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Why Titanium?

Why not double butted and tapered tubing?

If you make the frame stiff, won't it ride harsh too?

Why Habanero?

What's the deal with all the different kinds of titanium?

What should I look for in a titanium bike frame?

Why are you still building road and TT/Tri frames for 1 inch forks?

Why don't you follow the trend toward tapered steer tubes?

Why don't you use internal headsets?

Why don't you use BB30 bottom brackets?

Are you going to start building 27.5" MTB frames?

Brakes - Disc vs. Canti vs. Mini-V

Brakes - Hydraulic vs. Cable-operated

What IS a habanero anyway?           


Why Titanium?

First off, there are lots of perfectly good materials you can use to build bicycle frames. Each type of material has inherent advantages, and limitations. However, it's hard to beat 3Al/2.5V titanium as a frame material. It's very strong, very light, and it's impervious to almost anything you can do to it. 3Al/2.5V has an almost infinite fatigue life under normal conditions. It can be flexed much more than most frame materials without permanent damage. There's no reason to think that you won't be able to hand down a high quality "ti" frame to your grandkids. Plus, let's face it.... it just looks good.

Why not double butted and tapered tubing?

Double butted tubes are thicker at the ends, and thinner in the middle. This allows the builder to use tubes that would otherwise be too thin to weld reliably. This does reduce weight somewhat, but it also increases the flex in the thinner portions of the tubes, and makes the tube much more prone to dents. Besides, most bikes built with "butted tubing" have only one or two butted tubes (usually the seat tube and/or the down tube). Realistically, there are a lot better and more cost-effective ways to save weight on your bike than buying a butted frame (calculate the $/gram cost - you'll be amazed). Habanero frames are built from 0.9mm wall straight gauge tubing which is thick enough for reliable welding, prevents frame flex, and produces a very strong, yet lightweight frame.

Making a tube's outside diameter smaller makes it more flexible. Tapering a tube has the same effect. While there are those who would argue that a tapered tube makes a more beautiful frame, I take a "form follows function" approach. Massive 7/8" (22mm) straight chainstays and 5/8" (17mm) straight seatstays reduce rear end flex to almost non-existent levels. To me, that's beautiful!

Double butting and tapering of titanium tubing are both very difficult and expensive processes that add cost but little or no value to a bicycle frame. In fact, once you ride a Habanero, you wouldn't want us to change a thing.

But how about all those pinched and squished tubes on some other bikes? Why do we stick to so many plain old round pipes? While funny-shaped tubes can provide marginally better resistance to force in one direction, they're not as good at resisting torque, or "twisting". When you think about it, that's really all you should be worried about with your top tube or down tube. Neither is going to flex up or down significantly (your tire will flex 50 times more), and the only way you'll displace them laterally is to hit something solid. But if you're a strong climber or sprinter, you will exert a lot of twisting force on both. A round tube resists this better, so we use round tubes. OK, so we DO use an oval top tube on the cyclocross frame (for portaging comfort, and because it looks cool) and an oval downtube on the Team Issue road frame (it also looks cool). We just don't try to tell you we did it to add some magical quality to the ride of the frame.  In fact, look at how most "squished" downtubes are formed and you'll see they're designed to make the frame easier to build, not stiffer.  The "tall" head tube end suggests you're trying to keep the head tube from flexing fore/aft (where the tube in in almost pure tension or compression anyway, and the movement is confined by the presence of the top tube much more than a little more height in the downtube connection).  The "wide" bottom bracket end suggests you have a problem with your bottom bracket wagging from side to side (if your ears were cranks, that would mean shaking your head "no").  On the other hand, if you want to resist torque (what your downtube experiences in the real world) you should make the tube round if you want to make the best use of the material.  

If you make the frame stiff, won't it ride harsh too?

Yes and no. If you were to ride one of my frames without wheels, saddle, or handlebars, it would be measurably harsher than many other titanium frames. But if you're like most folks, you probably don't plan on riding your bicycle this way.

A bicycle frame is basically a bridge truss, with almost no vertical deflection. To put this in perspective, imagine supporting a bare frame by the head tube and rear dropouts on two large concrete blocks. Now, straddle the frame and jump onto the top tube. Ouch! What happened? You just discovered that the frame doesn't really flex very much in a vertical plane. The total deflection will only be a small percentage (around 3%) of the flex available in the bike "system", including tires, wheels, stem, handlebars, and saddle. As a result, adding or subtracting 5psi from your tires is likely to make more difference in comfort than going from the softest to the stiffest possible frame. Adding a front shock and fat, low pressure tires on an MTB will mask the difference in frames even more.

