Over the years, Avid has made a credible name for itself as a well respected brake specialist (amongst other specialisations). In the early years, it was the Speed Dial series of v-brakes, and recently the Juicy series of disc brakes.
Those who seek an alternative to the big S brand commonly specced on many bikes often resort to Avid as a very competent alternative, and in some aspects, even superior than the competition.
In the Speed Dial Ultimate, you can witness what is arguably the epitome of v-brake evolution. The gorgeous pair of CNC machines levers that Togoparts were fortunate enough to get its greedy hands on, courtesy of Avid authorised distributors Boon Bikes, seemed more comfortable being displayed as a piece of art rather than installed on a handlebar to be squeezed by the grimy dirty hands of a mountain biker.
These levers have been made available locally as far back as 1999, but because the accompanying price tag brought tears to the eyes of those who drooled at them, it never really sold in numbers, unlike its popular cousins SD7 and SD5, and even the Avid Magnesium, Arch Rivals and Avid Titanium. As time passed and the market turned to disc brakes, it seemed like the SD Ultimate would be destined to end up forgotten at the back of the display at your local bike shop (assuming you can even find a pair displayed in the first place!).
But Togoparts deemed this as something truly worthy of review, and brought to the attention of those who grew up not knowing that, once upon a time, bicycles resorted to rim-brakes for stopping purposes.
Upon picking up a pair of these levers, the first thing one would notice is its feathery weight. At a mere 152g, these brake levers are almost as light as your tire levers. Coupled with the immense precision of the CNC work and the flawless black anodizing, you cannot but stare in awe of how a simple brake lever can be worked into such a beautiful metal sculpture.
But are the aesthetics all there is to these levers you ask? By mounting them onto your handlebar, you would immediately notice that, due to the ?Cam-Split? clamp, removal of grips in order to fit your brake levers is now a thing of the past. The impression that these levers are merely eye-candy are forever dispelled by the amazing amount of leverage adjustability afforded by the levers and the ?Live-Action-View-Port? allowing you to see exactly how much leverage you have dialed-in, and how much more you can dial-in. The leverage adjustability may be easily done whilst on the trail without need for tools. Coupled with the sealed cartridge bearings at its pivot, and you know that these levers are not only good-looking but perfectly functional as well. As far as we are aware, these are the only v-brake levers to incorporate sealed cartridge bearings. Weight-weenies can take further note that the levers come with titanium mounting bolts.
Being at the top-end of Avid?s v-brake range, modulation control is very important, and Togoparts found out to its delight that they did not disappoint in this department. Mounted on our test bike for the past six months and paired with, what else but the SD Ultimate brake callipers, they have proved to be absolutely reliable and problem-free in both dry and wet conditions. Whether you have the long slender fingers of a professional piano player and like to use only one finger on the brakes, or tend to grab the lever with all four fat and stumpy-looking wieners, they have worked without fail.
What worried us was whether the levers could withstand a crash or two, as the weight did not reassure us of its sturdiness. Suffice to say, the small handful of collisions encountered during our rides in no way affected the integrity of the levers, let alone snap them into pieces. However, it would be prudent to ensure that the levers are not clamped on too tight, so that in the event of a crash, the levers will simply be pushed out of alignment rather than suffering a catastrophic break.
In the end, the cost is certainly prohibitive notwithstanding its handsome and hardy construction. Moreover, there will always be those who would rather splurge this amount of money on a pair of disc brakes instead. But for all those die-hard v-brake loyalists and those seeking exclusivity, you cannot go wrong with the SD Ultimate. We foresee that this lever will remain the benchmark for some time to come, and will prove a worthwhile investment for those reluctant to migrate to disc brakes, or whose style of riding does not warrant the stopping power of disc brakes.