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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have 4 mountain bikes, 3 have hydraulic brakes and they are used for fast riding XC - All Mountain - Down Hill. These three also are full suspension. My fourth bike is a custom rigid 69r 1X9 with carbon fork that I designed for use on multi day unsupported back country trips towing a voyager extra wheel. This bike has BB5 brakes that were given to me way back in 2005 by a friend who used my advice to upgrade to hydraulics.

Why did I choose mechanical brakes for my back country bike? Because on the 3rd day of a solo unsupported 5 day ride I dropped this same bike with hydraulic brakes and tweaked the front brake lever causing it to leak. I could not stop the leak and had to walk the bike down steep sections of pipeline track while more than a days ride from any road. Thinking this was a rare fall - because when alone and isolated I am in the 30/34, going slow and keeping the bike on the ground - I replaced the lever. The same year on the last day of a 3 day trip, I was carrying the bike across a slow flowing but shallow rock bottom river about waist deep - when climbing up the rocky bank down we went. Some how I bashed the crap out of the front brake body causing the banjo bolt to leak. Not a scratch on the carbon fork but a nice deep scratch on the brake body??!!?? The banjo bolt leaked just a little so it took most of the day before further adjustments could not overcome the loss of fluid and a total loss of the front brake resulted just before I reached the truck.

So I purchased some Cane Creek levers and Jaqwire rip chord cable housing kits and mounted my free set BB5s. I carry a spare lever and cable. That was two years ago. I have a lot of back country miles on these brakes and I am very specific in setting them up correctly and keeping them properly adjusted, and I can say honestly, descending a steep pipeline grade with BB5s is harder on the hands and arms than with hydros and if I could fix a hydro in the back country I would ride nothing but the best hydro brakes. Until hydraulics can be fixed in the back country, the only upgrade I am going to make to my back country bike is exchange the BB5s for BB7s

In closing, if you ride solo, ride remote (more than a day away from a road or the car), ride slow and keep the bike on the ground I would go with mechanical, carry a spare lever and cable and you have a good possibility of overcoming any brake related issues. If you ride fast, hard, steep, get air, and are less than a days walk from the car, go hydraulic for the same reason formula one cars use hydros and pit crews.

ZIT30/34
 

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Bite Me.
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Or you could use hydros and carry a spare mechanical caliper (since you're already carrying the spare lever and cable away). Belt and suspenders.

I have never had a hydro failure on the trail in many years of using them, but it always seemed like a legitimate argument for BB7s.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Before everyone gets crazy, lets look at the facts:

1. I prefer hydraulics

2. I had two strange hydraulic failures but they were still failures and could have caused me to walk a long long time for a long long ways

3. I thought about carrying a BB5 as a back up but the BB5 required a different mount than the hydraulics and also required shims

4. Instead I mounted the BB5s and carry one spare cable and it is a shift cable for the rear derailleur that will work with my SRAM shifter and an ultra lite single finger brake lever that uses shifter cable instead of brake cable.

5. Total weight of the cable and shift lever is less than my Crank Brothers tool and both the cable and lever fit under my seat.

6. I rode from 1998 to 2008 without a single hydro brake problem and then I had two in one year. My famous last words - I have ridden for years without hydraulic brake issues, if you know how to bleed them and maintain them you will not have a problem.

7. When I was walking my bike and extra-wheel down a very steep pipeline track because I had no front brake I realized that the first penality of arrogance is ignorance.

ZIT30/34
 

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I'd take the energy saved from the efficiency of hydraulics and carry a small bottle of brake fluid and a length of hose. The efficiency advantage of hydraulics is a tremendous boon on just an afternoon's ride, so it must have a significant advantage on a multi-day trip.

The logic of using different components on the grounds that something was damaged in a freak incident is a little shaky. Considering the possibility that whatever damaged the caliper could just as easily have missed it and wedged into the wheel spokes or shattering the hub flanges, does that then mean that multi-day trips should really see you using mag wheels or carrying a dozen spokes and a replacement hub? It could even have just bent the brake disc, which would still have happened with a cable actuated caliper.