However, horizontal deflection is a different story altogether. Ideally, a frame will have almost no lateral flex at all. Lateral flex will cause several potential problems. If the rear end of your bike flexes under acceleration or climbing loads, you will have driveline problems, and possibly even rub your rear brakes against the rim. Flex in the bottom bracket area will cause several unpleasant problems. Your chain ring may rub against the front derailleur cage, the chain line may change enough to spontaneously shift gears (not a good thing), and the bike just won't "feel right". Deflection of the head tube will affect the handling and high-speed stability of the bike. Frames with a lot of lateral flex have a tendency to develop problems with high-speed shimmy.

Probably the best example of the perception of much of the "how frame material affects ride quality" issue was an article written about a blind test done on seven identical bikes built up with all the high-quality (steel) tube sets from Columbus.  Even though the "experts" that reviewed bikes monthly could (according to their writings) wax poetic about the feel imparted by minute changes in tube butting or thickness, when they had no way of developing preconceived notions about the bikes they were riding, their abilities to discern these changes vaporized.  Moral of the story?  The placebo is, and has always been, an effective drug.  To read the article, click here.

Why Habanero?

To be honest, there are not many bad titanium frames out there. I can't think of a single titanium frame from a major manufacturer that isn't a nice frame. So why should you buy a Habanero? There are several compelling reasons.

Build quality. The frames are fabricated by an honest-to-goodness aerospace builder in China, not some cookie-cutter bike frame factory. The welders are aerospace certified and have 10-15 years of experience (compare that with most builders). Their attention to detail and experience shines through in the fantastic single pass welds, and in the construction and alignment of all of the frame's components.  They're also a great group of people that I am honored to work with.  Plus, having lived in and traveled to China over the last 10+ years, I've seen the difference that the free market economy is making in the lives of the Chinese people, and I'm proud Habanero is a (small) part of that.

Service . We are a small company, and each and every customer is very important to us. We came to this business through a long time love of cycling, and with many years of customer service experience. A no-nonsense 5 year warranty against defects in material or workmanship plus a half-price crash replacement program are there to make it easy to choose Habanero. We are small enough to be flexible enough to meet your needs..... try us and see.

Price . How do we do it? Simple. We work very hard at it. No importers or distributors to add mark-up along the way. And, we work hard to keep our overhead to a minimum, so we can sell the frames for less than anything in their class. We care about quality and performance, not gimmicks.  Sometimes even if it seems too good to be true, it isn't!

We guarantee you'll agree with us!  Ride your "Habby" for 14 days - if you don't like it, send it back and we'll refund your money.

What's the deal with all the different kinds of titanium?

3Al/2.5V Habanero frames are built from 3Al/2.5V titanium alloy, or titanium alloyed with 3% Aluminum and 2.5% Vanadium. This is an ideal material to build a frame from, since it has an incredible strength to weight ratio, but is still resilient enough to withstand considerable flex without permanent damage. This is the material almost all of the highest quality titanium bike frames are made from, and is a mainstay in the aerospace industry because of its impressive properties.

6Al/4V This alloy (as you'd probably guess by now) is comprised of titanium alloyed with 6% aluminum and 4% Vanadium. There are a lot of claims made about the strength of 6/4, but most of it is based on "textbook" numbers for sheet stock, not tubing. Until recently, 6/4 bike frames were all made from seamed tubing, that is, flat sheets which have been rolled into a tube and welded. Some still are.  The problem is that the weld reduces the strength and resilience of the tube. In addition, 6/4 can only take about half the elongation that 3/2.5 can before it's permanently damaged. In the final analysis, you end up with a bike that's at best just a little stronger, but maybe less able to absorb punishment - plus it'll be a LOT more expensive.  We think it makes more sense to save the weight elsewhere in the bike, where it won't cost so much per gram.

CP - or - Commercially Pure titanium. There are many grades of this material being used to build "low end" titanium bike frames (kind of an oxymoron, huh?). CP titanium is easier to machine than the more exotic alloys, and it is even more resilient than 3/2.5 (it can "stretch" more without failing). However, it doesn't have the strength of 3/2.5 or 6/4 alloy, both of which are at least twice as strong as most grades of CP titanium.

