Back at the beginning of the winter riding season, the old dependable mailman dropped off a box from Wisconsin. Surprised to find it devoid of cheap beer and cheese curds, I was delighted to see a full setup of the new Rever MTN1 Brakes.
Living up North in Fairbanks, I’ve always used mechanical disc brakes, for their dependability. I’ve been skeptical of hydraulic brakes in the winter. Mineral oil’s viscosity is dependent on temperature, and DOT 5 fluid is only as dependable as the parts it is moving. I’ve never felt a hydraulic brake that didn’t have performance issues when the bottom falls out of the temperature. At the very least there’s a lag in time between the stroke of the lever and the movement of the caliper. At the very worst it will just lock up the rotor and latch on with an unyielding grip.
That’s where Mechanical brakes come in for me. They always feel the same, 40 above or 40 below. Rever seems to understand this, giving us northern folks a mechanical option focused on simple reliability, field servicing, and performance. When it’s stupid cold, you’re stupid tired, and your hands are too cold to function, I think it’s important to have dependable, stupid simple gear.
The Rever MTN1 is a dual piston caliper brake, the second in the Mechanical disc brake market. It’s closest competition would be the TRP Spyke. The brakes are rather comparable in weight and the dual piston action. I think the Rever’s set themselves apart with the ability to change out the brake pads in the field without removing your wheel, stupid simple. The MTN1 pads are also compatible with Shimano’s G-Type (XT / XTR) pads. The MTN1’s come with semi metallic pads, but organic pads work pretty well up here, our winter riding is really clean and dry, extending the rather short trail life of organic pads.
The Rever Brakes come “race ready,” an entire box of goodies to set them up on essentially anything. Calipers, Rotors, a nice set of levers, Mounting adapters, non-compression housing, cable, even the little noodles to protect your fancy bike. This creates that rare situation that you’ll have everything you need to install minus the cable cutters.
This is a dual edged sword. It’s sold as a system, if you’re custom building a bike (then good for you, that’s a lot of fun) getting it all in one package couldn’t be more convenient. If you’ve experienced the limitations that Hydraulic brakes have in the winter and yearn for a more reliable setup, Rever’s got you covered. For riders looking to upgrade their base level mechanicals you may be receiving a lot of parts that will clog up your toolbox, with that said you can be confident knowing when you walk out of your local bike shop that you’ve got everything you need.
I replaced my entire brake setup; calipers, rotors, cables, housing, levers (I’ll get back to that later), noodles, etc. I wanted to see how it all performed as system for testing sake.
It all went on simple enough, straight and true. It was a bit different adjusting a brake with the cable pull directly over the Rotor which can leave a rather small amount of space to work with when you’re initially setting up the brakes.
The brakes come with the calipers fully dialed outboard. It was easy to center the rotor, because when you pull the cable both pads move equidistance, holding the rotor tight, I screwed down the mounting bolts and just like that, rotor centered. From there I adjusted the lever pull with two methods; the barrel adjuster located on the caliper and the tensioner bolt on the caliper lever arm.
The barrel adjuster moved the pads inboard, while the tensioner bolt took out any slack in the cable to make sure for a nice return motion when your brakes are covered in ice, snow, mud, and they don’t want to behave.
After that pretty painless set up I was ready to ride. When I got on my bike for the first couple weeks I found myself overly sensitive to every feel or difference and there were certainly differences to adjust to. I wanted to spend some time on them before I started to pass judgement. I’ve spent so much time on the same set of brakes that I got use to every aspect of them, including the bad aspects. So, the first couple weeks of riding the Revers felt like cleaning my braking pallet.
We had an early winter season here in Fairbanks, with lots of snow on the ground by the end of September. Great for trails up in the hills but the valley trails didn’t come online for several more weeks. Consequently, I spent a lot of time riding high into the hills making long sloppy descents back to the valley. Every ride would end with a big rutted rock and snow filled descent requiring constant braking.
