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advice on paul neo-retros(28 posts)

advice on paul neo-retrosjnichols959
Jan 7, 2004 4:46 PM
I'm planning on getting the Paul Neo-Retro canti's for the bike I'm building up and am wondering about the pads I'd use when the stock pads need replacing.

The Paul site says "The pads are modern v-brake style". Does this mean that, for example, I could use the "V-Type Brake Insert" pads shown on the Kool Stop web site?

I plan on, among other things, riding this on trail and road rides in wet weather and was thinking of trying the salmon kool stop pads. I'm just not sure if the v brake pads from kool stop will work with the Neo-Retros.

Any general neo-retro tips would also be appreciated. I've done a lot of searching of the archives before deciding on the Pauls - so thanks in advance to all those that helped without even knowing it.
re: advice on paul neo-retroslaffeaux
Jan 7, 2004 5:04 PM
Yes, you can use the replaceable cartridge style pads with the Paul brakes. The pads are identical to the ones used on any mountian "v-brake." I have the salmon pads on my bike right now.

The only advice is to heed Paul's advice and opt for the Touring brakes in the rear. I do not have particularly large calves or feet, yet I contacted the Neo Retros with both. I evenutally pulled them off of the rear of the bike and replaced them with standard cantis.
touring rear vs. neo-retro rearjnichols959
Jan 7, 2004 5:38 PM
That was my initial plan. After having done a lot of searching for feedback about different brakes for trail riding in wet and muddy conditions, I figured I might as well just email the folks at Paul. Well, Paul replied and suggested that I just go with the Neo-Retro in the rear as well. I told him that the rides I do tend to have climbs/descents in the 2500 to 3500 foot range - this and the wet/mud issue may have made a difference. Now I just have to take a look at my current road bike to see if there's any chance of some calf/foot contact.

This is my first cross bike and though I plan on trying cross racing with it, it's not a pure racer. If I get into racing, I might build up a race bike or make the changes necessary on this bike to race. I can see how (dis)mounting could make the neo-retro a problem but was hoping that regular riding wouldn't be an issue.

Given your feedback I'm definitely going to have to check before ordering two neo-retros. Thanks for the response.

This brake issue has been the toughest so far - and I'm seriously considering getting the frame/fork built with disc mounts just in case, like some folks have said, cantis in the wet just don't cut it for me.
touring rear vs. neo-retro rearDan Cas
Jan 7, 2004 6:31 PM
If you are ever going to do even 1 cross race get the touring rear.I started with Neo's front and rear and soon changed the rear to the Touring,leaving me with an odd brake.Note that the brakes are not shipped with cartridge style brake pads.They come with the type that is complete.So if you want to use cartridge type you must buy the "holders".

together we have a setlaffeaux
Jan 7, 2004 9:38 PM
The Neo Retro that I pulled off the back of my bike is also stuffed into a box in my parts bin. I might use it again someday on another build.
touring rear vs. neo-retro rear and "Strange Brakes"jnichols959
Jan 8, 2004 10:43 AM
Well, I do plan on trying cross racing and the paul site says the touring brake is only 10% less powerful than the neo-retro. Combined with your collective experience, I'll probably just go for the touring rear.

Let me get this straight about the pads. When the paul site says "The pads are modern v-brake style" it's talking about the pad/post combo and how it attaches to the brake - but not whether the pad/post combo is cartridge style or not? laffeaux says you can use the cartridge style and you're saying the same thing just adding that you can use them if you buy the cartridge holder?

After typing the above, I just found this web page for Peter White Cycles that indicates that the touring brake has more stopping power than the neo-retro - which is exactly opposite of what the paul site says. Maybe he's talking about the neo-retro with road brake levers vs. the touring with traditional mtb levers? Good lord, this is not as simple as one might hope.

One lasst comment. It seems that some pros are riding front and rear brakes like froglegs or spookys. These look similar in profile to the neo-retros. Doesn't this present a problem for these pro riders?
forget the "Strange Brakes" referencejnichols959
Jan 8, 2004 10:51 AM
was going to ask about "Strange Brakes" but figured they're a bit too odd and $$ for me to consider.
re: advice on paul neo-retrosseamus
Jan 8, 2004 10:00 AM
I've got two cross bikes, with Paul Neo Retro front/Paul Touring rear on both bikes. Best brakes ever, in my opinion. I do race these bikes pretty frequently, but I also ride them everywhere, all year long, road rides, and lots and lots of rides in the Santa Cruz mountains.

I'm running stock pads and newer Ultegra and Dura-Ace STI levers. I've noticed that the very first generation of Ultegra STI didn't seem to have as much leverage and braking suffered; since updating those to newer models (last two years) I've had much better braking performance.

