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Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantis

Product Reviews - New Product Introductions

It is never too early for cross right? Well, it never is in my opinion anyway and thanks to Avid we have the first new product in stock for the upcoming cross season. I have anxiously been awaiting the drop of these brakes for a long time. In fact I think it was at Interbike 2 years ago that they first revealed they were in development. The Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever cross brakes are finally here and ready to ship.

I think the thing that first got my attention when I heard these brakes were in devlopment way back when was the name. I didn't have any spy photos or even design criteria, just the "Ultimate" moniker and that was enough for me. Avid has long had MTB brakes and levers with the "Ultimate" label. The Black Ops Ultimate v-brakes and matching levers were (and still are) the finest MTB rim brake ever made IMHO. CNC machined, black anodized elegance. Very light, super stiff arms that pivot flawlessly on dual cartridge bearings. If they were going to the trouble of labeling their new top level cross canti "Ultimate", it would have to be good. At least I hoped it would and not tarnish the name.

Some legit protos were available at Interbike last fall and I saw some final protos live around February. They are in full production now and we have a solid supply in stock so I have been able to analyze them to my heart's content. First impression out of the box is that they are indeed stunning. Simple yet elegant. Fatantasic machining and anodized color finishes. Black with red accenting hardware or grey with black accenting hardware.

One of the first things I wanted to check out was if they pivoted on bearings like their v-brake breatheren but alas no, they don't. I was at first a little disappointed but when I saw how precise the arm pivots on the canti stud with virtually no play I got over it and was pleased about the weight that was saved in omitting the bearings.

The design is fairly ingeneous with the arm iteslf being a seperate part from the piece where the pad mounts, the two being held together with 2 very small Torx head set screws. This allows the brake to be switched from a (VERY) wide angle configuration to a narrower angle configuration in minutes. Now once you decide on the setup you like you probably won't find yourself switching them much, or ever really, but you can buy in confidence knowing that you have the luxury of trying both for the cost of one brake. Plus if your needs should change you always have the option of switching. Now this feature alone is possibly enough to make these brakes a standout in the cross brake category but Avid didn't stop there.

The Avids come stock with all the little bits that you buy after the fact to hop up other canti brakes. They use a modifed road style brake pad insert holder that saves weight over similar styles that use v-brake hardware. Plus, having the road brake inserts is a must if you need to swap pads in a hurry. Like if you want to drop in some carbon compatible pads on race day. The stock brake pads are SwissStop black pads which are one of the best pads around for alloy rims. Very nice touch. The slot on the pad mount is quite generous so there is enough adjustability to accomadate a wide range of frame/fork mounting configurations and still get the pads parallel to the rim.

They Avids also come with an alloy straddle cable carrier which appears to be the same as my current favorite, the Jagwire alloy straddle cable carrier. It is a great balance between modulation and pad clearance.

The final touch that really tops it all off is a barrel adjuster integrated into the straddle cable retainer on the brake arm. This saves mucking up the brake housing with inline adjusters or driving yourself crazy trying to adjust the brakes with the straddle cable pinch bolt.

All and all I am very impressed with the fit/finish and the attention to detail in addressing what I feel are the shortcomings of a lot of the cross cantis currently on the market. This isn't to say that the brake is nirvana but it is close. Becuase of the way the arm pivots directly on the canti stud and the tight tolerance to get a snug chatter resistant fit you are at the mercy of the the quality of the canti stud. First off, you need to make sure the stud is straight and round. Yes, believe it or not studs can be bent, ovalized, mushroomed or all of the above. Any good quality frame has replaceable studs if you find you have this problem. You also need to make sure that the stud is free of any paint buildup. A quick buff with a Scotch Brite pad will cure that. A bigger problem that could arise is with canti stud length. The cap that captures the fixing bolt and tension spring is designed to bottom out on the top of the stud. If the stud is shorter than the arm then the cap will bottom out on the arm and bind the brake. If you have this problem it could actually have 2 different causes. The first is that the stud is truly too short and in that case you need to find a longer stud or you could, *GASP*, file down the arm with a flat file where the cap touches it until it just clears. The second possibility is that the stud is actually threading too far into the frame/fork. In this case you may be able to fashion a washer of some sort to place under the stud to prevent from threading in too far.

Is it a deal breaker? I don't think so given everthing else that the brake has too offer. Is it the "Ultimate"? I wouldn't dare say for sure just yet but I also haven't seen anything to cause it not to be so far either.

Big Al

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written by Metro , June 17, 2011
I'm definitely in love with these brakes and they will grace my next cross bike. So many features and functions.
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