What should I look for in a titanium bike frame?

Strength. Bicycle frames lead a tough life. There are several ways to build a bike frame that's strong enough. You can use better alloys (such as 3/2.5), or use more material (at the expense of weight). It's tempting to build a "stupidlite" frame by using thin walled, double-butted tubing, or by using smaller diameter tubing. However, both of these approaches result in a frame thatís more fragile and / or more flexible. An extra ounce or two will annoy you much less than your chain ring rubbing the front derailleur cage or indistinct handling from an overly flexible main triangle.

Quality. Look at the welds. Welding titanium must be done in a very clean, inert gas atmosphere. Contamination from oxygen or nitrogen can severely weaken the weld. In fact, the weld is the most critical part of the frame when it comes to strength. You're not likely to ever see a titanium bicycle frame broken in the middle of a tube, but only at the welds. As a result, the vast majority of ti frame failures I've studied have been due to the poor welding techniques of some of the low cost builders. A good weld will have smooth, void-free structure without discoloration. You'll be able to see the smooth transition from the weld to the tubing, not an overlapping "blob". Stay away from a frame with welds that look like they were squeezed from a toothpaste tube!

Design. The best bicycle is one that fits you and your riding style. At Habanero Cycles, our production frames are designed around time-proven concepts - not the latest fads. The road bikes have a "square" geometry, with the top tube closely mirroring the length of the seat tube in the middle sizes. This will accommodate the vast majority of riders - though custom geometry can be special ordered if you just don't fit a standard frame. The head tube and seat tube angles were chosen to provide a quick-handling ride, without the twitchiness associated with some "racing" bikes. The MTB frames are based around "NORBA" geometry, for all around best performance on singletrack, climbing and downhill. The TT/Tri frames are similar to the road frames, but with steep seat tube angles for optimum power and aerodynamics, and a slightly slacker head tube for proper handling using aerobars.  The Cyclocross / Touring frames are the choice for the "all-rounder" bike.  If you could only have one bike (yikes!) this would be the one.

Construction. There are some ways to "cut corners" when building a frame. We don't use them.

Seat tube clamps. Many titanium frame builders handle this important function with an aluminum clamp on over-collar. We give you a real "braze-on" clamp. We can do this because we reinforce this crucial area with a welded titanium insert, more than doubling the wall thickness of the top of the seat tube. This also allows you to use a standard 27.2mm seat post, even with the oversize flex-reducing seat tube.

Rivets - I *hate* rivets. Sure, you can save money by riveting on aluminum cable guides, shifter bosses, and water bottle bosses. But ultimately they won't be as strong (or as attractive) as a beautifully welded titanium "braze-on". (I use the term "braze- on" in quotes, because you don't actually braze titanium, but the smooth single pass welds are similar to items brazed onto steel frames) If you've ever been annoyed on a club ride by someone's bike "buzzing", it's likely because of a loose rivet.

Wishbone stays. I never liked these, regardless of frame material. They're easier to fabricate, but add to lateral frame flex, and limit the strength of the rear triangle. Just like your high school physics teacher taught you, there's nothing stronger than a triangle, so why build a bicycle using a "tuning fork" rear end?

Dropouts - The lowly dropout is undervalued in terms of the amount of strength it adds to the frame. Shaving a few grams from a dropout might seem like a good idea until you bend it in a crash. Habanero frames use a specially designed 7mm (more than 1/4") thick titanium dropout that has integral gussets to dramatically increase the strength of the rear end, and drastically reduce flex. These can be easily cold set if you do manage to bend it (unlike 6Al/4V dropouts).

Frame finish in order of expense, from cheapest to most expensive....

Painted. Painting negates some of titanium's most attractive characteristics, particularly in regard to maintaining the finish of your bike. Once you paint it, you'll have to worry about chipping and scratching the surface, just like any other bike. However, paint can cover up less-than-perfect construction and saves the manufacturer a considerable amount of money. It *is* a good approach if you don't happen to like gray or silver, I suppose.  But if you do decide to paint your Habby, I promise I won't think badly of you.

Bead blasted. This is a very common method for finishing titanium bicycle frames. The frame is subjected to a stream of high-speed material that produces microscopic dimples in the finish. The end result is an industrial-looking dull gray tube. While this finish is inherently better than paint from a maintenance perspective, it's still quite easy to mar. A bump which would scratch a painted finish is likely to "polish" a section of the bead blasted finish. Unfortunately, there's no way to fix this without re-blasting the frame (which requires total disassembly of the bike and special equipment).

