PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : M5 Brakes: Pez Test Stoppers With Beef

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M5 Brakes: Pez Test Stoppers With Beef
Right off the bat, without having seen the brakes, I liked that I would get to deal with Bram Moens - a guy who’s not afraid to call a regular road bike an “STF”, or Scrotum Torturing Fossil, and poke fun at us roadies as using technology past its usefulness (but not stupid enough to smile while acknowledging there’s money to be made selling brakes to us).

Not just cubby-holed in design and manufacture, he reminds me a bit of Bill Shook at American Classic as a guy who would rather be out using stuff than in designing it.

Yet his latest design sits well and truly in the useful column as his new side pull brakes go a different route in design and performance from some of the latest light stoppers from Zero Gravity and a few others (Zero Gravity test here). While not the slightest in appearance, they use an old tried and true design principal that is far more recognizable in building bridges than building anything you might ride across one…

Click the thumbnail above for the big picture

Bam Bam Bram
Maybe my favorite “put up or shut up” story of all time is his decision to take on all the Pro Tour Team Time Trial formations in Eindhoven on the course they would race, and do it alone. That's a tall order for anyone at all and taller still when noted that Bram rolls in the 50 plus age group. So there’s Bram, stand alone on his M5 Carbon low racer over the 48km with the blessing of the UCI (he did the course before the teams started) and he holds 50.5 kph.

Recumbent (we say N.E.R.D) versus “S.T.F.”

Bram didn’t beat all the ProTour teams, but he did beat several… Now Bram is practical and acknowledges that a good Pro TT rider could climb aboard a proper M5 recumbent and rip out a TT above 60 KPH with no problem, but it was fun to see the results of this 50 year old guy versus T-Mobile / Disco / Gerolsteiner / CSC / etc experiment…

Back to the meat.
So there’s an example of what they were trying for. A brake set that could provide the clamping force suitable for stopping two wheeled missiles with a bit of extra weight. To do that, they decided on a trellis design (also called a “space frame” in some places) that you might find in other uses. Basically the principal is that a proper frame shape means less material is required within the structure to maintain a structure. Once they had the design set they decided machining out the materials from solid block stock (extremely expensive by the way).

They knew that the brakes would perform well after initial tests, but I don’t think they realized how stable the design was until they kept on machining away material and the brakes were not losing any stiffness!

They kept spinning away until they were left wit so little material that they felt going further would be useless. And they wound up with a “GP Sexy” brake unit weighing 87 grams (pair selling for 248 Euro’s) with standard hardware or 72 grams (pair selling for 289 Euro’s) with a Ti bolt (that’s sans shoes).

Now the big news isn’t that the weight was an incidentally low number… The best part of this was that they built what they set as their goal of building, a set of brakes that wprovided more stopping force than what was on the market. The mind-blowing part of this story is that the brakes weigh what they do, but the brake arms are 4 - 6 times stiffer axially (pressing against the rim) than 105, Dura Ace or Record stoppers! They also performed as good or better in Torsional stiffness (the twisting force that your brakes deal with once they contact the rim). This is where the space frame design is most obvious, taking an oversized frame and machining away the fluff, but leaving a big enough structure to stay stiff

During testing, it was noted that cable strength was a limiting factor, as they actually broke cables with pull force far in excess of what any person could pull the levers. This is not relevant, as your wheels are locked up far sooner than that, but it does speak to the fact that the durability is what anyone might consider at least “more than necessary”.

The brakes are machined from solid 7075 Alu, and feature a center pivot point that holds 4 20mm bushing type bearings (slippery stuff smashed between metal). This pivot point also features a 12mm hollow aluminum axel, rather than the 6mm Steel axel you probably have on your brakes at home.

As we received these brakes quite a while ago, and Bram had not yet fabricated his version of Shoe and pads, the Pads and Shoes are Elite Road Carbon compliments of the guys at

The M5 version shoes might look a bit like this…

Now to the fun part…
We couldn’t think of anything better to mount the M5 stoppers on than our newest addition to the fleet in a would-be Moto-GP M1 (actually a Kuota Kredo…).

Back when we ran a spy shot of these brakes on the site, Pez had a bunch of emails and all were all along the lines of “how do they compare to Zero Gravity”. I will say right away that The Zero G 0G05 brakes and these brakes are opposite ends of the stick. What M5 do is produce the stiffest braking available, they do away with flex and put braking modulation into your hands rather than building in some flexibility (some might call breathing room). The actuation with the M5’s is quick and strong, rather than the progressive feel I get from Zero Gravity’s. The spring relief on the M5 brakes (resistance to your pull) is also a bit stronger, which makes sense given the initial stiffness.

I guess to put it simply, if you want stiffer and lighter than Shimano and Campy (or are a heavier rider), you have that now with these brakes from M5. If you want more modulation and lighter brakes than Shimano or Campy, you have that with Zero Gravity.

I will say that, as upgrades go, putting these on my bike was, in a word, “noticeable”. Noticeable not for the weight savings, which is substantial compared to Record or Dura Ace, but for the immediate responsiveness they have. The feel of these compared to standard Campy Shimi or Zero G is that the initial bit is more firm and that your squeezing the levers is putting more stopping power to your wheels and to the ground. I would call them more sensitive to rider input at all points on the braking scale. For some light weight guys on light bikes with light wheels (especially carbon tubulars), you might decide weather this sensitivity is a good or bad thing. For larger riders, I am of the opinion that you might like it. For those in the middle, it’s really to you in deciding what you might want.

Maybe the best part of this is that my past line that “weight weenies and big / big power guys will never rejoice about the same part” is now (like so much of my other babble) rendered bullsh!t. As weight weenies are sometimes (and foolishly) also larger guys, M5 Brakes are a home run.

What’s the difference in what one guy might “feel” to the next?

Barring sand or other road “flaws”, a light guy will only pull the levers to a certain point before he locks up his wheels and skids. Heavier guys get relatively better traction as extra weight pushes their tires against the road and that better traction means more brake pad force on the rim is allowed before the tire breaks traction.

Lots of things effect braking. Road conditions, cable flex (not so much) brake lever flex (a bit), cable housing compression and movement (just a little), brake pad material (some), proper adjustment and Brake arm flex (in small measure). All else being equal, the M5 brakes represent a solid advance in brake technology, just like the Zero G’s did. This is another punch in the nose of established gear from the Yin and Yang(olo) of components, as standard brakes are an area that can clearly be advanced in weight and performance.

Installation and adjustment were both extremely easy, requiring no brand specific tools that you wouldn’t already have for dealing with brakes and cables and taking no more time than standard brakes, for either the shoes or the mounting of the units themselves. You can replace your existing brakes with these and your cable length fro stock should be fine.

The fit and finish were very good, and the performance is what you read above. The cost isn’t relatively high as weight saving tuner parts goes. You save 100 or more grams over Campy and Shimano, and the cost is less than Zero G, but more than Record or Dura Ace.

You can get these through Groupe De, or hit up M5’s web site directly. Jagwire can help with Shoes and Pads if Bram’s not ready with his yet.

With Christmas around the corner, you might want to get your request in now, as these are tucked away in the Netherlands… Come to think of it, with the strength of these things as we get in to winter, I wonder if they wouldn’t make some pretty great Cross brakes (mud holding capacity aside)?

Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

Pez Cycling news and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limits that may limit their use.

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