Avid BB7 Upgrade

Avid BB7 Caliper

I recently upgraded the brakes on my Civia from Avid BB5 Road discs to Avid BB7 Road discs. I’ve had good luck with BB5’s in the past and they were performing well on this bike, but when an opportunity arose to sell my existing brakes, I went ahead and made the switch.

The differences between these two brakes are subtle. The main difference is that the BB5 has a pad adjustment knob only on the inboard pad, whereas the BB7 has adjustment knobs on both pads. The ability to adjust both pads makes the BB7 slightly easier to set-up and keep adjusted properly.

The BB7 also has larger brake pads which provide slightly more braking power and what feels to me like slightly better modulation. They should be less likely to overheat in touring conditions, though that’s a moot point for commuting. Probably the biggest advantage of the larger pads is that, due to their larger surface area, they don’t need to be replaced as often as the smaller pads in the BB5.

One disadvantage of the BB7 is that is doesn’t have a barrel adjuster on the brake. It’s a bit perplexing that the BB5 is supplied with a barrel adjuster, but the more expensive BB7 only has a stationary stop. Avid does supply an inline barrel adjuster with the brake that can be inserted into the housing up near the handlebar, but an adjuster on the brake would make more sense, at least on the road version of the brake.

The BB7 comes supplied with metallic brake pads designed for use with their rotors. My bike is outfitted with Shimano rotors which are not recommended for use with metallic pads. I could have swapped the stock rotors for the Avid rotors that came with the brakes, but it would have required an adaptor for the Center Lock disc mount on the Alfine hub, so I opted to stay with the Shimanos. Because of this, I also ordered a set of Avid Organic brake pads for the BB7 calipers. It’s my understanding that the organic pads are a little grabbier than the metallic pads, though they feel great to me. They also wear a little faster than the metallic pads, though that’s not a serious concern for commuting.

There are a few other subtle differences between these brakes, none of which have much of an effect on performance.

Overall, this was not a bad upgrade. If I was building a new bike from scratch, I’d certainly spend the extra for the BB7’s over the BB5’s, but if I didn’t have an opportunity to sell my existing brakes, I can’t say the subtle advantages would be worth the full price of a new brake set.

15 Responses to “Avid BB7 Upgrade”

  • clever-title says:

    I have the BB7s along with Speed Dial levers. I think they skipped the barrel adjuster on the caliper b/c the speed dials have an adjuster on the lever.

  • Alan says:


    That makes sense on the long-pull Mountain version of the caliper which is designed to be used with mountain-style levers, but not on the short pull Road version shown above that is designed to be used with road levers.


  • Marshall says:

    I just bought a Bryant myself, albeit the Tiagra version with an eye to upgrade much of the componentry to make it a strong touring set-up. First I ditched the stock Tektro 556 sidepulls — which I think are a fine brake but possibly not strong enough for loaded touring.

    Jenson USA is having a great sale on Road BB7’s — $50 each including a 6 hole 160mm rotor. I snapped up a pair, with an eye to selling the rotors since I, like you, have centerlock hubs. I picked up a pair of Shimano Deore centerlock rotors, and after a brief break-in, they seem to be working fine despite the warnings about using non-organic pads. The mechanics that I trust locally feel that Shimano’s statement about using only “resin-based” pads is probably BS. Maybe someone else can enlighten me why I should change.

    I agree with you about the bizarre omission of a barrel adjuster. The inline adjusters are ok, but they don’t really pull in much slack. 2 adjusters would be much better. I realize of course I could add one to the head tube cable stop, but that wouldn’t help me for the front one at all.

    In any case, the BB7’s were a really great deal since I already sold the leftover pair of stock rotors for $60 on Craigslist. A bargain all the way around.

    I’ve also changed the rear derailleur, cassette, handlebars and seat. But the bike is close to perfect now — just needs better tires.

    And if anyone here wants to buy a set of Tektro 556’s ( I actually have TWO brand new sets ) lemme know in a follow-up post. :)

    Great site… as always.

  • Mark says:

    The outboard pad adjuster basically replaces the barrel adjuster.

    Lengthening or shortening the housing with the barrel adjuster will move the outboard pad closer to or farther from the rotor.

    Dialing in or out with the outboard pad adjuster will move the outboard pad closer to or farther from the rotor.

  • Alan says:


    I guess it must depend upon a person’s mileage, what kind of brake pads they’re running, etc. I’m running BB5 Mountain calipers with sintered pads on my main utility bike and I haven’t had a need to adjust the brakes in over a year, so the lack of an outboard pad adjuster hasn’t been a big deal for me. YMMV… :-)


  • Alan says:


    According to SRAM, the barrel adjuster should only be used to take excess slack out of the cable but not to move the torque arm, otherwise there exists a potential to bottom out the torque arm before the pads fully engage the rotor. There’s only a slim chance of this happening in practice, but it’s something to be aware of.


  • Mark says:


    I’ve seen that, yes. I’d think that a better warning would be simply to avoid making brake adjustments without testing them out before riding.

    Re: your comment on adjustment intervals: Knock on wood ASAP before the brake pad gremlins come in the night to eat away at your pads.

  • Alan says:


    That’s a great deal on BB7’s!

    I’ll have to ask around regarding organic versus metallic pads with Shimano rotors.


  • Alan says:


    LOL. Yeah, I’m sure I’ve jinxed myself now… :-)

  • Steve Fuller says:

    Pad/rotor wear will likely be different depending on your riding style, weight carried, and road/weather conditions.

  • John Ferguson says:

    I have to say, I prefer the barrel adjuster inline on the brake housing so adjustments can be made ‘on the fly’. I’ve had BB-7s on my commuter for about 2 years and I’ve learned that the cam design on the caliper provides the best braking when cable slack is just barely removed. In other words, the cable should pull the caliper lever the full distance and the adjustment should be made on the caliper to set the distance of the pad from the rotor surface for best braking. I have no idea how you set up a brake to not rub if you don’t have control of the closeness of the pads on both sides of the rotor. I recently changed to the sintered (metallic) compound pads and have been very happy with braking power and modulation with the Avid rotors and road levers.

  • Alan says:

    Hi John,

    Here’s the method I use for setting pad placement and alignment on BB5s:


    I may go ahead and add the inline barrel adjuster as per your recommendation.


  • Bob says:

    I find that the outboard pad adjuster on the bb7 does pretty much the exact same thing that a barrel adjuster would do.

  • Alan says:


    Hi Bob,

    There is a subtle difference. Using the barrel adjuster to adjust for pad wear shortens the torque arm throw, whereas taking up pad wear with the outboard pad adjuster leaves the torque arm in the proper position. This is why SRAM recommends using the barrel adjuster only to remove excess slack from the cable, while using the pad adjuster to move the pad closer to the rotor as the pads wear.


  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Versa VRS Levers says:

    […] amount of cable for road brakes such as dual-pivot calipers and cantilevers. It will also work with Avid mechanical disc brakes specifically designed for use with road levers. It will not work with linear pull or off-road […]

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