Tuesday, August 22, 2023

First Impressions: State Bicycle Co. All-Road Disc Brake Calipers

Note: I received the products mentioned in this review at no charge to me. State Bicycle Co. did not bribe me, nor are they paying me for this review. I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. 

I posted about these calipers earlier HERE. That was a week ago now. I've had several test rides since then to see about bedding the brakes in and to test their performance in certain situations. Here are my first impressions on those rides.

I won't say too much about the first few rides, since those were about bedding in the pads to my rotors, but I will say that even through that process up to today, these brakes remain quiet. So, I am impressed with that right off the top.

Subsequent rides were purpose-driven to see how these brakes might do in certain situations. I rode the Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3 semi-loaded up for even more weight to deal with in these tests. I rode to see how emergency braking was, not necessarily seeing if the wheels would lock up, but to see how quickly I could controllably brake.  Then I tested for what I call "surgical braking". The type of fine movement, modulated braking you might have to do, say down a steep, technical descent. Then I tested for more casual braking chores. How easily are these brakes worked with one finger, for instance, or from the hoods? 

So, in a quick, emergency stop, the calipers were excellent. I probably could skid too, but again, that isn't my intent here. Controllable, powerful braking to a stop was achievable. So, I feel confident that, if I had to, I could haul the bike down to a rather quick stop. This was also done without cramp-inducing hand pressure, which you may have to apply with a fully mechanical set up. This wasn't on par with fully hydraulic set ups I have on drop bars, in terms of input needed to achieve result desired. But it was doable and easily so. 

Next up I wanted to see about that "surgical braking" performance. How slow and controlled can I go with ease? 

This was achieved with good results. The brakes are not grabby, and they have a longer throw of the lever in the sweet spot of their power, making them easy to modulate. These could be set up  as "on-off" brakes, (a very bad idea, by the way), but a careful set up with regard to the cable tension, actuating arm, and pad distance to the rotor will yield excellent results. Much like mechanical brakes, in this way, set up is everything

Slow, controlled braking is not what I will often need out of these brakes, but anyone that puts these on a drop-bar MTB will want that, so it is good to know that you can achieve these results with the State calipers. That said, longer descents on sketchy gravel will be easier due to the window of modulation I have with these brakes. 

Finally, are these State Bicycle Co. calipers easy on the hands? How much effort do you need to apply to stop in normal situations from the drops or the hoods? 

In this testing I found that the State Bicycle Co. All-Road Calipers would be about "normal" for hydraulic brakes and maybe leaning toward the "more effort" necessary range. Actually, my take right now overall is that the State Bicycle Co. All-Road Calipers are pretty much in the grey area between what a great mechanical brake can do and what an average hydraulic set up can do. The State calipers aren't the 'easiest on the hands' brakes, but they are definitely easier to use than the best mechanical brake calipers I've ever used, (first generation, one-piece caliper Avids), so that's where I see these sitting. Right in that pocket between hydraulic and mechanical brakes, and that would only make sense, since they are a hybrid of both types.

Add in that a set is a hundred bucks and it makes it hard to ignore these. Especially against the best mechanical brakes out there now which literally cost hundreds of dollars more. So, the ubiquitous "bang-for-the-buck" thing is going to rear its ugly little head here, because in this case - so far - the term is an apt one to use. 

We'll see about the long-term use of these, which may change my opinions a bit, but for right now? It is simply amazing that you can get a brake set at this price that is not only worthy of consideration, but works really, really well. Stay tuned......


Tomcat said...

These look like fantastic brake calipers for the price point. The only question I have is if the lever pull on these is compatible with either long-pull or short-pull brake levers? Or if that even matters? I can't find that specification on their website. Typically, I like to keep the lever pull consistent between brake levers and brake calipers. I noticed that I can get long pull brake levers to work with short pull disc brake calipers, but it ultimately ends up in the "on-off" braking that you mentioned in your writeup. Conversely, if I use short-pull brake levers with long-pull brake calipers, the braking tends to be weak.

Also, I just want to point out that you have an incredible approach to writing reviews in a clear and concise way. You seriously leave no stone unturned, well done and kudos to you GT!

Guitar Ted said...

@Tomcat - First of all, THANK YOU! those are some very kind and encouraging words. I very much appreciate your taking the time to send those thoughts my way.

I guess after writing reviews for almost 20 years now I SHOULD be getting passable grades by now, right? :>) Seriously though, I try hard to do my best and give people what the need to know.

The calipers, if I had to guess, are made first for long pull applications since most late model disc brakes levers, both drop or mechanical, are now designed for long pull situations. That's fairly recent though and has followed with the demotion of road calipers to the back seat of demand and availability.

My TRP levers I am using are the long pull ones, by the way. But I also have tricked out mismatches before and gotten them to be serviceable. How you attach the cable to the anchor can be switched up sometimes and using a short pull Shimano SLR aero lever (which actually pulls more cable than most short pull levers do) are a couple of the things one can do to get by.

Thanks for the awesome comment and for reading the review!!

Mike said...

I'd be very interested in seeing a review of you bleeding these brakes, seriously considering purchasing for my Fargo. Possible?

Guitar Ted said...

@Mike - Well, that kind of defeats the purpose of the test/review, doesn't it? Especially if the company claims that you should not have to bleed the brakes. Wouldn't you agree with that?

So, no. I will not be bleeding the brakes unless they need to be bled. I don't expect that they will need to be bled, so I would expect that not to happen.

Make sense?