• Avid Speed Dial Ultimate levers
  • £129.99
  • Raw Experience
  • 0131 440 2010

Yes, you are reading the price right - £129.99 for a pair of brake levers. Frighteningly these aren't actually the most expensive brake levers we've ever seen (anyone remember Box levers?) but they're certainly quite startling. So what have they got that other levers haven't?

We'll get to that in a minute. First are the features that the Ultimates share with Avid's other levers. Most well-known is the excellent Speed Dial leverage adjustment. A little dial on the lever shifts the cable anchor point in and out relative to the lever pivot, altering the leverage and changing the feel of the brake. If you like your brakes soft and squooshy, dial the anchor point inwards. If you like them firmer, dial it outwards. The available leverage range is 2:1 to 2.75:1, enough to make a worthwhile difference. It's a particularly useful feature with cable disc brakes that are often finicky about levers. We're big fans of having both brakes feeling the same, something that can be impossible if you're running a disc front/V rear combination or even with Vs both ends but wildly different brake boss spacing. Speed Dial lets you compensate for all sorts of differences.

The other characteristic Avid feature is the lever blade itself. The shape is spot on, with just the right breadth and an ace hooky end from which you'll have to try really hard to pop your fingers off. The blades thin down near to the lever body, providing an intentional fail-safe weaker spot that should ensure that if you crash hard the easy-to-replace lever blade bends rather than the body. And with any luck you'll be able to bend it back to ride home.

So far, so Avid. What sets the Ultimate apart is the construction. Rather than forged parts, the Ultimate is CNC-hewn from aluminium billet. The body is in two halves bolted together, with a separate clamp that means you can remove and replace the levers without disturbing your grips. It's got view ports so you can see where the Speed Dial adjustment is. There's a reach adjust screw and a one-handed cable adjuster that won't rattle itself into unsuitable settings. Finally the whole thing's anodised black and laser-engraved with useful things like bar clamp torque settings and which way to turn the Speed Dial.

Oh, and the lever blade runs on sealed cartridge bearings for super-smooth, slop free action...

In use the SD Ultimate is a joy. Everything's adjustable, all the bits turn with well-engineered smoothness, it's all made of metal and generally gives no reason to expect it won't last for years and years. Yes, this is one of those components that it's pretty much impossible to justify on purely economic grounds, but it's a splendid thing and a couple of years down the line you'll have forgotten the cost. Probably.

Positives: Totally lovely in all respects

Negatives: Kinda pricey

Verdict:

Brake lever perfection, at a price. An ideal finishing touch to a high-end cable brake equipped project.