Brushed. This is the finish used on all Habanero frames. Once you own a brushed frame, you'll never want anything else. The brushed finish produces a soft, smooth silver finish (which I find much more attractive than bead blasted or polished, but chalk that up as personal opinion). It's very scratch-resistant, and minor abrasions are virtually invisible on the surface. If you do manage to scratch or otherwise mar the surface, a few passes with a ScotchBrite pad or 400 grit sandpaper restores the finish perfectly. This means that you should be able to keep your frame looking brand new literally forever!

Polished. This is what happens when you use finer and finer abrasive on the frame, until you end up with a virtual "mirror-like" finish. It's more difficult to maintain, since any minor scratches will show, and removing a scratch or abrasion will be considerably more difficult than a brushed frame. The polished finish also tends to show fingerprints, road grime, and sweat streaks more than a brushed finish. But if you like your bikes really shiny, there's no better approach.

Why did you carry road frames for a 1" fork for so long?

With seemingly the rest of the world rushing toward the "new" (hardly) inch and 1/8 spec (and the plethora of new tapered, pressed and internal specs), one has to ask "why did those retrogrouches at Habanero drag their feet getting 100% on board with the new, improved" spec?.  Simple - it's not really "new and improved".  Let's look at the reasoning behind the move to the "MTB spec"  inch and 1/8 steer tubes in road bikes.

Claim: By making the steer tube bigger, we can use less material and the fork will still be just as strong.  

Not necessarily.  Certainly making a tube's diameter bigger makes it stiffer - but you can't necessarily shrink the walls on a fork's steer tube without disastrous results.  Also, it's been suggested that an "over-stiff" steer tube concentrates stresses at the steer tube/crown interface, rather than distributing along the entire length as well as a 1" steer tube might.  And after all, the interface with the crown is where steer tubes will break, not in the middle. Also, the thinner a steer tube, the easier it is to crush it by tightening the stem.  Lots of people find this out the hard (and expensive!) way.

For comparison's sake, let's look at the difference in weight between typical 1" and inch and 1/8 models of the same fork, all based on an uncut steer tube.  

The Time Millenium Club fork came with a 330mm aluminum steer tube in inch and 1/8 format at 542g, and with a 300mm steel 1" steer tube that weighs in at 505g.  Add 30mm of steer tube to the 1" CrMo steer tube, and the weight increases to 526g - actually lighter than the inch and 1/8 fork, and steel (with its better fatigue characteristics).  

The Profile Design forks with their aluminum steer tubes all weigh in within 10 grams (that's a little over 1/3 of an ounce) of each other when comparing 1" and inch and 1/8 (with the lighter forks being the 1"). 

The Reynolds Ouzo Pro fork with its carbon fiber steer tube weighs a svelte 370g in 1" format, and 445g in inch and 1/8 format.  Advantage, 75g to the 1" fork.

Now let's look at the rest of the bike (unless of course, you just want to buy a fork to admire by itself, in which case you can stop reading now).  Bigger headsets are heavier.  The difference between the 1" and inch and 1/8 format for some common headsets: Cane Creek S-2 vs S-3, 20g; Chris King NoThreadSet, 18g; FSA Orbit XL-II, 26g.  How about stems?  Again, bigger stems are heavier - though direct comparisons are more difficult since no one seems to make the "same stem" in both sizes.  Add in the additional material required to make the head tube larger and it's easy to see that at best you MAY shave a few grams with a inch and 1/8 fork and frame, but chances are you're adding even more weight by choosing the "new improved spec", not losing it.

Then there's the subjective matter of "looks".  Everyone's free to determine which looks better on a road bike, but I'll take the cleaner lines of the 1" headset and stem any time I can get it.  It's easy to imagine that the smaller head tube is more aerodynamic (read, faster) but since I don't have a wind tunnel to test that theory I'll leave it as an unsupported hunch (for now).  

And for my fellow retrogrouches (those of us who liked threaded stems because of their ease and range of adjustability without the need to reset the preload of the headset, and since they are easily removed or twisted for shipping) there are still a good number of stems and headsets available to outfit your 1" threaded fork.

