This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Velo Orange Gran Cru Zeste Brakes

Nearly anybody reading this blog is familiar with Velo Orange.  It's a really impressive growth example for a small business.    After a couple years of retirement from another business, Chris decided to pursue his other passion, cycling.  His purpose was to find and make available many products which had disappeared or were hard for cyclists to get.  He started by importing some brass bells.   Now, only a few years later, we are not far from a totally branded bike.  You can buy everything you need to build a bike with his brand except derailers and cogs.  It's been a really impressive growth story considering he started the company with an idea and $2000.  
I wanted his Gand Cru Zeste cantilever brakeset.  He ships them in an impressive box
which leaves one a little disappointed to see baggies full of nuts, wires and stuff,
But the goods are all there.
 I wanted the Gran Cru Zeste calipers for their additional length and the power it should bring,  
They measure more than 3 inches from cable anchor to pivot,
while the Tektros I have been using are nearly an inch shorter.  That extra length should create a lot more power which I have found necessary when traveling with a full load.
                           
Removing the old calipers and installing the new was a typical installation, I won't bore you with it.  There are instructions on the website and even color coded springs so you won't fumble with them.  These calipers sit at about a 25-30 degree angle to the vertical which is good for touring and off road applications because there is less lateral exposure.  Now with my intuitive perception, I was concerned that would reduce the stopping power compared to levers resting at a 90 degree angle.  I gave the problem over to my computer scientist/mathematician son who turned the idea inside out with a couple of geometric formulas.  He assured me the main thing affecting the breaking power would be the length of the lever itself, not the angle from which force was applied.
 I read some Emily Dickinson and slept better.
I don't know why, but I assumed that these would require less attention to the toe-in angle since they use regular roadie sized pads.  I was wrong, they can be quite musical until you make the usual toe-in adjustment.  The road sized pads do create a convenience when changing wheels or tires.  
They are not impeded by the fork or seat stays and flop wide open without a problem.
They have a couple of nice adjustment features; where the arrow points is a nice little allen screw for fine tuning the return spring tension, and way-over-the-top-cool is the barrel adjuster circled above.  Adding the barrel adjuster to the straddle wire is nice,  I have adjusters at the brake lever, inline at the headset/seat stay anchors, and at the caliper itself.  That should make adjustment easy; I have two wheelsets with different rim sizes I use on this bike. 
I am not the most experienced person with canti's, but these feel like a 500% improvement over the Tektro Oryx calipers I was using.  The movement is light, modulation clean and they are powerful at the fingertips with little effort.  They seem, at least at first run, to be a vast improvement and good investment.

15 comments:

  1. Now I want that barrel adjuster on my canti-fied bikes! What made you choose the low profile version as opposed to the traditional canti that VO sells?

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    1. Only that it is a low profile version which, according to my math wiz son, would produce more stopping power.

      Marc

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  2. Nice write up and I hope the continue to give you good service. They are actually called Zeste, not Veste, lest anyone be confused!

    http://store.velo-orange.com/index.php/components/brakes/calipers/grand-cru-long-arm-cantilever-brakes.html

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    1. Thanks, Early morning typo corrected.

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  3. Hi, this comment is unrelated to the canti brakes, but I noticed the snow and the fenders on your bike and it got me thinking. A few days ago Jan Heine of Compass bicycle posted a nice write up about a snowy ride with his son. In the post he noted that his fenders had gotten clogged with snow. Since you live in a rather snowy place and bike with fenders I wondered what your experience has been?

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    1. Honestly, I don't notice anything clogging from the snow. I do take a snow broom to the bike and knock the accumulated snow loose from the brakes and wheels. I've actually been told it is better to leave it and wait until spring to thaw it out. The theory is that the frozen crap from the road has less effect than the melted crap. I'm not sure what I believe, I just want it to go away at this point.

      Marc

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  4. Hi, Marc --- Nice post. I'm coming late to it. I'm wondering if you have an opinion on how useful these brakes would be in converting a 27"-wheeled touring bike to 700c. Do they have sufficient up-down and in-out post/pad adjustment not only to technically reach the rim on the vertical plane but also account for the narrower forks and closer canti stud placement on old touring bikes to provide enough travel distance from pad to rim surface to actually create an impactful contact between pad and rim? To me the latter issue -- pad travel distance -- has been the bugaboo of 27-to-700c canti conversion (nobody seems to mention it, they simply say, well, the bike doesn't stop that great) and I've not been happy with any previous brakes accomplishing the transition. Thanks!

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    1. It looks to me like there is more than the nominal 4mm vertical travel adjustment, but everything would depend upon the location of the posts.
      As far as the travel distance, I don't know what to say except that the longer lever arm creates an enormous amount of stopping power, more than any brake I have used.

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  5. Thanks for your review, there isn't a lot of information on these available yet. It looks like the length of the arm makes these the closest thing to a mini-v brake, except with better fender clearance. There is a graph of the mechanical advantage vs. yoke height on the V-O blog, and it looks like if they are too powerful, it's easy to raise the yoke height for better modulation.

    The only negative comment I've found is someone noting that the cable pinch bolt may dig into the cable too much and damage the cable. Has this been your experience? If so, I was thinking of switching out the stock pinch bolt for a Sturmey pinch bolt which I've used without trouble on drum brakes for years. The Sturmey bolts are roughly 12mm between the pinch bolt shoulders. How thick are the Zeste brakes arms, the distance between the outside of the two plates?

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    1. I haven't seen any problem with the pinch bolt damaging the cable. I'll measure when I get around to it and get back to you but there is plenty of room to lengthen the cable and adjust modulation to your preference. These are really wonderful calipers.

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    2. Thanks, I think I'm going to get them regardless. I've tried two different cantilever calipers and with nothing even close to acceptable performance on the rear brake, even worse than my Sturmey drum brakes. The front Tektro 720 caliper is barely acceptable in dry conditions with a clean rim, but otherwise terrible. I'll probably post a review on my blog after a while with them, arideaday.blogspot.com

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  6. Hi Marc, I was wondering what you make of the Zeste now you have been using them for some time (assuming you still are)?

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  7. I love them! The convenience of the pad size makes wheel removal easy. The additional barrel adjuster is an incredible convenience and the stopping power in incredible. I'm far from an expert on cantilever brakes, but compared to the Tektro I was using, there is no comparison.

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  8. Sounds great. Thanks for the additional feedback Marc.

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  9. The instructions for installing these cantis are incomplete to say the least. I spent about an hour on the rear brakes because the instructions say the gold spring should be on the right side. That's true for the front brake but the gold spring should be on the left side for the rear brake. VO has promised to add this to their instruction sheet but when that will happen is anyone's guess.

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