Ciamillo Lekki 8 - the new Zero Gravity Brakes
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Tested September 2018
Ciamillo Lekki 8 - the new Zero Gravity Brakes
Everyone deserves a second chance - and this one is worth it
What is It
Ted Ciamillo's claim to fame is the original Zero Gravity Brakeset that became very popular starting in 2002, due to their extremely low weight. At less than 200 grams for the set, they were 1/2 the weight of mainstream competitors. Ted truly disrupted the brake category and found a lot of success with weight-conscious consumers and even pro teams snapping up his brakes, myself included. I ended up buying the original OG-05 (186 grams), GSL (230 grams), and Gravitas SL (142 grams) through the years. Unfortunately, as with many tales of overly rapid success, it seems that Ted wasn't able to keep quality and customer service on par as he grew and the 2008 recession really hit him as he was way over extended. He got a lot of feedback about poor customer service, poor product performance and his brand took a beating. This said, Ted doesn't deny it; you can read a detail of his self-explained story here.
Ted has since decided to regroup and rebuild, completely focused on making the best and lightest brake for high performance riding. He calls it the Lekki 8. Lekki means "light" in Polish and "8" means it's his eighth brake model. So could there be a reinvention? A redemption of sorts? After nearly two decades of experience, maybe.
My older Cervelo S3 has had a new lease on life after I purchased a set of remarkable FSE carbon wheels. These wheels are much wider than the aluminum rimmed-wheels (19mm wide) I was running before and measure at 25.6mm. The wheels are vertically very stiff and the bike now accelerates and handles much better - yet is also more comfortable due to the wide rim, 26mm tires (vs. 23mm) and lower inflation pressure (80psi vs. 110). Remarkable for carbon rims, they also have super impressive braking. In fact, the rims are textured and make a sort of grinding sound, similar to HED's Turbine Braking and Mavic's Exalith. Under braking; this mild texture most certainly contributes to their remarkable braking performance. I had been using the older (circa 2013) Zero Gravity Gravitas brakes with the new wheels and they just weren't up to the task of braking these more modern rims. The brakes were stretched to the max to accommodate the increased width. They would flex and after long descents, there was a build up of brake dust caused by the brakes shuddering. Needless to say I was a bit concerned with prolonged downhill braking so I replaced them with a new set of modern SRAM Red brakes. The Reds felt more confident and there wasn't any brake dust residue. Unfortunately, the Red's weigh around 100 grams more and it pushed my weight-weenie bike over the magic 14lb mark.
Then I heard about the new brake from Ted Ciamillo that was designed for wider rims. Could these brakes be significantly lighter yet still be as safe and effective as the Red's? Could I get the bike back down below 14 pounds?
So first, about weight:
Ted claims his brakes are "the lightest production caliper on the market". The legendary $1360 THM Fibula brakes have a claimed weight of just 120 grams for the set, though I believe this is without brake pad holders and pads. Ted's measurements for the Lekki 8 are 129 grams without holder and pads. With holders and pads, his set comes in, according to his scale, at 144 grams with pads - the THM at 149 grams. However, the set of Lekkis I tested were 136 grams without pads and 166 grams with Swiss Stop carbon-specific pads. I don't have a set of THMs to cross check.
So I'm not ready to say they are the absolute lightest but, depending on the sample and how you measure, the Lekki's are certainly impressive. For my bike, the Lekkis did shave 3.5 ounces - 99 grams over the SRAM Reds, which got my bike back down to the sub 14lb range @ 13lbs 14 ounces or 6310 grams - sweet!
What about installation?
The brakes are challenging to set up; they require precise cable length to ensure the brake centers properly. Too much cable length pushes the brakes to the left and too little pulls the brake to the right (from what I've read, the Fibulas are similarly finicky). Fortunately I used Alligator cables which have links that can be added or removed to get the precise length. Once the cable length is dialed in, the cable tension needs to be set to work with the "power cam" which is the lever which actuates the brake. A nice touch, a hole is drilled to thread the brake cable through. The lever arm needs to be in the "down" position to provide the most leverage; if it's too high, there isn't enough stroke. The cable tension shouldn't be adjusted with the barrel lock as this can effect the brake cable length. Rather there is a 2mm set screw you access looking down on the brake to adjust cable tension. The brakes require very small adjustments to dial in just right, sort of like a high-performance car.
How do they ride?
Zero Gravity brakes have taken some flak for having poor modulation. This is actually by design; Ted designed these brakes for racers who need to stop quickly and effectively. So they have a sort of binary, "on/off" feel. Personally, I like the hyper fast response but it may not be for everyone. Once installed correctly, I found the brakes to be a pleasure and had no issues with long and steep descents. And no brake pad dust. From my experience they brake as safely and confidently as the SRAM Red's.
Overall, I'm very impressed with Ted's 8th iteration of the Zero Gravity brake. They are super light and once fully dialed feel powerful and reliable. In my opinion, this second chance is quite a comeback.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
More Info: https://www.lekki8.com