When Kettle Cycles fired up their Kickstarter campaign for their ultra lightweight SiCCC rotors, I salivated. The Silicon Carbide, Carbon Fiber and Ceramic mix promised excellent heat dissipation and fade free performance alongside major gram savings.
It’s an enticing proposition, for sure, and they absolutely meet their weight goals. The two 160mm rotors I received both came in at exactly 55g each. That’s about half what a typical steel or steel/alloy rotor tips in at, so we’re off to a good start. Now that I have a little over a hundred trail miles on them, are they meeting the performance claims?
WEIGHTS & INSTALL NOTES
The rotors come packaged with instructions indicating the proper torque measurements and fair warning that you may hear some crunching noises as you tighten the bolts…and that those noises are OK. The upper end of the torque limit isn’t terribly high, but it was enough to make the rotors mount securely to the new Industry Nine Torch hubs.
Construction and details all look good. No fraying or unsightly carbon panels. Just consistent woven carbon fiber. Installation is straightforward, and I heard minimal “crunching” as I tightened the bolts up to 4nm, the recommended max. Once the wheels were on the bike, they were fairly straight, but there was a bit of rubbing on both front and rear. I have no problem mashing a metal rotor into shape, but with these, I used a delicate touch to try to bend them. The effort was not successful, but the rotors did feel solid. There were no creaking, cracking or crunching noises that sounded like a hundred bucks flushing down the toilet.
So, they’re installed with a slight rubbing in a few spots, but it’s not really noticeable when riding.
The key to getting the best performance from these is a proper bed in. Above, you can see the a glaze starting for form on the contact surface. Note the splotchy “transfer film” gloss…that means it’s not completely bedded in. You want a consistent, smooth glaze over the entire braking surface.
I started with brand new CL Brakes VX Sintered Metallic pads. Kettle Cycles co-founder Aaron Stephens says they’ve found Magura’s metallic Endurance pads to work very well with them, and the general word on the street is that metallic pads are the way to go here.
This photo was taken after several parking lot slow-downs and about 10 miles on a XC loop with intentional brake dragging and slowing. At this point, braking was no where near what most people would consider safe, but it was improving. Aaron warned me the bed in process could take much longer than with metal rotors. He wasn’t joking.
The front squealed pretty bad, the rear only slightly less. As a test, I swapped in SwissStop Disc 30 organic pads in the front and things actually improved and got quieter. I had a bit more bite. Over time, the squealing has all but stopped on both ends of the bike.
After several more rides topped off with ~53 miles of solo effort at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, the brakes are about where they’re likely to stay with the current setup. That is to say about 70% to 80% of the bite/grabbiness of what most of us are used to.
And that’s OK.
Aaron says the idea was to offer consistent braking performance and let the brakes handle the modulation, not the rider. Most of us are used to modulating the brakes and expect to be able to lock ’em up on demand. Unless I’m riding on peat gravel, there’s just about no way I’m locking up my rear wheel right now. Nose wheelies? Forget it. Instead, I’m grabbing more brake than I’m used to and slowing down slightly less. Oh Sh!t stops are all but impossible.
But, that’s the idea, actually. Aaron says they found that they and others were faster overall and able to maintain traction and control better than if the wheels locked up. My take? I haven’t crashed yet, and I do seem to be letting myself flow through corners faster. At first that was because the brakes simply weren’t slowing me down as much, but as a result I’ve learned to take the corners a bit faster. There have been a few scary higher-speed-than-I-would-have-liked turns, but things worked out fine.
OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS
Currently, there are customers that love the way they work and those that want more immediate grab. In hindsight, Aaron admits that getting the majority of riders to change the way they brake (or trusting their brakes to do all the modulation) is a tall order. So, they’re working on SiCCC brake pads as well, which would give your bike the same set up as race cars and provide the “bite” most riders want.
They’ve been testing them for a while, having to dial back the bite through different mixes of the components, and are in production now. They’ll offer pads for virtually every current brakeset eventually, and all major systems (Avid, Shimano, Magura, TRP, etc.) should be available for their top models very soon. Retail price isn’t set yet, but they should be similar to Shimano pad pricing for aftermarket orders. Those who backed their Kickstarter campaign or have purchased rotors recently will be offered a one-time “substantial” discount on a set of pads. We should be getting our own set in for testing shortly after Sea Otter.
If someone else hopped on my bike they’d probably crap themselves the first time they hit the brakes. But I was able to ease myself into them, and now I’m rather enjoying them. That said, they’re on my XC bike. I’m wary of taking them to the big mountains. At least until we get the SiCCC pads in…