I notice an immediate feel difference. Rever wanted to make a mechanical brake with more modulation and control. The MTN1 has it, but it still has some of the limitations of a cable actuated brakes. As you pull the lever the pads both make contact with the rotor for soft slow resistance, great for those long even descents when you need to shed just a touch of speed. When you pull farther through the stroke it seems to access most of the braking power at the end of the lever pull. This allowed me to shed small bits of consistent speed with very little effort on the front end of the stroke but, sometimes felt a bit unnerving when I needed the urgent stopping power at the end of the pull.
I liked the feature of just a bit of effort to drag my brakes on long descents. Doing this review made me realize that is the most frequent type of braking I do up here in the winter. It felt smooth and consistent with the smallest bit of pressure. I feel like these brakes have a broader power spectrum than I’ve been use to with Avid BB7’s for so many years.
Throughout a lot of different conditions these past two months I’ve had zero performance complaints. Field servicing has been minimal and easy. Adjusting the calipers with a 3mm wrench in poor conditions is functionally awesome. Recently, on a long ride, I went through a few section of overflow, icing up everything around my wheels. Generally, I try to adjust my pads outboard when I encounter these sort of riding conditions. Depending on moving plastic dials with your hands to adjust brake pads has been my experience with BB7s. When your hands are cold and everything is covered in ice this can be nearly impossible. Rever MTN1s are adjusted via a 3mm wrench. Great idea, it may not be as quick when you’re in warm and dry conditions, but it makes a huge difference when it matters. Again, Rever gets it, no need to struggle in the field with cold hands.
The one problem I encountered as the temperatures dropped well below zero, happened to be the very nice machined lightweight lever that the guys over at Rever put care into.
I use poggies, really warm ones, and I do my best to avoid gloves at all cost. At 10 or 20 below a metal lever just radiates cold air into my cozy hand shelter, when I needed to apply a lot of pressure for long periods of time on long steep descents it would just hurt. Thus, I made my only change so far to the brakes and replaced the stock levers with my old carbon levers. They actually weigh more, but it feels great to wrap your fingers around carbon on a very cold day. I know carbon isn’t for everybody, but it gave the brakes a more welcoming feel immediately. This isn’t to say anything negative about Rever’s levers, but I do think a carbon lever, cold climate option, would go over well with this guy.
Since I’ve only had the brakes for about a couple months, I can’t attest to their long term dependablitity, with that said, nothing has burst into flames either. I look forward to settling in with these brakes for a bit more of a long haul. I really enjoy it when gear is entirely second nature. I can say it took a bit of time to get use to the feel. Since that initial brake in period, I don’t think about them, which is often the best review I can give. During a race or a remote ride, the last thing I want to do is to spend any mental energy on bad gear.
So Far the Rever MTN1 are doing exactly what they claim, they’re simple and reliable. They offer more feel and modulation than the Avid BB7’s I’ve used for years, but if you’re looking for hydraulic type performance, you’re still pulling a cable through housing and you feel it. When it comes down to it, every time I’ve pressed the brake lever it has stopped my bike. Every time I’ve let the lever go, my bike continues on, which is more than I can say of any hydraulics I’ve used well below zero.
In conclusion, if you’re in the market for a new set of mechanical disc brakes for your fat-bicycle, the Rever MTN1 is certainly worth a look. The price is on the upper end of things with an MSRP of $164.99. But the quality matches the price. The caliper weighed out to 163 grams and is about the lightest on the market. The machined lever set is about 30 grams lighter than the TRP’s. Adjusting the pad depth via a 3mm wrench has already saved my hands some hurt and it’s is a trend I hope to see continue in other brands. The unique ability to easily change out brake pads without removing the wheel is a great feature and the simplicity of dialing in a dual piston caliper all within my poggies already makes my hands feel warmer.
I hope to get back with a longer term review of these Rever MTN1 brakes. So until then keep on riding…and occasionally stopping when the situation dictates…but mostly keep riding.
- Caliper 163 grams
- Lever 65 grams
- 160mm Rotor 125 grams