I had ss5 levers and now it's 94 xt slr levers w/out shifters. I much prefer the solid feel of slr. Brakes are xc pro, gold w/ kool stop and ritchey pads.
Have 987 cantis on another bike and somehow it's the best feel i ever had from brakes. way better than avid vees.
Brake levers are more important than brakes. The best levers are anything with SLR Plus- Shimano M900, M910, M737, and some LX. They outperform all other canti brake levers, maybe with the exception of Alteks. I've said it many times, but SLR Plus makes a bad brake OK, an OK one good, a good one very good, and so on. The only reason to run anything else is availability, lack of money, or blind nostalgia for what you rode back then.
Odyssey Straddle Rods are considered lame, but make almost all canti brakes work better.
Machine Tech Zero Flex look rad, work well, have good geometry, and are easily adjustable and light.
Low profile cantis are a fundamentally bad idea. Medium profile 986's and Ritchey Logic look sharp, but a lot of people complain that their pad hardware slips, sets, and finally cracks. For that reason I say the best combos mechanically are aesthetic and chronological mismatches- any SLR Plus lever, plus Machine Tech or early 90's Shimano XT M-732, with Straddle Rods (or maybe the equally hated Cannondale Force 40) and a booster.
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