BRAKE FORCE ONE BRAKES
Words: Carsick John
Brake Force One is the new kid on the block, quite literally as teenage inventor and genius Jakob Lauhoff conceived these brakes when he was a mere 15 years old. Jakob is now 18 and his initial idea to redefine MTB brakes has come of age and is now available in a super slick (but expensive) package.
The Brake Force One brakes are a super light and aimed at XC, AM and enduro. They tip the scales at 195grams per set (without rotor).
As with all new shiny products that do their job properly there is a real wow factor that goes with them. The BFO brakes definitely have the James Bond meets stealth fighter look and this visual desire is a good thing because these high-end stoppers are far from cheap.
At €399 per brake excluding rotor and adaptor these brakes are double platinum gold club class, think Vertu phone on your handlebars…
But unlike Vertu’s shallow but appealing good looks, they’re not just pretty; they have some technical innovations hidden inside them that make them a bit special. Well, that is the claim anyway, whether they actually function or not we'll find out at a later date...
To the science lesson then, quite at the back:
The secret is in the Technology
The BFO brakes are a closed system and therefore have no brake fluid reservoir, this is normally is a massive ‘no thanks’ in the world of braking. As with most closed systems, as the brake fluid heats up and expands the pads get forced ever closer to the rotors and stop working properly. This is why almost all brake systems to day are open systems.
So to compensate for the expansion of the brake fluid the BFO callipers are huge thus allowing the pads to be positioned far away from the rotors, so they’re not troubled by expanding fluid.
But when the brakes are required a massive 16mm diameter plunger pushes the fluid into the calliper quickly, and moves the brake onto the pads. This larger gap between pads and the rotor in normal closed systems usually means the stopping power is compromised.
BFO have a secret weapon in the huge calliper, the ‘brake booster’. The calliper piston is stepped, so as the pads make first contact with the rotor the cylinder inside seals off the fluid against the brake pads and compresses it more, thus squeezing more pressure onto the pads and effectively boosting the power in the later part of the lever stroke.
In a nutshell the brakes hide a two-stage booster that allows the pads to travel a greater distance to the rotors and also ramp up the power as they engage to give you (theoretically) serious amounts of stopping power.
In practice this means when you pull the BFO lever your pads actually make contact with the rotor very quickly, then the rest of you lever stroke is all about extracting more/less power and modulating the brakes. This is why the levers are for one-finger only, as BFO believe with their brakes one finger is all you will ever need.
The devil’s in the details
The levers and lever bodies are made from carbon fibre resin, which have a similar feel to Magura brakes about them, except BFO levers feel more solid than their German counterparts.
BFO levers are one finger with a non-slip rubber finger grip. Later in the year a two-finger alloy version will be available for people with more than one finger.
The callipers are aluminium with a powder coat in a variety of colours: black, white, red and polished silver.
The hose is clear and comes in a 900mm front and 1700mm rear length, they use mineral oil and there are options to use different colours in the clear hose if you fancy a bit of customisation: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black and clear colours (I am aware clear is not actually a colour).
The rotors are well made and very nice looking, they’re a lot tougher than some of the other high-end rotors that bend at the mere mention of a rock. And they weigh a fairly respectable 104 grams for a 160mm.
Available in sizes 160mm, 180mm and 203mm.
The pads are organic and the adapters are available in all sizes and options.
As with 99% of all new brakes, the hose will be too long for your bike. This is a good thing as too short would be a real pain, so hose cutting and bleeding is required.
Unlike some systems that you can cut and shut without having to bleed, the BFO brakes need to be properly bled after any hose shortening.
The process of shortening the hose is very different to normal brakes, and thankfully there are no fiddly banjos or mind bending micro parts to screw into impossible nano sized tubing.
The clear plastic hose needs to be cut to length and then the cut part that was attached to the levers removed. Then with heat (hair dryer), the cut hose is removed from the bolt (called a union nut), and then the remaining hose is re-attached to the union nut with a very special tool. I can tell you how to bodge this part but I would recommend using the special tool available from BFO.
After cutting, bleeding is easy. Using syringes and mineral oil the clear hose is a real bonus as you can literally see any air bubbles in the system. Whilst initially the whole cable shortening/bleeding procedure seems a bit odd, once you get into it, it’s a hell of a lot simpler than other systems.
Do they work?
It’s very early days as I’ve only had a handful of rides on the BFO brakes and it’s recommended that they need a serious amount of bedding in. But initially the power and modulation is good, I'm inclined to even go as far as saying 'exceptional', and with one finger being all that is needed to bring you to stop on a sixpence the future is looking very positive for these brakes. However, I've had the same 'wow factor' with other brand-new brakes so perhaps I will be disappointed in the long-term. Time will tell.
The cost, please sit down...
Brake €399 each
Rotors €45 each
Adapters €25 each
So for a complete set of brakes you’re looking at an ungodly €938 or £800 or indeed a monthly mortgage payment, I did say sit down.
But before the chants of “how much? You could get 40 sets of Avids for that", let’s remember these are an innovative new product with initial high production overheads, and that’s the price you pay for being an early adopter with James Bond parts on your bike.
I will be writing a full test review on these brakes in the coming weeks, and letting you know whether the performance benefits do actually justify the cost.
More information: www.brakeforceone.com