Review of the Avid BB7 disc brake

Decisions, decisions

I bought my Avid BB7's when I recently decided to build my own mountain bike. Or rather I was forced to due to my old frame developing a crack! I had previously been using rim brakes, but I decided that this time I was going to get disc brakes. They looked a lot cooler than rim brakes, and more importantly they are not affected by filthy conditions as much either. The trouble was that I was completely overwhelmed by the expense of the hydraulic disc brakes, and there were so many choices it was almost impossible to make a decision.

Visits to various forums just produced more confusion! Some people preferred hydros, others said that mechanical disc brakes could never be as good as their fluid based counterparts. I know that a balance opinion is good, but lets face it, it would be nice to occasionally get a definitive answer! I thought I would never find the disc brake that would suit my budget and circumstances.

However one mechanical disc brake stood out from all the rest. The Avid BB7 system. If I read into the hype it would seem that here was a mechanical disc brake that was every bit as good as many hydros! Could it be too good to be true? Was there a catch?


First impressions of the Avid BB7

Like many people I was on a budget and I wanted a brake system that I could easily install myself. And given that my mechanical skills are about on par with those of a turn of the century dentist with the shakes this was a very important consideration. The Avid BB7 seemed to tick all the boxes so I decided to lay down the money and go for it. From the advice I was given I decided to get 180mm discs for the front and 160mm for the rear. 160mm discs will actually suffice for most people, but I wanted to be sure. You do not need as large a disc for the rear, so unless your idea of a quality meal is MacDonalds anything more than a 160mm could be overkill.

The first thing I noticed about the BB7 calipers was how solid they felt. A little heavy perhaps? Well, I personally I prefer robustness and solid construction to lightness any day of the week. And the BB7's do feel very robust. All bolts needed are included, complete with threadlock already applied. There is also a little tool to help with pad adjustment.


Installation

With my immense mechnical skills in waiting I was looking forward to installing the BB7's with the excitement of a ten year old. I've no idea why us blokes get so excited about new toys in such a way, but we do. And it's good. So if any women are reading this, live with it. A disc brake is really exciting, understand?

So I mounted my bicyclemobile up onto the cycle stand and got to work. To be honest I'm not sure what else to write here because I followed the instructions provided by Avid and amazingly managed to install them without any problems at all. If you can install a rim brake then you can install these. In fact I would say that they are much simpler than rim brakes to install due to the ease of the cable installation.

One of the things I love about the BB7's is that they can be adjusted out on the trail. Yes, I know hydros are self adjusting, but at least the Avid BB7's allow for pad adjustments without the need for any tools.

Anything to look out for? Well yes, there are a few considerations which I will cover in the tuning section of this little site. But in general you bolt the rotors onto the wheels (making sure you don't get your grubby little fingers all over the braking surface), then you bolt the disc calipers onto the caliper mounts. Center the pads using Avids instructions, and route the cables. It's as straight forwards as that. No bleeding, no trapped air bubbles, no DOT fluid going all over the place. This is as simple as it gets.


Conclusion

When I started to write this review I had envisioned having to go into every single detail about what to do when installing these brakes. However it turned out that installing the Avid BB7's was extremely easy. As I mentioned earlier though there are a few things that you need to consider and do in order to get the best performance out of these brakes. Many of the issues that people have stem from incorrect setup. However once they are setup and tuned you will obtain performance every bit as good as many hydros!

I have been using Avid BB7 disc brakes for the last year or so now. They have been consistently reliable and powerful. The pads do occasionally need adjusting to account for wear, something that isn't needed on a hydro, but apart from that I have found them to be maintenance free (fettling around excepted of course!)

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