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***

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

Comments

boobie - 02/09/12 - 3:24pm

XTR is already pricey enough.. looks cool, but no thanks.

Greg - 02/09/12 - 3:34pm

“Does this brake meet a need we didn’t know existed?”

Yes.
Current hydro brakes on the market need better “pad return.” We strive for every once of speed and efficiency on bikes and then ride around with our brakes dragging. Since the Brake Force One caliper uses an actual return spring (not just the rubber gaskets of the pistons) I think that ,in and of itself, is a huge step forward.

ABQsteve - 02/09/12 - 3:41pm

Getting similar performance as XTR without a traditional master cylinder would be very useful for road hydraulics by avoiding the need for the giant horns recently shown on the new SRAM red photos.

Tom - 02/09/12 - 3:42pm

I agree with Greg!

I’m sure over time they can bring the price down. Even more impressive that it was designed by an 18 year old, sounds like he could have a bright future in the cycling industry.

I hope the lever hardware matches the calliper color.

peter - 02/09/12 - 4:04pm

No master cylinder at the lever? This could make it very easy to incorporate this design into a road lever that needs minimal external dimensional change.

Matt - 02/09/12 - 4:51pm

Put that system into a STI shifter configuration and make some Ultegra Di2 compatible buttons/connections and you could sell it for way more than $500.

walter - 02/09/12 - 5:15pm

I am a commuter and traveller. For me, nothing is more important than a brake which works flawless for 25.000 kilometers with only changing the pads and some adjustment now and then. I quit hydraulics because of the brake rub and bleeding issues. If this system gives me the power and modulation of a hydro and the ease of maintenance of a BB7 while saving 300 gram, I’m in. Not even a question. Damn the cost.

Ron - 02/09/12 - 5:43pm

The master cylinder is the space where the fluid is pushed by a piston so that it can activate a slave, which is the caliper. This lever still has a master cylinder (it has to) and piston, it just doesn’t have a reservior. It has extra valving in the caliper, but that’s not a master cylinder. The story seemed a bit confused on that point, although I have no doubt it could be me.

Happy Trails.

Saris - 02/09/12 - 5:55pm

Ron,

You took the words right out of my mouth. Its an interesting concept but was rather difficult to articulate. Thanks for clearing it up for everyone.

Ron - 02/09/12 - 6:08pm

Glad to help. I alway like to justify my status as an over-educated bike mechanic, if picking nits on my favorite bike websites qualifies as such a justification.

Guus - 02/09/12 - 7:09pm

It indeed is the reservoir which isn’t fitted to this system, I don’t know if I have got this right (I’m Dutch) but in the article you mention “The XTR brakes seemingly edged out the BFO in heat resistance tests”. If you mean the XTR brake performed slightly better then the BFO in this test you’re wrong, not even taking the thermal load into account.

After a double 90 sec test with a thermal load of 1050 Watts, the XTR brake decelerated with 3.03 m/sec, while the BFO brake did 3.53, that is about 16.6% more braking power, even with a higher thermal load.

I have bought my set 3 weeks ago and got it fitted, at first the brake force (one) really disappointed me reading all these tests…. But the brake does need to be braked in for a short while to get it working properly, and yes, working very, very nice.

I have (had, see below) them fitted to my 2011 Jekyll carbon, which I use for enduro’s (I have a set of XTR 985 fitted to my Flash 29 so I really like the comparison made above), BFO also states it is a multi purpose brake from XC riding to downhill, that’s why I fitted these to my overmountain. The feel in the lever is really odd, it’s not like any other brake with what you have almost no resistance in the lever until the pads meet the disc. You have resistance in the lever right from the start which feels exactly the same until the pads touch the disc. As of that point the valve starts doing its job and you’ll have about 0.5 cm (0,2 inch) of outside lever movement in which the valve does its job. You can also feel it in the lever. The brake blocks your rear wheel just at the end of this 0.5 cm which indeed doesn’t costs you a lot of power (using one finger).

There is one thing I’d like mention, it is a one finger brake so as you can normally use two fingers to provide the 100n of power (with the XTR brake) to have the 6m/sec brake power, you will now have to provide 85n with just one finger.

