Upgrading brake hoses might not seem like the most interesting topic for an article, but I’ve been running braided hoses from Goodridge now for a while and thought it was about time I let you know how I’ve been getting on.
Back in the early summer this year, one of our evening rides took in ‘the Brockham descent’ – the bridleway that runs from the Boxhill Road to the A25 just above Brockham. In combination it is probably one of the longest, straightest and steepest descents we come across on our patch of the Surrey Hills (well one where there simply isn’t the option to ‘run it out’ like say Boxhill to Juniper Bottom). Anyway, suffice to say on that particular occasion I was left with a feeling of inadequacy in the braking department.
If you want to increase the power your brakes generate there are a number of options open to you. You can upgrade your entire brake set for something a little beefier. For me, (running 08 Shimano XT brakes) that would have been looking at something like the Hope M4 or the Shimano Saint. Given that a good number of bikes favoured by riders round our neck of the woods come out of the factory with Shimano SLX or XT or the X2 from Hope, it gives comfort these are trusted stoppers in many respects.
The other ways to improve performance include looking at the type of pads you are running, the hose material you are using and even the length of your hoses. And of course the most basic place to start is bleeding your existing brakes to ensure you aren’t running a system with a good deal of air in the lines.
Organic pads offer better braking capability than say sintered pads, but will generally wear out quicker. Running an excess of hose out the front of your bike is ultimately going to result in a decrease in braking efficiency, however neglible you think that might be (a problem I will have to deal with at some point in the future, having just built my singlespeed bike with fully bled, “ready to fit” brakes that come with lengths of hose that even a Tokyo Optician would struggle to tame!)
And then there’s where I got to in my decision making (having first ensured that I’d looked at all the other possibilities) – braided hoses. So what’s so good about them? Well, braided hoses are, along with disc brake technology itself, another spin out from the motorsport world to find their way into the biking mainstream (albeit they’ve both been around for some time now).
Essentially, the metal (wire) braiding (the hose casing) helps to create a far higher pressure in the brake line giving you a greater braking efficiency and more power at the business end. A ‘standard’ hose will expand upon braking therefore decreasing the power at the calliper. A braided hose has virtually no give in it and therefore, as near damn it, all the hydraulic pressure transfers to the calliper.
So how do they perform? Well, I guess brakes are a little bit like suspension forks and shocks. If you don’t notice anything too untoward during a ride then chances are they are working the way the manufacturer intended – i.e silky smooth. That said, if you are upgrading to something that is ultimately better than you currently have you should (you’d hope!) notice a difference, regardless of how well it is working.
So I am pleased to report that there is a noticeable difference in the braking. The same modulated feel is there, but (if/when you want it) there now just seems that extra dose of power at the end of the stroke. It’s only really on hard braking that they really come into their own but then I suppose that’s the point of decent kit. It sits there in the background minding its own business until such time as it is called upon and then gives you a sense of immediate security. Put it this way, I no longer fear for my life going down the Brockham descent!
In addition to the Goodridge hoses (available in quite a few colours – the braided metal is covered in a plastic sheath – oo,er), you’ll need the appropriate connector kit for your particular make and model of lever/calliper which again are available in a fine array of colours and a choice of alloy or stainless. I opted for white hoses to offset against the black frame on the Soul (and the white and grey decals – what a tart!). Fitting is reasonably easy, once you’ve bled your old system and removed it from the bike.
By far the easiest way of fitting the new connectors/hose is with the whole system (lever, new connectors, hose and calliper) off the bike, otherwise you end up in a twisted mess. Perhaps the only mildly sweat-inducing part is cutting the hose to length, but again, measuring against what has come off your bike (or carefully measuring a new build – measure twice, cut once!!) makes the whole affair relatively straightforward.
I did have some trouble trying to drive the threaded connectors into the plastic core that runs inside the braiding, but after creating a slightly wider opening with a bradle, the thread on the connector ‘bit’ into the plastic and it was just a case of screwing it up. Then all that is left is to bleed each brake as you would normally, fit the whole lot to your bike and re-fit your pads.