Hydraulics just need different tools/spares to fix them. It's not necessarily more, just different; although it is of course your prerogative to opt for cable actuated brakes. Given what's likely to be wrecked in a crash - ie the lever assembly - I'd rather pack the blade and piston spares to sort a hydraulic lever than the entire assembly (x2) needed for a cable lever.
 

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Seems like a trail-side bleed would be kind of hard to manage w/o syringes and fittings, etc. Anyone know what the ultra-endurance guys typically run? I would assume the Ididabike and CDT crowd must run mechs due to the cold and the remoteness factors.
 

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Seems like a trail-side bleed would be kind of hard to manage w/o syringes and fittings, etc.
Not all brakes need the same equipment. I agree entirely that carrying a full bleed kit - with drain bottles and syringes - would be excessive for some, but a brake with a Hope-type system can be bled with just an 8mm spanner, a short length (5cm) of tube and a bag with some tissue paper in.
 

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ZIT30/34 said:
Before everyone gets crazy, lets look at the facts:

1. I prefer hydraulicsNo you perfer cable brakes that is the topic

2. I had two strange hydraulic failures but they were still failures and could have caused me to walk a long long time for a long long waysNo you chose to walk down the steep hill and generally steep hills are not gonna get you very far into the back country

3. I thought about carrying a BB5 as a back up but the BB5 required a different mount than the hydraulics and also required shimsHell now your babling about spare parts and shims...better off planning bail out routes

4. Instead I mounted the BB5s and carry one spare cable and it is a shift cable for the rear derailleur that will work with my SRAM shifter and an ultra lite single finger brake lever that uses shifter cable instead of brake cable.Still a bagful of weight and pain

5. Total weight of the cable and shift lever is less than my Crank Brothers tool and both the cable and lever fit under my seat.Now a weight weenie

6. I rode from 1998 to 2008 without a single hydro brake problem and then I had two in one year. My famous last words - I have ridden for years without hydraulic brake issues, if you know how to bleed them and maintain them you will not have a problem.So ever broken a frame or better yet a leg

7. When I was walking my bike and extra-wheel down a very steep pipeline track because I had no front brake I realized that the first penality of arrogance is ignorance.Well I guess you had days and days to think about going down what couple of thousand feet and a few k

ZIT30/34
We have ridden many back country rides, the trick is the bail out plan....and if you think walking down a pipeline for a steep hill is a problem worth severall 100 grams to cure the have at it...I would have problem ridden the damn thing with out the front....or maybe even

MOVED THE REAR BRAKE to the FRONT.
 

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trboxman said:
So now the equipment must all be chosen based off ease of field maintenance?
I guess it depends on how far that field actually is!

I know I wouldn't want to walk over a couple hours to get back to my vehicle. If I can come up with an field expedient repair for something, then so be it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Whoa JeffScott - take your finger off the trigger and back away from the SAW dude I am one of us.

When I broke the hydraulic brake lever I was traversing Grand Mesa from Colorado 133 just north of Paonia heading to Collbran on Colorado 330. The ride is a mix of jeep roads and single track horse trails with most of the single track on the third and fourth days between Overland Resevoir and the Mesa lakes. I dont carry a GPS or cell phone (no signal) just topo maps and my cousins ride horses across the same trail system so my topos are marked but I have no idea how far the total ride is, close to 100 miles I would say with a lot of climbing/pushing and between Overland and the Mesa lakes you are a long way from anyone or anywhere so if you are willing to push up what you cannot ride - hills will not keep you from the back country.

I did think about moving the rear brake forward but did not have a clue on how to handle all that extra hose.

My bail out plan was simple, if the bike was un rideable before the halfway point, turn around and hike out, if after the half way point, hike out. - had food for 5 days and there is plenty of water on the Mesa. If I was wounded then I had to compensate or die. I am one of those people who prefer solo over second opinions so I take responsibility for my own actions and dont require someone to rescue me from myself.

I was having a great ride when I dropped the bike and I was pushing it up over a ledge system at the time. Normally my Sam Hill 5/10 downhill shoes grip really well but in this case I slipped and fell on the bike driving the lever down over a sharp section of rock that got between the lever and bar. Crap happens.

