Avid BB7 is living proof that you can get a good braking force, without the need to mount a set of hydraulic disc brakes on your bike. How did the Avid BB7 people create a model of success and what are the advantages and disadvantages of using the brakes, we will explain in this test.
I had the opportunity to use these brakes in the Road version (210-mm front rotor and 160 mm rear), but the difference between these and BB7 MTN is minor and only concerns details. The lever installed on the caliper has the same length in both versions, the only difference is made by its pull: BB7 Road Race version is shorter, in order to work with levers dedicated for road bikes, cyclocross or road bicycles, while MTN BB7 version benefits from a sensibly longer travel, in order to allow the use of V-Brake levers.
Now speaking of levers, any of those for V-Brakes are suitable, even those from Shimano. However, for best performance we recommend the Avid levers, belonging to model Speed Dial (SD 7, SD SL or SD Ultimate the latter ones being the most performing and also the lightest).
Although they have a strange lever feel, which resembles neither that of V-Brakes nor that of some hydraulic disc brakes, BB7 provide satisfactory or even very good performance if you are to compare them with mechanical disc brakes offered by Shimano or Tektro. Modulation cannot be compared to that of hydraulic brakes, but depending on the settings you make to the lever for shortening or increasing the travel, you can get a decent result, as the lever can stop even at 50% of its travel.
Repeated braking on forest trails or rough terrain does not cause fading, but braking on steep or very long descents leads to rotor overheating, which causes a noticeable, yet not significant power loss. I think it’s great for a set of mechanical disc brakes. Avid BB7’s advantages are clear: low cost, low maintenance, low weight (even lower than some hydraulic disc brakes), good braking power and decent life of brake pads. As a little secret, we recommend installing 180 mm Avid G2 Cs rotors, which should be enough for the front, and 160 mm for the rear. Thanks to their construction, they offer improved performance and better resistance to overheating on trails with long descents. Be careful, though, not all stores sell these brakes with Avid G2 CS rotors.
In short, Avid’s experience of over 10 years in mechanical disc brakes can be remarked even by a novice who will try BB7 brakes. They are a good example of a successful product and competition should take note or even use it as inspiration for future models. In fact, BB7 are the best mechanical disc brakes that I’ve tested so far.
Weight: 327 grams, with 160 mm rotor
Use: XC, All Mountain, Cyclocross, Road