Even if you don't play the pad swapping game, I think the Neo's in front and the touring's in back will work great for you. They're plenty powerful in any condition, considering that a cross bike naturally has less braking traction due to thinner tires, and I've never felt like my brakes weren't doing their job perfectly.
seamus, where do you live?laffeaux
Jan 8, 2004 10:36 AM
What town do you live in? I ride in the same area.

My favorite CX ride is up Montebello Road, past the radio towers, and down the Canyon Trail. (That is whenever the construction on Canyon is complete.)
seamus, where do you live?seamus
Jan 8, 2004 2:35 PM
Small world, laffeaux. I'm in Los Gatos. Montebello's a great ride, we did an uphill TT there when I was racing collegiate many years ago.

I ride mostly in the Los Gatos hills, Manzinita, PowerPole, Kennedy and that stuff. It's close enough that I can get into the dirt without driving even on a short ride. I also like riding up Hwy9 and then hitting the trails at the top along Skyline.
re: advice on paul neo-retrosjnichols959
Jan 8, 2004 10:49 AM
Great to hear from folks in the bay area with these brakes. I'm currently in San Jose and ride in the Almaden and Los Gatos/Saratoga area - with some riding up the peninsula. I recently moved back to the bay after being away for 12 years so I'm just starting to explore new road, mountain and mixed terrain rides. I was just shown Montebello and the trails to the top and back to Page Mill. That's a great ride - did it on my road bike and just loved it.

Either of you guys ridden Bohlman/On Orbit from old town saratoga (or the other direction after climbing up montevina)? It's a road ride but if you go all the way over the top there's a stretch of fireroad. On Orbit is one brutal section of road for a "normally" geared road bike (39x25 in my case).

Any good ride recommendations for the new cross rig would be appreciated.
the padsDan Cas
Jan 8, 2004 11:17 AM
supplied with the brakes are the "thinline",just above the cartridge style shown in your link in your original post.

thanks - all clear now (nm)jnichols959
Jan 8, 2004 11:59 AM
Jan 8, 2004 12:15 PM
I've never actually ridden Bohlman/On Orbit but I hear it's steep. I have ridden up Montevina and onto the fire road, and then taken the fire road all the way back into Los Gatos. I've only done that on a MTB, but it would be possible on a CX bike.

If you're towards Almaden you might want to ride over to Almaden Quicksilver Park (about a 12 mile unpaved loop), or ride up Kennedy Trail in Los Gatos (a killer unpaved climb). Once you're on Skyline most of the trails are easy enough on a CX bike too - Russian Ridge has good riding.
Jan 8, 2004 12:22 PM
I didn't know that the fireroads at the top went all the way into Los Gatos - I'll have to do some exploring there. Now that I think of it I think I've seen some trails from 17 on the Los Gatos side.

One of the only mtb rides I've done is Kennedy - and yeah, there are some brutally steep sections near the top. My 24x34 (front x rear) can handle it but I doubt I'll be able to get up those on a cross bike.

I'll definitely check out the skyline trails. I've seen so many trailheads while riding my road bike on skyline. Those types of things are one motivator for getting a cross bike - being able to ride to the trails and explore. Riding 15+ miles of road to trails on an mtb is a bit much when you're used to a road bike. Hopefully the cross bike will be a good compromise.

I recently heard about some supposedly great mtb riding east of 17 off of skyline. Some sort of purpose built trails with ramps/etc. and some singletrack. I can't remember the name off the top of my head. Sound familiar?
the "demo"laffeaux
Jan 8, 2004 4:27 PM
The area you're talking about is the Soquel Demonstation Forest. It has some of the best MTB riding in the bay area. It's definitely built for MTBs and not CX though - I don't particularly like riding my hardtail there, it's more fun on a full suspension.

If you take 17 to Skyline, head east for about 6 miles to a stop sign, turn right then immediately left on to Highland Way, and drive another 5 or 6 miles you reach the park. There's a good combination of XC and freeride trails there.

Once you've been there once it's easy to figure out, and it's tough to get lost.
the "demo"seamus
Jan 8, 2004 4:40 PM
No no, I've been to demo countless times. In the summer my office has a wednesday night ride out there. I definitely felt what you're saying about the nature of the trails...I've ridden hardtails and FS out there, and the latter was definitely best...but I sold it so guess it's hardtails and cross for me or nothin'.

The trails I was wondering about are to the northwest of downtown Los Gatos. Not sure if that makes sense or not. Maybe I'll snap a digital photo this weekened and post it so you see where I mean.
the "demo"jnichols959
Jan 8, 2004 6:47 PM
that sounds like the place. all i've got is a hardtail and (in a month or two) a cross bike. the only place i've ridden that really made me want a full sus bike was Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. some nice trails but lots o' rocks on many of them. i just learned it used to be a rock quarry - makes sense...
the "demo"laffeaux
Jan 9, 2004 12:06 AM
You can certainly ride at the Demo with a hardtail. It's just more fun with a full suspension.
Jan 8, 2004 2:41 PM
I've never ridden Bohlman/Orbit but I'll have to check it out. I've been trying to find a way to hit this huge ribbon of fireroad that heads up to what looks like Skyline from Los Gatos, on the other side of Hwy 17 if you're at the top of Manzinita overlooking the valley.