It really doesn’t feels like you have to use your one finger twice as hard as normally because the brakes really have loads of power and a very controllable feel. One other thing to be mentioned is that the XTR 985 brake probably is the absolute finest brake on the market, looking at weight to power and control ratio (before the BFO was introduced) and it already is much better then the XX WC , Race X2 and other top of the line brakes, so in comparison to those the BFO is even better.

These brakes do feel kind of odd at starters because you do not have a very obvious brakingpoint (when your not riding) as you can pull the lever right to the bar without using that much force, you are widely over your breaking point at that point but that’s another case…. I do like the result of the bitepoint adjusters really much, these things work like no other I have ridden with (AVID Elixir, Juicy’s, XX etc.). This also refers to the space between the pads and the disc, you can ride it as you’d like….

I did have some troubles with the brake and it seems like BFO is currently bumping into some childish diseases. The Levers are absurd! I have never felt any lever this light, the caliper is the one bringing the weight to these brakes for sure. The lever is this light as it fully is made out of some kind of carbon composite. but it does have some disadvantages. When I started to shorten the hoses and removed the cups which hold the olives in the lever, I mentioned some carbon thread came with it. When I shortened the hose I tried to turn it back into the lever I wasn’t able to get it in properly as the carbon threads were already ruined and the system leaked oil. The second hose went perfect but as I was affraid I did not dare to fix it real tight and the system also leaked…

I have written BFO on Saturday evening how to resolve this problem and I have received an answer stating I could send them back and they would replace both levers free of charge (off-course, just payed about EUR 800,- including the extremely expensive discs) on sunday in the morning, real good service up till now though…

I fully agree with some who mention the brake is at least on the top three of most important parts on the bike, that’s why I have chosen to invest real good in a set of these amazing stoppers, it’s a shame I already had to send them back but I can’t wait until they return…

Guus - 02/09/12 - 7:17pm

Oh some other things I like to mention, The Kill Hill doesn’t weight 198 but 181 grams per brake and I had my BFO (front brake, original hose length and without adapters or mounting screw) scaling 210 grams.

Kind of disappointing is that BFO deliveres a system, with an advised salesprice of somewhere near 900 to 1000 euro’s, with steel disc, adapter, lever and other mounting bolts, instead of titanium or at least stainless steel…. They could easily save some more grams on the system using ti bolts….

craigsj - 02/09/12 - 7:24pm

I’d like to know the rotor and pad material used in these tests. Without that information the data provided is meaningless.

The special valving amounts to variable leverage which isn’t a new concept in any way. It may be a novel implementation but some Shimano hydros implement variable leverage.

Without knowing the actual clearance, it’s hard to make anything of the supposed pad clearance advantage. Some brakes have pad clearance issues and others don’t.

I don’t know why people assume this brake will be low maintenance. It requires manual pad adjustment, mostly likely the only hydro to do so, and pad life is unknown. If that’s acceptable, why not use BB7′s?

The manual pad adjustment implementation makes this design undesirable for STI. I’m not understanding the enthusiasm.

Saris - 02/09/12 - 7:34pm

@Guus

Thanks for pointing out that typo! I updated the article.

@CraigSJ

The BFO tests where conducted using SwissStop Disc 21 organic pads. The rotor used was the TR 180-1 wave, 180mm. The data provided for the XTR brakes was taken using a 180mm ice tech rotor.

Feel free to peruse the data yourself. Velotechs certification is prominently featured on both manufacturers website. The BFO data can be found here:

http://www.brakeforceone.de/files/hinweise-kurzprotokoll_brake_force_one_180_en.pdf

craigsj - 02/09/12 - 7:50pm

Thanks, Saris. Will take a look.

Le Piou - 02/09/12 - 11:25pm

+1 on Greg comment’s: “Current hydro brakes on the market need better “pad return.” ”
Coming from motorcycles, I can’t agree more on this one.