I dont know what I said to set you off, but I am no threat to anyone on this thread. I was just pointing out that a mechanical brake is not the best when riding fast, hard, and steep but is pretty fail safe on slow back country trips over rough terrain.

I will admit that this was probably not the best website to post on I should have followed cutthoat's suggestion and checked out what the riders use who ride unsupported around the world and across large areas of continents where they do not have access to a bike shop or mechanical support.

ZIT30/34
 

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I was just pointing out that a mechanical brake is not the best when riding fast, hard, and steep but is pretty fail safe on slow back country trips over rough terrain.
You're not pointing anything out; you're imparting an opinion. Some people disagree with that opinion and do so with (mostly) sound reasoning. You've posted in a manner which suggests that the conclusions you've drawn from your own experience are universal and no longer open to question, which, if you'll excuse, comes across as rather pretentious.

For all you have experience with hydraulic systems, you still seem to be much more comfortable dealing with mechanical/cable related technical problems. There are plenty of riders who are much more comfortable with hydraulic systems and who would, I'm sure, be confident and comfortable using them for multi-day trips away from 'civilisation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Point taken

I honestly did not mean to be pretentious.

Any way cutthroat had the best input I followed it and I have actually contacted an individual who mountain biked the Dakar route this year solo. He uses hydraulics and is going to email the tips and tricks for compensating for heat / cold / lever issues / and leaks while riding remote.

Again sorry about the pretentious tone, I did not mean it.

ZIT30/34
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
From 4 individuals who have ridden unassisted (no support van or team) around the world or across multiple continents - their experience gained from actual failures:

If it is hydraulic – forks, shocks, brakes – leave it home - in remote areas no one will be able to repair it – pointed out that Mountain Bike Action recently couldn’t complete a review of a high end fork before they had to rebuild it – blown seals make a hydraulic fork almost impossible to ride across the Gobi Desert

Disc brakes of any type – riding for just a few days in the dust of: Australia, - Africa – Mongolia – Siberia will eat the discs and rotors for lunch

V brakes may suck but they always suck, and more importantly they never stop sucking, unlike disc brakes that degrade from awesome - to sucking - to worse than sucking - to nothing

My thoughts - as long as my trips in the back country keep me within 2 -3 days hike of someplace, I will ride/hike out with a busted hydraulic brake system before I go back to riding full time with V brakes. As for the BB5s I switched to after my two hydraulic failers - they will be off the bike when the Formula The One set arrives at my LBS. Long descents with the BB5s just kill my hands and arms and the Formula set should put me back in one finger control of down hill speed.

ZIT30/34
 

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I've recently experienced simultaneous loss of both my BB5 brakes riding in abrasive mud. I think this topic deserves more attention that it's getting.

It's hard to think about giving up disc brakes, they're essential to many riding situations. It may be worth considering how to protect exposed or fragile brake parts on a mountain bike.

Look at disc brakes on dirt bikes, they take all kinds of abuse and keep going. I always rode mine with a spare brake and clutch lever, which I've had to replace out in the boonies several times.

You may be able to keep hydro brake components well protected with some kind of hand guard/brush guard similar to those on dirt bikes. Just something else to consider.
 

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Mtn-Rider said:
You may be able to keep hydro brake components well protected with some kind of hand guard/brush guard similar to those on dirt bikes. Just something else to consider.
Not that I've seen such a product but that's a very good thought for circumstances such as described. Plus you could potentially remove the guards when a clean configuration was more important than protection.
 

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though the op's point is a valid one, that mech discs are easier to repair, i have to say if i ever journeyed out for days at a time,(which i havent, although i feel those who do deserve some credit) i dont think id change anything on my bike... Knowing all the limits and how your bike reacts are very important to me, swapping my hydros for mechs would probably throw off the whole feel of my bike.

And as someone else said, one blown brake makes a bike ridable still, but what if you crashed and snapped a few spokes, or cracked an axel, or something worse... maybe instead of less powerful, mechs you should try to find some beefy ass hydros, like a pair of maguras, from what i hear they are pretty tough(and pricey)...
 
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