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Overhaul or upgrade Tektro Novela brakes?

KameramanDan's picture

By KameramanDan - Posted on 27 April 2014

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.

Hey guys,

The bike I've got at the moment (Fuji Nevada 3.0) has Tektro Novela brakes. They are pretty poor, I can't lock the back wheel no matter how hard I try and on a moderately steep slope front+back brake won't bring the bike to a stop. When pulling hard on the levers there is a spongy feel, as if the cables are stretching.

I'm just getting into the game so I don't want to spend more on this bike than I have to but I would really like some better performance from my brakes, more as a safety thing than anything else. If I over-extend myself (fairly likely since I'm learning) then I'd like to know I can stop.

I plan to replace the cables and was considering replacing the pads as well. I read somewhere that a light sanding of the discs with 400-800 grit can bring them back up a bit too.

Do you think just replacing cables/pads and sanding the discs would make a noticeable difference or should I consider upgrading the whole system?


Jonathan's picture

Your falling into a verrry dangerous trap mate. Overhauling wont make a difference to your brakes and pads wont do much. You will spend at least $200.00 to upgrade to a set of nice hydros i.e. slx.

I had the same problem on my first hard tail. You upgrade one part then you decide another isin't up to scratch so you end up spending a fortune and you still haven't got anything different. If your brakes don't hold you back, your wheels will or your cassette will or suspension etc....

My suggestion is to take the $200.00 and put it into a newer bike when you decide your ready.

Sorry if i burst your bubble a bit its just that the exact same thing happend to me.


KameramanDan's picture

Thanks man I'm not really keen on spending on this bike BUT the current brakes really are dreadful.. I tried to pull up on a slope the other day when I thought I was in a bit of trouble and the bike WOULD NOT STOP, scared the shit out of me. I rode it out but it made me realise that if I had actually been in serious trouble I wouldn't have been able to stop in time.

I'm well into gravity sports and I've always been a firm believer in learning to stop before learning to go fast. I don't plan to spend much on this bike and I'm not chasing things to upgrade but I don't skimp on stopping Smiling

I was just looking at Avid BB7's, full setup for ~$100.. cables and pads for the novela's would be $50 so that seems like a reasonable option. Will they bolt straight on? Are all the bolt patterns standard?


EDIT: the other thing is if I go a bit overboard with these brakes I can always take them to my next bike and put the novela's back on when it's time to sell this one..

CyclinAl's picture

The tyres, now the brakes. Before too long, you'll find your saddle doesn't quite fit your left bum cheek!
Welcome to Hotel MTBing brother! Eye-wink
Having said that, I wouldn't be too confident either, with brakes that don't pull me up.
I'm not familiar with Tektro (Shimano all the way!) but you should be able to lock them up (Not that you necessarily want to though).
That's an area that you can easily work on yourself.
- New cables? definitely, both inners and outers. Just make sure you have proper cutters for the outers so you don't squash them, or get them cut at your LBS. Install little rubber boots to stop water and crap entering the outers whenever inners are exposed.
- Brake levers? Good clean then relube.
- Brakes? Same, good clean then relube. Remove the pads first to prevent contamination. Careful with the lube so it doesn't transfer to the pads or disc once reassembled.
- Pads? Have a good look for contamination. If they are, try cleaning them with isopropyl alcohol (Common wisdom says throw them away and get new ones). If they're ok, give them a good clean with IA using a tooth brush anyway. I wouldn't be too worried about sandpaper. You're likely to do more damage than good by curving the surface.
And for Goodness sake, DO NOT ask what brand of cables to get (Other can of worms!) Eye-wink

KameramanDan's picture

Haha noooo JUST THE BRAKES that's all I want to do... honestly!! Sticking out tongue And as for tyres well it had slicks on it so they weren't much good for the dirt!

Oh god I'm rationalising already..

In the interest of trying to get away with the free solution I dismantled the front assembly, cleaned the pads and rotors off, adjusted the cable and floating pad position so it's nice and tight without rubbing, it seems to be ever so slightly better but still takes about ten feet to pull up from 15kph on flat road no matter how hard I grab the lever. That seems like WAY too much. I remember on my old Giant I could send myself over the handlebars if I wanted to... did on a few occasions too (unintentionally of course!).

I didn't touch the rear yet, but to give you an idea of it's power, if I stand next to the bike and pull the lever as hard as possible then put maybe 50% of my weight on the seat with my hand and push forward it rolls without a huge amount of effort. Going downhill with just the back brake pulled feels almost like I'm not braking at all. It is adjusted fairly well with only an inch or so travel in the lever so it's not like I'm not getting pressure on it.

Do MTB brakes suffer from glazing? It's entirely possible the previous owner rode the brakes down every hill he went near..

I'll look at doing a service maybe tomorrow... but for $85 I can get a set of Avid BB7's and use my current levers.. the BB7's seem to get good reviews so that sounds like a good middle-ground option.

The other option is to go all out and get some mad hydraulics... I know it would be overkill now but my rationale is that if I buy a new bike I can always move them over, and if I end up riding for two months and getting over it I should be able to sell them off without losing too much... lol so where do I check in CyclinAl?

All I know for sure is that I am not comfortable riding down any decent sort of grade with my brakes as they are right now...

hawkeye's picture

... Eye-wink I've just sent you a PM.

pharmaboy's picture

Mate, buggar it, go straight to chain reaction , order a pair of deore brakes for $110 delivered, install, don't bother to shorten, and you are done , and they are easy for bleeding and new pads as well.

Just for a heads up, ignoring brakes cost me 2 surgical interventions on a shoulder.

hawkeye's picture

Personally I'd go up a level or two from Deore. They will only allow you to use organic pads, lest the rotors die quickly, and those pads pretty much dissolve in a few kilometres when it's wet.