I am actually surprised that big “moto brakes” companies like Brembo or Nissin are not on the MTB business…

Woody - 02/10/12 - 7:45am

If this guy is 18 and has be able to design a product that shakes the market up then thats quite amazing. Designing a product is one thing but getting it to market is also a massive achievement. He sounds like a designer to keep an eye on

Guus - 02/10/12 - 10:48am

@ Saris, no problem! just another small typo is the weight of the Kill Hill set which is 181 grams.

@ CraigSJ, why do you persume it needs more maintenance? The brake pad adjustment is done with a turn on the levers knob and is a adjustment which has to be done maybe once or twice during the life of pads, you can also have a look at it the other way now you do have a feel at your lever when your pads are starting to wear out… Also, as it is a closed system you’ll never have to refill or de-air the system like with the crappy Avid once….

The clearance between the pads and the disc is not stated in numbers as this depends on how you adjust it at the lever. You can adjust the brake so the pads touch the disc immediately when pulling the lever which will give you very small clearance (but when I did this the pads still did not touch the discs) or you can adjust the lever so the pad first meet the disc when you’re halfway through…at that case you do have plenty of clearance between the pad and the disc….

One other update I’d like to mention, I have written BFO yesterday about my returned brakes (see some posts above) and a my two months old Jekyll frame cracked I also get a replacement under Cannondale warrenty. I first had a green / white Jekyll Hi-mod one but I now get a black / white Jekyll Hi-mod 2012 frame. I have chosen the brakes colour because of the green / white frame and so I have chosen a neutral black set. Now with the new frame the red brakes would look better so I asked BFO not to replace just the lever, but if there was a possibility to swap the complete brake for a red set… You’ll never know when you don’t ask right….

Guess what, today one of the BFO employees has given me a phonecall and the will send me a brand new red set at no additional costs, THAT’s SERVICE!

notapro - 02/10/12 - 11:26am

greg’s on point with pad return. BFOs look promising simply by the conversation this kid’s design has sparked. Now onto refinements!! oh, and with that a little help for my wallet please and thanks.

craigsj - 02/10/12 - 11:49am

@Guus – I said there’s no reason to assume it will be low maintenance. If you’ve ever had BB7′s you know you have to adjust them more than “once or twice during the life of the pads”. We don’t even know what the life of the pads are, they are organic and look quite small in the company’s pictures. It is also invalid to assume that the brakes will never need bleeding. You may WANT to believe they are magically low maintenance but it’s just speculation and wishful thinking. The one thing we do know is that these brakes lack a maintenance feature that every other hydro has…self-adjusting pads. Every hydro promises lower maintenance than these. I don’t think it’s a concern but I don’t appreciate the unjustified hype either.

Guus - 02/10/12 - 1:30pm

@ Craigsj, I luckily never had BB7′s but due to it’s huge oil reservoir and the valve in the caliper a very small adjustment on the lever is a quite big adjustment to the pads.

Low maintenance is indeed, up till now speculation (other then told by the test riders) but I am sure you won’t have to bleed the system as there is no possible way air can get into it….

Chris - 02/12/12 - 7:23pm

Nothing is born perfect. It took Shimano a decade to make theirs close enough to be the best among the others. High performance parts need a lot of real world use, trail and error and expertise to make them perfect. Yet many brands don’t have what it takes to make relatively flawless brake system. When some achieve power and reliability, modulation and feel don’t naturally follow. Given the newest XT hydro unbeatable price point and positive reviews. This German counterpart would not attract enough customers at the start. I truly appreciate what the teen can come up with however and he deserves a position in a cycling tech history book.

Andre - 11/27/12 - 8:52pm

NICE! I brake my right lever with only one finger. My 3 fingers to the side are missing since birth and this brake will definitelly bring me more security. But one thing I keep asking myself: Why this lever is designed for one finger and not two+?! using ‘Guus’ words, I guess I’ll need to achieve 85n with my small finger…might not be a problem as I brake my current sram xx successfully (but sometimes challenging in some long/rocky descents)….so…. for the multiple fingers people you guys could achieve some very powerfull force on those levers “if’ the were regular shape. Good observation Guus.
So, to make these as my dream brakes: please replace the levers by carbon material (for better look) and regular shape (for everyone else’s joy).

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