Sounds like we share the same trails on cross bikes a lot. This area's so good for mixed rides that I don't even ride my road bike much anymore. Over the holidays I rode up to the top of Hamilton when there was snow up there, and then hit some of the trails on the way down, all my my cross bike.
Jan 8, 2004 4:33 PM
The "huge ribbon of fire road" that you see from Manzinita is in the El Soreno Open Space Preserve and is accessed from the top of Montevina. You can reach it from Los Gatos too, but there's more turns to remember, and I prefer to climb on the pavement and descend on dirt.

Very few people use EL Soreno because there is no parking anywhere near the entrance on either end. It's a nice ride down though. If you ride at night, it's a beautiful ride (although as with almost all penninsula night rides, illegal).
Jan 8, 2004 4:44 PM
That's the place I'm looking for! I'll probably give it a run this weekend in the daylight before hitting it at night. I LOVE doing night rides around here, but like you're saying, you gotta be careful since they're all illegal. I usually don't hit the trail until at least 9:30 or 10:00pm for just that reason. Seems to be past the average ranger's bedtime.
Seamus...braking problemspeter in NVA
Jan 10, 2004 4:48 AM
I need much less force to stop my SwissCross with the Paul rear Touring than with the Paul front Neo-Retro. I can lock up the front and make the fork chatter, but it takes a lot of effort.
How high do you have the straddle cable in the front above the tire? I have the original old 8-speed STI from 1998.
Paul's site isn't clear, saying you need 11/2 inches, which is a lot.
Wished I were on the trails with you guys today, 7F here.
Seamus...braking problemsseamus
Jan 12, 2004 9:26 AM

I'll take a look later tonight and tell you exactly how high my straddle cable is, but I'm guessing it's at least 1 1/2 inches, and maybe even 2 inches. The extra height seems necesary with "wide" cantilevers like these, unlike the tall/narrow canti's we ran on mtb's in the 90's when you'd get the straddle cable as close to the tire as possible. Another thing I'd check is the brake pad spacers; you want to run them so the thick spacer is inboard (closer to the rim) so the brakes spread out more. I hope that makes sense...maybe I'll take a pic tonight to explain it.

I've had Neo Retro's and Touring's on a SwissCross myself without problems, so I'm sure it's just a setup issue. But, this was with late-model 9-speed Ultegra. Your older 8-speed stuff might be the culprit here. My Pual's on one bike stopped far better than the same brakes did on another bike with older 9s STI; then I replaced 'em with newer Dura-Ace 9s STI and both bike stop great now. I think older STI levers don't pull the same amount of cable or something.

I'll take a pic of my brake setup tonight, hopefully that'll help!
Thanks...waiting to see what you find out...peter in NVA
Jan 12, 2004 12:34 PM
All these years I misread Paul's site and thought it said eleven halves! I have about 2 inches. My levers are held together with electrical tape since some plastic part broke after I filled them with mud during a crash years ago. Maybe I need an excuse to upgrade.
Thanks...waiting to see what you find out...seamus
Jan 13, 2004 8:43 AM

No pics, camera had no battery juice. But I got a real good look on the setup of both my bikes, and here's what I've got:

FRONT: Neo Retro's
About 1.5 or a little more clearance from straddle cable to the top of a normal (michelin 32c) cross tire.

Thick spacers mounted inboard (closer to the pads themselves and farther from the pad fixing nuts) so the horizontal legs of the Neo's are as close to parallel to the ground as possible. That just spreads the brakes out for more leverage.

REAR: Paul Touring
Almost identical to the front, with maybe just under 1.5 inches of straddle cable height.

If yours are similar on your Ritchey, I'd consider new levers. Really made a difference on my bike.
Thanks so much...peter in NVA
Jan 14, 2004 4:53 AM
Those are my exact same measurements using Ritchey 32c cross tires. Maybe my levers will snap off in the cold today and I'll have to upgrade! I could use a 12-27 since I've only been able to find 12-25 in an 8-speed for a while.
By the way,I just got some wheels from Excel with King hubs and Ritchey Aero Pro rims. The instant engagement is real nice and the red color goes with my yellow bike. What color is yours?
Thanks so much...seamus
Jan 15, 2004 9:05 AM
My SwissCross was the cliche red/white. I loved that frame, but I had to let it go...I've grown very particular with my cross frames in terms of size, and even though I'm built pretty proportionally I like a short (52-53cm) seat tube and longer (55.5) top tube. Quite the opposite of my SwissCross. Really nice bike, though.