Update: You may have noticed that virtually all of our frames are now spec'd for 1-1/8" headsets and forks.  This isn't due to any physical need for a larger steer tube (though if it's going to help, it'll be on the larger frames), but only because it had become nearly impossible to find a 1" fork with a steer tube longer than 300mm.  With a typical headset and stem, a 300mm steer tube allows virtually no spacers, and therefore, no adjustability on a 64cm frame.  Similarly, a typical 300mm steer tube fork on a 62cm frame allows only a couple cm (0.8") of spacers, which I don't believe is enough for many (if not most) installations.  We also included the 1-1/8" head tube on the Team Issue Nuevo frames because, well... they're "nuevo" (but we couldn't bring ourselves to slope the top tubes). 

Will 1" forks be available 10 years from now?  Almost certainly - though there won't be as big a selection as the 1-1/8" forks.  This tends not to be a real issue, since in the overwhelming majority of cases, the fork will last as long as the frame anyway.

Why don't you follow the trend toward tapered steer tubes?

Like many things in the bicycle industry, I feel that the 1-1/2" to 1-1/8" tapered steer tube is a "solution in search of a problem".  To be fair, there ARE applications where it could make sense, such as a tandem or dedicated downhill MTB.  Otherwise, I feel that the tapered head tube just concentrates more of the forces a fork has to deal with on the crown, by taking away the little bit of freedom of movement you can get out of a smaller, straight steer tube.  Now I'm not really concerned that we're going to see tapered forks snapping off at the crown because of this, because generally, fork manufacturers will build all their forks to withstand pretty much anything they think their products will be subjected to.  That means that there is no reason to believe that they're going to ship a tapered fork that's "stronger" than their 1-1/8" straight steer tube model.  Why would they?  And of course, you're adding a surprising amount of weight with a tapered fork, mainly by requiring a much bigger headset (at least the bottom half), and of course, the head tube itself takes on a bit more heft.  But probably the best reason to consider a straight steer tube is the ride quality.  The straight steer tube is much more free to "absorb" impacts the fork is dealing with, by flexing very slightly, allowing a little fore/aft movement at the dropouts.  All forks do this, and virtually all of the "ride quality" differences in forks is because of their fore/aft compliance (none of them "compress" the fork legs in any meaningful sense).  Obviously, no one wants an overly flexible fork, but it's not like the steer tube is going to flex enough to cause any kind of handling "problems" - they didn't back when we were all riding 1" steer tubes, and certainly don't with 1-1/8" steer tubes.  But the fork's ability to flex enough to absorb "road buzz" - or in the case of a 'cross bike, the myriad of obstacles your front wheel encounters, is where the difference comes in.  Lots of well-respected builders and manufacturers are sticking with straight 1-1/8" steer tubes because they understand the dynamics of the bike fork, rather than just jumping on the latest "gotta have it trend".

Why don't you use internal headsets?

We've decided to continue to use the 1-1/8" external cup headset spec for a number of reasons.  Most importantly, there have been a bewildering number of internal, semi-integrated, tapered and other variations on the humble headset now.  Here's a sheet showing the current press-fit and integrated headset "standards", including the 1" JIS, 1" Professional, 1" BMX, 1-1/8" PF, 1-1/4" PF, 1" ZS, 1-1/8" ZS, 1.5" PF, 1.5" ZS specs for both 55 and 56mm SHIS diameters, IS38, IS41, IS42, IS47, 1-3/8" Cane Creek IS, IS49, and IS52...  Anyone who's been around the bike industry for long enough knows that the industry likes to throw dozens of new specs out, only to obsolete them a few years down the road.  Do you REALLY think you'll be able to find replacement parts and headsets for all those standards?  That means that if you happen to buy into a spec that no one supports in five years, a worn-out headset, or bent fork could mean your frame is now a paperweight.  And I have never thought it's a good idea to have bearings riding directly on a tapered surface cut into a frame's head tube - once that gets scored or dimpled (normally due to lack of lubrication or long rides in a car-top carrier), the frame is once again a paperweight.  The move to tapered steer tube with 1.5" or bigger diameters is also puzzling.  I'm sure you've all read that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but seriously - when is the last time any of us had any problems with an "undersize" 1-1/8" steer tube?  Plus, bigger bearings, fatter head tubes and bigger steer tubes all add weight - there's no way around this (check the weight on the various headsets and forks for those manufacturers who are honest enough to list them, and see above for my rant on 1" vs. the now ubiquitous 1-1/8" spec for more rationale).  And finally, has anyone noticed that the bicycle industry "improved" the bottom bracket by moving the cups outside of the bottom bracket shell (essentially, exactly the same way that a 1-1/8" external cup headset works)?  How can moving the bearings INTO a tube, and moving other bearings OUT of a tube BOTH be a great improvement?  

