The Bike List

Avid BB5 Road 160mm mechanical front disc brake £61

Tested by Cheryl Frost, tester for The Bike List

I opted for a front disc brake set up on my Yeti ARC-X cyclo-cross / tourer build rather than the more traditional cantilever brake. This was to avoid brake shudder, get more braking power, better modulation and also, because I thought it would look pretty cool. Due to my light bodyweight and the limited contact area of a cyclo-cross tyre on a muddy trail, I didn't need outright braking power but wanted a simple, straightforward and reliable brake.

I chose the base model Avid BB5 mechanical disc brake which I run with a small 160mm Avid rotor. Mated to a two finger Avid Speed Dial lever on the handlebars, the modulation is light and nigh on perfect. This brake system was truly put to the test with descents of over 85km, including plenty of twisting switchbacks, on a recent traverse of the Bhutanese Himalayas.   

This set up provides reliable, judder and fade free braking and has performed faultlessly. Initial set up is relatively simple and caliper alignment is easy thanks to Avid's Tri-Align Caliper Positioning system. Once the initial cable stretch has been dialed out of the system, pad adjustment is straightforward - the fixed pad adjusts via a knurled knob on the inside of the caliper mono bloc and micro adjustment of the outer pad is via a traditional style threaded brake cable adjuster. However, if I had one criticism of the BB5 it would be this outer pad adjustment, the higher spec BB7 brake caliper features knurled knob adjustment for both inner and outer pads.

I found this brake to be perfect for cyclo-cross riding. Unless you've ever experienced full on front brake judder on a cyclo-cross bike it's hard to understand how much this can impact on your braking efficiency. Corners arrive too quickly, braking points are missed and turns are taken slower than they might be as you frantically over brake in a straight line trying to hang onto your bike. This is frustrating when out riding and it can ruin your lap times on a rapid cyclo-cross circuit. 

So is the disc brake set up an advantage on a cyclo-cross bike? In my opinion, yes it definitely is a massive improvement and some of the extra weight inherent in this set up has been offset by running a lightweight 28 spoke rim on the front wheel. The platinum finish has shown no signs of wear and pad life, so far, has been much better than expected.

Buy from

Avid says:

Deceleration made simple. Enjoy the confidence that comes with brakes you can count on with the road-version of our proven BB5 brakes.

  • Weight: 335 grams (160mm rotor; front post mount)
  • Caliper Design: Mechanical, Monoblok
  • Finish: Platinum
  • Rotor: G2 CleanSweep 160mm, 185mm, 203mm
  • Pad: Sintered
  • Adjustment: Inboard Knob Pad Adjustment, Tri-Align Caliper Positioning
  • Compatibility: Road style levers

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At a glance

Verdict A smooth, reliable, judder and fade free disc brake ideal for quicker cornering on cyclo-cross races with hardwearing pads and a platinum finish