Meet Brake Force One, a German approach to how you stop
There’s engineering and then there’s German engineering. What sets the two apart? In this case: a few hundred dollars, a unique concept, and unusual brake lever ergonomics. Developed by Jakob Lauhoff, 18, the Brake Force One brakes have a claimed weight of 205 grams (without disc) and retail for 390€ (or roughly $500 USD). Unfortunately, there are currently no American distributors for those with the means.
Their teenage inventor claims his design, which forgoes a brake fluid reservoir, is twice as powerful as current brakes but requires only half the operating power. The levers have been designed accordingly, with only sufficient space to comfortably rest one finger.
Read on to ogle and learn more…
The brakes incorporates a master cylinder which dwarfs those of basically any other mountain bike brake currently on the market. This allows for a wider gap between the pads and rotor. This broader “air gap” eliminates the disc brake rub (and noise) associated with grime, mud, or a slightly bent rotor. As the pads wear, because there is no brake fluid reservoir, the pad engagement must be adjusted manually using the dial found on the brake lever.
The system is closed and uses mineral oil, usually heat buildup is an issue with closed systems and brakes that use mineral oil, but because of the bigger diameter of the oil channels and the wide space between the pads and rotor, the company claims this is a non issue. In their tests, during worst case scenarios, the distance between the brake pads and rotor decreased by only .3mm.
Inside the caliper is a second piston with a force valve. When the brake lever is activated, the oil pressure increases once the pads meet the rotor, and pressure is applied until the valve closes. The valve closing effectively changes the diameter of the master cylinder to one that is much smaller and “boosts” the braking force applied by the lever. When the lever is released, negative oil pressure opens the force valve, and the spring in the caliper piston retracts the pads.
According to Brake Force One, standard brake’s braking power is modulated by the amount of manual force exerted until the desired pressure point is reached. They claim that the hydraulic booster requires only minimal effort to modulate that braking point and that braking power is unprecedented. Their assertions are backed by the prominent independent tech institute – Velotech. This is the same research lab used by Shimano to test their much heralded XTR M985 brakes and Ice Tech rotors. How did the two compare?
Braking Deceleration in Dry and Wet Conditions*
|Decelerationm/s2||EN 14766 MTB||GS-Mark Test Principles||Velotech.deQ2011||Test Result:BFO||Test Result:XTR|
|Front Wheel Dry||4.2 m/s2||6.0 m/s2||6.0 m/s2||10.00 m/s2||6.6 m/s2|
|Front Wheel Wet||2.2 m/s2||4.5 m/s2||4.5 m/s2||9.8 m/s2||6.5 m/s2|
*Deceleration values refer to a decelerated mass of 100 Kg and 180 N hand force. The requirements and tests where established in 1988.
Theoretically required hand force in order to arrive at a deceleration of 6 m/s2 on the front wheel**
|Operating Force at 6 m/s2||EN 14766 MTB||GS-Mark Test Principles||Velotech.deQ2011||Test Result:BFO||Test Result:XTR|
|Front Wheel Dry||260 N||180 N||180 N||85 N||100 N|
|Front Wheel Wet||(490 N)||(240 N)||240 N||90 N||115 N|
**A deceleration of approximately 6 m/s2 must be considered the achievable maximum for a bicycle on a flat and non-slip road surface before the rear wheel would raise and the rider would risk a fall. It therefore describes a deceleration limit that should be obtainable with normal hand force.
|Heat Resistance||EN 14766 MTB||GS-Mark Test Principles||Velotech.deQ2011||Test Result:BFO||Test Result:XTR|
|Thermal Test Load||300 W||500 W||750 W||1225 W||1050 W|
|Duration||10 x 90 sec||20 x 90 sec||20 x 90 sec||20 x 90 sec||20 x 90 sec|
|Test Deceleration||.85 m/sec2||1.44 m/sec2||2.16 m/sec2||3.53 m/sec2||3.03 m/sec2|
** *For city bicycles the test should be run at 225 W for a duration 2x 15 minutes with 10 intervals of 2 seconds each. This corresponds to a deceleration of .65 m/s2.
Shimano carried out its thermal endurance test in three steps: 350 W, 700 W, and 1050 W. The value given in this summary report describes only the result of the last of the test with a thermal load of 1050W.
Brake Force one was tested in four steps: 350 W, 700 W, 1050 W, and 1225 W. The test was then aborted without visible damage to the brake. The value given in this summary report describes only the result of the last step of the test with a thermal load of 1225 W.
The results indicate that the Brake Force One requires less force to achieve much better deceleration. The deceleration numbers achieved by Brake Force were impressive but nowhere near “double” the braking power of Shimano’s top of the line performer. The BFOs also handedly beat the Shimano brakes in the heat resistance test (Shimano brakes also use mineral oil). The XTR brakes decelerated a a rate of 3.03 m/s2, while the BFO brakes which were tested at 175 W higher decelerated at 3.53m/s2. This is a 16.6% improvement under a higher thermal load. Overall, Velotech’s test confirmed and certified the BFO disc brake system was suitable and safe for bicycles up to permissible weight of max 166 kg (365.97 lbs). In accordance with EN 14766 (MTB) standards the system would be suitable or bicycles up to a permissible weight of 238 kg (524 lbs).
The Brake Force Ones are a beautiful and unique looking brake but are they worth the price? At a claimed 205 g (without disc), or 198 g (without disc) for the more expensive King Hill Tune special edition, they’re only marginally lighter (but far more expensive) than the current generation XTR race brakes ( aprox 210 grams). Does this brake meet a need we didn’t know existed? Only a few years ago many riders did not see a need for dropper posts or 29″ wheels, but innovation and time have changed many opinions. Do you find yourself yearning for more braking power on the trails? Let us know what you think in the comments…
Images via MountainBike.BE