Saturday, December 14, 2013

Disc and Hydraulic Brake Recalls

It's no secret to anyone reading this blog on a regular basis that I have issues with the latest disc and hydraulic brake systems. This is the Retrogrouch Blog, after all. I'm not ready to accept all the claims and hype about superiority, most of which come from the manufacturer's marketing people and the cheerleaders from the big cycling magazines.

Yes, I believe that in some circumstances disc brakes may offer somewhat better performance than rim brakes (in extremely wet or muddy conditions, for instance) -- but I do not believe that those benefits necessarily come without drawbacks. And there ARE drawbacks. New is not always better. Performance gains are sometimes offset by negatives. I wouldn't be a Retrogrouch if I didn't stand by that.

SRAM hydraulic brakes: recalled
In yet another blow to the credibility of the hypesters (I don't think that word actually exists -- my Mac keeps wanting to change it to "hipsters") for disc and hydraulic brakes, just take a look at some of the current recall notices for these systems:

TRP Disc Brake Recall

Shimano Disc Brake Recall

Magura Hydraulic Brake Recall

SRAM Hydraulic Brake Recall

In the cases with the hydraulic systems, the recalls are due to the fact that the brakes can fail in extreme cold conditions. According to SRAM, "In these conditions the master cylinder seals failed to hold pressure resulting in abrupt loss of brake power, and an inability to stop the bike."

TRP disc brakes: recalled
I'm sure that traditional cable-operated rim brakes get recalled from time to time, but it's hard to find it. There's not much to go wrong with them. They're proven technology, and their simplicity makes them pretty foolproof. When was the last time you heard about somebody's traditional cable operated rim brakes failing because it was too cold out?

If you're reading a blog called The Retrogrouch, you probably aren't affected by any of the above-listed recalls. But if you have some riding buddies who have these systems, tell them to contact their dealers and see what they need to do. And if they're really good friends, maybe let them borrow a Retro-grouchy bike so they can keep riding until it all gets sorted out.

I hope this post doesn't come across as gloating -- that's really not my intent at all. Loss of braking is a serious issue. But it does help underline my point that bicycles are really at their best when they are simple machines, and there are real benefits in proven technology. Adding complexity to a bicycle doesn't really improve it, and only takes away from the machine's real virtues.

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