Saturday, April 18, 2015

Avanti Inc 3: Shimano Deore M615 Hydraulic Disc Brakes

For a wet weather commuting bike such as my Avanti Inc 3, the bike components will come into contact with rain quite often. Aside from rust, the other concern would be the braking performance in the rain. Normal rim brakes such as V brakes and road caliper brakes perform well when dry, but the performance suffers greatly in wet weather. Disc brakes don't have this downside as they work as well in the dry or in the wet. That was the main reason for choosing a bike with disc brakes for wet weather commuting.

The stock brakes that come with the Avanti Inc 3 are the Shimano entry level BL-M445. These are basic hydraulic brakes that are very affordable and perform very respectably. You will be able to find these brakes on many mid-to-entry range mountain bikes that cost below SGD 1000.

BL-M445 hydraulic brakes that come stock with the Avanti Inc 3

These brakes have performed well over the 1.5 years that I have been riding this bike. Over these 1.5 years, I have clocked an average of 80km per month on this bike. This distance seems short, but considering that I mostly ride this bike only when the ground is wet or when it is raining, that is 80km per month of cycling that I would have missed out if I did not have this wet weather bike.

Although these brakes are still working well, I wanted to upgrade the brakes because I would prefer to use more high end brakes for better braking power. A very affordable MTB hydraulic brake would be the Shimano Deore BL-M615 hydraulic brakes. These are designed with reference to the highly regarded XTR and Deore XT brakes, at a much lower cost, slightly heavier weight and only slightly reduced performance. Therefore, I decided to upgrade the brakes on the Avanti Inc 3 to the Deore brakes.

Comparing the shape and length of the brake lever. The BL-M445 is designed for 3 finger usage, while the Deore BL-M615 is designed for more "pro" usage with a 1.5 finger lever shape.

The Deore BL-M615 brakes come pre-bled with the brake calipers, all ready for installation.

Designed to look like the high end Deore XT brakes

Instead of a knob for tool-less adjustment of the lever reach, an Allen key is required to turn the bolt for reach adjustment.

Special profile inside the bracket to guide the piston, for a Servo-Wave effect. Open clamp band design allows installation or removal of the brakes without removing the grips.

Uses mineral oil for the hydraulic fluid. At the bottom left corner of the picture, you can see a hole on the clamp band, which is for I-Spec compatibility. You can mount an I-Spec shifter on this same clamp band with the appropriate adaptors.

Deore BR-M615 hydraulic brake calipers. Does not have the features of the higher end brake calipers, such as a banjo fitting for adjustment of the brake hose exit angle.

Comes stock with resin brake pads, which can be swapped out for metal brake pads if higher braking power is desired.

High power hydraulic brake hose SM-BH90 used by many Shimano hydraulic brakes.

With the same hydraulic hose lengths, swapping the M445 for the M615 brakes is easy without the need to cut and re-bleed the brakes.

Weight of BL-M445/BR-M446 with 70cm hose is 271 grams.

Weight of Deore BL-M615/BR-M615 with 70cm hose is 277 grams. Slightly heavier, but no big deal for me.

While changing out the brakes, I noticed a little clip on the inside of the Avanti front fork for the hydraulic hose. This was not used for the stock brakes.

 There are even Avanti Inc decals on the inside surface of the front fork! Talk about details...

New Deore brakes! I still had to remove the grips as I needed to remove the M445 brakes which did not have an open clamp band design.

Deore brake caliper mounted on the frame. The rear brake caliper mounting is located inside the rear triangle, which makes it very neat and compact. The downside is that it is harder to reach the brake caliper mounting bolts.

Before I review the braking performance of the new brakes, I would like to state that this is Part 1 of 2 for the brakes upgrade. For this first part, the brake levers and calipers were upgraded. In the upcoming Part 2, I will be upgrading the brake rotors! I wanted to upgrade the brakes and the rotors at the same time, as this would mean that fresh brake pads would come into contact with fresh rotors. This means almost no risk of contamination of the new brake pads with residue or oil from old rotors.

New brake rotors coming up next in Part 2!

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