the day, that's all that really matters.
The braking power is incredible on both aluminum and carbon rims. There is a strong sense of confidence from the power, modulation, and feedback you get out of the eeBrakes. When you squeeze the brakes there is immediate, strong, and confident action at the rim in any condition. For comparative sake, Craig Edwards said that the performance of the Shimano Dura Ace BR-9000 callipers are his benchmark. My direct experience is in comparison to the Ultegra 6800 callipers to which the eeBrakes are a clear and definite improvement.
The eeBrakes have incredible versatility in fitting rims from traditionally narrow to the most modern wide profiles without having to reset cable tension. The quick release action is quick and easy for fast wheel swaps. Put it all together and it simply works.
Search around the internet forums and you'll read that keeping the eeBrakes looking new is difficult. All those nooks and crannies are hard to get into but honestly a lot of the grievances are overstated. It takes about 60 seconds and a Q-tip to get both callipers clean if you don't want to spray them down. Craig assures me that leaving them dirty won't affect performance. I'll take his word for it.
If you're goal is to get uphill quickly or have your bike on a diet you're probably very interested in the significant .3lbs weight savings. Too many aftermarket parts and components focus on weight reductions advancements but find negative gains in performance and durability. Not so with the eeBrakes. It seems that for every gram they drop, they replace it with good stuff.
As a customer, one of the most important values to any product is the quality of customer service. Sometimes this can be a miss when dealing with small companies. But it's one of the most impressive things about eeCycleworks. Craig's personal customer service is fast, friendly, and helpful. I've contacted them a few times with installation and part replacement questions (I broke an adjustment pad). Each time Craig responded quickly with a positive resolution. When I needed them, the replacement parts arrived to me in Canada in less than a week. If you're in a rush for an answer, there is plenty of support documentation provided on their site.
Knowing you have a quality product backed by quality customer service lends a lot of confidence in spending that kind of money on a set eeBrakes. It's been one of my favourite things and I hope this doesn't change with the acquisition of eeCycleworks by Cane Creek.
The eeBrakes from eeCycleworks are top of the line brake callipers with the performance and price tag that go with it. They have improved power, stiffness, modulation, versatility and significant weight reductions over big brand stock offerings. When you're in a hurry to go fast, the stopping power of the eeBrakes can't be matched. Plus Craig's personalized customer service is fast and friendly. You can't go wrong.
Who are the eeBrakes right for? Anyone who wants the ultimate in braking performance. Beyond that, those that want maximum versatility in the choice of wheelset to run, climbers looking to drop buckets of grams, or time trialists looking for every last aero benefit. Trust me when I say that once you have a set of eeBrakes your biggest problem is going to be deciding which bike to put them on.
If you're lucky enough to be at Eurobike 2016, drop by the Cane Creek both to check them out.