Simkins Egg Brake
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Tested May 2010


Simkins Egg Brake

  • Cost: $385/pair, $195 front only MSRP (complete with brake pads)
  • Aerodynamic and unique
  • Made in the USA
  • Light weight: 287 grams (pair); front 145, rear 142
  • Available in Red, Black, and Silver
  • Strong braking power
  • Available direct

Matt Simkins' day job use to be working as engineer on eye/ear/nose/throat medical devices. He's now getting his graduate degree in bionics at UC Santa Cruz. In his spare time, he's focused his passion for cycling by building some intriguing road and tri bike brakes. His latest brake is his fourth design and it's aptly named the "Egg" brake. An egg is a very aerodynamic shape and these brakes have some real testing to back up his aero claims.

What makes them different?
The aftermarket for brakes is remarkably crowded, thanks primarily to Ciamillo, makers of the Zero Gravity brake, that ushered in a new era of super light brakes. There is now a fantastic array of light brakes made by Sampson, KCNC, Revl, TRP, Feather, Bontrager, M5, FSA, and Ax-Lightness, not to mention the industry giants Shimano, Campy, and SRAM. Matt's previous brake, the Simkins Skelter was yet another uniquely styled offering in this crowded space. But it was also plagued by an extremely difficult installation process.

So Matt went back to the drawing board to try and innovate on aerodynamics instead of pure weight savings. Aero brakes have been notable throughout the years with the Campy Delta, Shimano AX, Hooker and MRC models. But most had very poor braking or reliability issues. Remarkably, none are available for sale as new today.

The promise of the Egg brake is that it offers strong braking power, reasonably light weight, and an aero advantage. In terms of weight and price, the Egg weighs just a few grams more than the Shimano 7900 but retails for $55 less.

So are they really that aero?
So what about the aero benefits? Matt wasn't able to get these wind-tunnel tested, but through collaboration with an avid cyclist/ mechanical engineer, Thomas Anhalt, the egg brake was shown to save 3 watts of power over their test course. By Thomas' calculations, the rule of thumb is that a reduction of 10 watts equates to 1 second per kilometer of time savings. If the Egg Brake saves 3 watts of power, this means that over a flat 40KM course, the brakes will save 12 seconds. And over an Ironman distance of 112 miles, that savings goes to 54 seconds.

Granted, these don't appear to be earth-shattering differences, but when you think about Greg Lemond winning the 1989 Tour de France by a mere 8 seconds, these small differences suddenly seem pretty significant..

Design and Installation
Matt used sophisticated "Computational Fluid Dynamics" software that models wind resistance and turbulence to maximize the aerodynamic design. He also used "Finite Element Analysis", typically used to predictably model out scenarios from car crashes to weather predictions, to optimize the strength and weight of the brake set. As you can see from the photo of the back side of the brake, much of it is hollowed out with materials of varying thickness depending on stress points.

The brakes are definitely "cool looking" and received complimentary reaction at the recent Wildflower triathlon. They also fit 23mm wide Hed Jet wheels with ease; these wider rims can be problematic with some brake calipers.

Installation was much better than the previous Simkins Skelter brake and on par with typical "mainstream" brakes. The most finicky part of the install is the cable length. The cable runs through the arm assembly and down toward the brake pad. It needs to be cut within that distance. Conveniently, Matt supplies heat shrink tubing and a "strike any where" match to keep the brake cable end from fraying; it's a nice touch. Additionally, centering the brakes can involve a bit of trial and error; the calipers "set" at certain angles; you need to insert a 2mm allen wrench to hold the caliper in place while fine tuning.

Weight
We received two sets of brakes, a production version in red finish with lighter brake shoes, and the black pre-production set seen here. The red version was 6 grams lighter. We tested the black version because it matched Scott Plasma test bike better. The black set weighed in at 299 grams but production units should come in at 287 grams for the set. This is significantly lighter than Dura Ace 7800 (314 grams) and just 3 grams more than Dura Ace 7900.

Performance
Braking performance was surprisingly strong, given the smaller overall form factor than its Dura Ace competitors. The return springs are fairly powerful which is helpful with triathlon/tt applications which typically have a more complicated cable routing and minimalist brake levers. The only real complaint was with modulation; you have to apply strong pressure with the brakes which can get tiresome on long descents with aero bars and brakes.

In race conditions, however, these brakes were perfectly acceptable. They didn't get knocked out of alignment and there were no reliability concerns during the race. In fact, when I used these brakes in the Wildflower International Distance triathlon, I recorded a new personal best time (by over 80 seconds)-- and I've raced this course 9 times over the past 15 years. Of course there were other factors to consider but one still can't help but wonder if the brakes contributed in some way.

Summary
These are unique brakes that appeal to the time trial/triathlon racer who is looking for every possible aero advantage. The braking performance is sufficient and the aero advantage makes them an interesting choice. Better still, they are less expensive than Dura Ace 7900 for virtually the same weight. For the tri-geek or time trialist looking to squeeze out every last bit of performance, and especially if you want something you likely won't see on any other bike , this is a very compelling offering.

Value: 4.0 stars 
Overall: 4.25 stars


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