Why don't you use BB30?

A whole lot of what I wrote about headsets above applies here as well.  Why don't we use the BB30 bottom bracket spec?  Or the BB86/92? Or the BB90/95? Or the BBright Direct Fit? Or maybe the BBright Press Fit, or the PF30, or even the Specialized OS spec?  And now, the 386 EVO spec?  I hope that list answers the question... I honestly don't think all those (most of those?) will be around in 10 years, leaving those who buy frames built around a soon to be obsolete spec out in the dark when they wear out their BB.  Also, those of us who've been around long enough remember that this isn't the first time that similar specs were touted as "the next great thing".  There were a number of "press-fit" bottom brackets in the 80's, and guess what - they went away because they caused more problems than they were worth.  And don't forget that there was absolutely NO advantage to the old press-fit BB spec, other than for manufacturers who got to save machining and assembly costs with the press-in BB bearings.  I fully expect the 68mm English bottom bracket to be around for a long, long time, and for most, if not all the other threadless bottom brackets to follow the previous iterations of the same concept into the scrap heap of bicycle history.

Are you going to start building 27.5" MTB frames?

The short answer - no.  I'm more than happy to draw up a custom frame using the 27.5 spec (aka 650b if you're a roadie, and might remember the failed effort to make that size wheel popular).  But it's my opinion that this is just another arbitrary "improvement" designed to convince people that suddenly their old MTB is no longer capable of being ridden because it's tires are a little too small, or a little too big.  Certainly there ARE those who benefit from two "reasonable" specs - the 26" and the 29" (aka 700c for you roadies).  Large riders do better on 29'ers, and the bigger wheels / tires do roll over obstacles a bit better than the smaller 26" wheels, though the latter boasts considerably lighter weight.  That said, the diameter of the 29'er mounted tires is only 10% larger than the 26" tire of the same width.  This isn't a radical difference, even though countless pages have been written about magical qualities associated with larger tires, or the incredible responsiveness of the smaller wheels.  Yes, you'd notice the difference but it's not a night-and-day thing.  But now we're told that not only are 26" wheels are too small but 29" wheels are too big... and the solution is a wheel that's a relatively tiny 5% different from those specs.  Really?  And let's not forget that your ability to find tires, tubes, rims and wheels for this new spec is going to be pretty spotty now, and if the industry decides to abandon this spec (which it does with the majority of the silly specs it invents), its only going to get worse.  If you cut a tire the day before the big race, wouldn't it be nice to go to your local bike store and pick up a replacement?

Brakes - Disc vs. Canti vs. Mini-V

I get asked about this a lot.  Certainly, there are reasons for each, and there really are no bad answers.  But it's important to look at what we really want out of our bicycle brakes to determine which will work best for us.  Disc brakes are starting to get trendy, and since this will cause lots of people to go out and replace perfectly good rim brake bicycles, the industry is going to be pushing the spec as much as possible.  Certainly they make a whole lot of sense on MTBs that are ridden in dirt, mud and water, since the brakes will stay clean(ish) and dry(ish).  The down side of the disc brake is that it's more expensive, heavier, tends to create a bit of drag, and can be daunting for the home mechanic to adjust or maintain, especially if they're hydraulic.  OTOH, if you're the rider who rides the brakes down long, steep descents, they can keep you from heating your rims to the point of potentially blowing a tire off.  The humble and ancient canti (cantilever) brake has a lot going for it, though it's currently out of vogue.  They're cheap, easy to adjust and maintain, much lighter than a disc brake, and - if you know how - easy to fine-tune for just the kind of feel and performance you want.  Most people who gave up on cantis did so because they compared their old bike with its rock-hard six year old, worn down pads to a new bike with discs or V-brakes.  Throw a new set of sticky pads on your old cantis, and set the straddle cable for proper modulation and you're going to love 'em again.  The mini-V is a relatively new entry into the braking wars.  It takes pretty much everything good about the canti brake and adds even lighter weight, lower cost, and even easier adjustment to the mix.  They're compatible with road brake levers since they require much less cable pull than a full-size V-brake, though they have to be set up with pretty tight pad-to-rim clearances to get good performance.  But they're pretty much impossible to beat them on a 'cross bike, and they're nearly immune to the dreaded "front brake shudder" that's all too common with many combinations of fork and canti brake.  And finally, I'll add that I think disc brakes on a road bike is a solution in search of a problem.  The extra weight and drag on a fat tire MTB with knobbies is not going to make a huge difference, but why in the world do you want to add SO much weight, cost, complexity and drag to a road bike to "fix" brakes that already work so well?  Let's not forget that not only won't your stock of existing road wheels work on a disc brake bike, but that your rear hub has grown from 130mm to 135mm, pushing your cranks out accordingly to retain the proper chainline (oops, it seems that the manufacturers didn't change their cranks to accommodate this, so you'll just have to live with a crank that's a few mm too far inboard for your cassette now).  And remember, the common wisdom is that bigger rotors make better disc brakes.  OK, think about a 700c rim as a 622mm "disc", with a (mechanical) caliper that engages both pads, just like the most expensive disc brakes.  That's over 3x the size of a "big" MTB disc brake!

Brakes - Hydraulic vs. Cable-operated

And while we're on the subject...  ;-)  Hydraulic disc brakes are the defacto standard for MTB brakes.  This makes sense on many (but not necessarily all) levels.  But now this option is spilling over to the 'cross and road bike market as well.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of hydraulic operation of disc brakes on a 'cross / road bike?  No doubt that once you've installed, bled and adjusted the hydraulic disc bakes, they work just fine.  The down side is that those hydraulic brakes just added a whole lot of cost to your bike, and might have made future brake maintenance a lot more difficult.  I'm an avid shade-tree automotive mechanic, and don't mind bleeding automotive brakes, but really don't like messing with hydraulic bicycle brakes - they're just too "fiddly" with itty bitty little hardware and gaskets that can be so easily lost or damaged, and tiny little brake fluid reservoirs that run dry in a heartbeat when you're trying to chase some errant bubbles out of a brake line.  Oh, and if a stray drop of brake fluid makes the 1/2" trip from the bleed nipple to the brake pad, you WILL have to replace the pads.  Then there's the relative fragility of the brake hoses, compared to the near indestructibility of a bicycle brake cable.  I'm sure that more than a few brake hoses have been pulled apart or otherwise damaged during a crash, or even just a sloppy portage in a 'cross race.  OTOH, the hydraulic brakes do self-adjust as they wear (with the slave cylinders "resetting" their resting points as the pads get thinner).  That said, cable-operated disc brakes have great "feel", and are dead simple to adjust for pad wear, especially if you're using a brake that moves both pads and not just one (the ubiquitous Avid BB7 Road has a fixed pad which must be set very, very close to the rotor to provide good braking, but is still very easy to adjust).  I find very little difference in "feel" between the hydraulic and quality cable-operated 'cross / road bike disc brakes - both work great. For those who are dead-set on any advantages of a disc brake but prefer not to spend the money on the "full hydraulic" components, consider a hybrid brake like the excellent TRP HY/RD.  It's a true hydraulic brake, but one that has both the master and slave cylinders inside the caliper, which is operated with a good old brake cable... kind of the best of both worlds. It has no external hoses to get snagged, cut or damaged, but has all of the "feel" and self-adjustability of a full hydraulic brake system, and spec'ing them will save you a boatload of money on your shift/brake levers, not to mention allow you to use a frame that's set up for cable-operated brakes.

What IS a habanero anyway?

The habanero is simply the world's hottest pepper (or was, before a couple hybrids were discovered and/or bred - I'll just suggest it's the worlds "hottest tasty pepper" for now). If it was a weapon, it would be a hydrogen bomb. In fact, as a food, it's also kind of a hydrogen bomb. While the often-feared jalapeno pepper has a Scoville rating (no doubt dreamed up by someone with way too much time on their hands) of no more than 5,000 or so, the not-so-humble habanero pepper goes off the chart with around 100-400,000 Scoville units. How hot is that? Hot enough that all but the most hard-core hot food fanatics have to use them in small doses, and hardly anyone can eat them raw. BUT, they aren't just insanely hot - they have a pungent, lingering taste that is unmatched by any other of the lesser peppers. They're great in an scrambled eggs, or in hot wings (check out the Habanero Cycles Hot Wings Recipe).  Check out the habanero aficionados at for a lot more facts, folklore and recipes. article on Habanero Cycles and Mark Hickey article on the ultimate gravel / triathon training bike


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