Something that lets you use metallic pads would be a minimum in my view.

You could then have something worthy of moving onto the new bike when you upgrade, depending on what you get.

KameramanDan's picture

Is there any market in forged Shimano gear? New XT's are $220 front/rear on ebay.. seems very cheap..

hawkeye's picture

No, that sounds about right if they don't include disc rotors. Add another $120 + post for rotors.

pharmaboy's picture

No, about $200 even for a pair of xt s is the chain reaction and wiggle price - so another $20 would be right for ebay

Pretty much all you'll need to know in those 2 reviews. I've had heaps of brakes, and these are fine times indeed as long as you buy shimano

hawkeye's picture

Can you get OEM metallic pads for Deores? I thought they had a different pad design from those further up the range. I'm sure they're available aftermarket but I've never had much success with aftermarket pads (terrible performance and harsh on rotors) and now stick to OEM pads exclusively.

I have a set of Avid 9s I'm selling on eBay. While the brakes I've put on are better, to my very great surprise I was actually impressed by how good these Avids were (in contrast to reputation) and procrastinated for months. I almost kept them and sold on the new brakes instead because of their extra weight. Avids' modulation was excellent and they were far from lacking in power. Noisy when wet, yes, but what brakes aren't?

The new brakes were an impulse buy and knowing what I now do about the performance difference, I'd probably not bother making the purchase and leave the Elixir 9s in place.

In the end, the fact I had them, the ability to tidy up the bars with the iSpec mounts, and consistency with my other bikes won out, but I thought the 9's weren't bad at all and both the weight and performance was very competitive.

Pete B's picture

If you're on Facebook, check this group out:-

I just picked up a complete set of XT brakes including pads and rotors for $50, so there's bargains out there.

pharmaboy's picture

Yes hawkeye , same fitment. Deore rotors haven't had secondary heat treatment so can wear with metal pads - not that I've ever worn out cheapies like alligators myself ( with metals)

When elixirs go wrong they are a shit and that's why they ain't loved - try bleeding them then bleed some shimanos, or if you have an alu frame bike that doesn't like the avid harmonic s you'll also go mad. Agree on the modulation. My 9s were a disaster on an anthem but fine on a carbon frame ( noise).

For pads, FTW

pancakes's picture

If $$ are an issue the BB7s will be fine. I've got BB5s on one of my bikes and they stop and modulate surprisingly well. So much so I haven't been bothered to swap them. Simplicity is their forte.

Those Deores will also do the job fine. I had a set of M595s on an old bike and they also were just a good product.

If you can afford it step up to SLX or XT. Otherwise, pocket the difference, buy a slab and marvel at how well the new brakes stop. Eye-wink

hawkeye's picture

Nice pickup Pete. 2010 model. I have the dual-control version on my Rize 26er and they're excellent.

KameramanDan's picture

These come with a 180mm adapter for the front. Could I mount them without the adapter and use the existing 160mm rotors?

Jonathan's picture

with the 160mm rotor u can mount the calliper straight to the frame. no need for adapters. the 180 adapter gives you extra clearance to accomodate the bigger rotor.

So yes Smiling

KameramanDan's picture

Cool I was looking at a set of BB7's with levers for ~120 but 220 for the shimano's seems like better gain-per-dollar and the resale value will be well higher... resale is important to me as I'm just getting into MTB so if I don't follow through with it, I will want to sell off the gear...

Or I have the option of $200 for a used set of elixir 9's with 180mm front rotor and 160mm rear...


pancakes's picture

XTs over the Avids!!! (sorry hawkeye Eye-wink )

Then flog the 180mm rotor on here, ebay etc.

KameramanDan's picture

Hm $277 for XT's with RT86 rotors landed.... any suggestions on rotors? Probably won't notice the difference but if I'm buying a Rolls Royce I might as well get the matching cufflinks! Are the RT86 the duck's?

Have to choose between $115 for BB7's, $200 for used Elixir 9's or $277 for new XT's with RT86 rotors. I know I'm putting them on a shit bike but like I mentioned before I have NO PROBLEM AT ALL spending money on good brakes and if I can transfer them to the next bike or sell them off if I lose interest in MTB then the cost isn't really an issue.

ill ponder it all for a couple of days, in the meantime gonna hit the jesmond trails tomorrow morning around 9 or 10 if anyone from newcastle is reading... I'm slow uphill but will be fast on the downhill cause I can't stop! Laughing out loud

CyclinAl's picture

Think of the promise you made to yourself, Kameramandan (And others no doubt...) No throwing money away. No unnecessary upgrade. No overkill. No flight of fancy...
Alas, I fear the lure of the dark side was just too strong Sad
Alright then, your Hotel MTBing life membership certificate's in the mail.
Shame, I still reckon your old brakes would have responded to a bit of low-cost tlc.
Just make sure what you buy IS worth migrating to your next ride.
Actually, have you thought of a nice new set of carbon wheels?
Mate, they are soooo cool! Cool plus I'm sure if you look closely, your old ones are a bit woncky, might well let you down when you apply your brand spanking new brakes while barreling down the hill...
so long Sucker!!!
Cruel bastard ain't I Evil

KameramanDan's picture

hahaaa I feel like you've seen all this before? But one line in your post stands out to me:

"Just make sure what you buy IS worth migrating to your next ride."

YES. I will be happy to spend $300 on brakes for a $500 bike, as long as they can either be transferred to a new bike if I get right into MTB or they can be sold off without losing much if I don't get into it.

"Buy cheap, pay twice."

I can't justify spending thousands on a mad bike this early in the game but I can easily spend a few hundred on making my current bike safer and more fun to ride, as long as those bits are transferable Smiling

hawkeye's picture

Looking at those now lol!

My Crests are looking a bit ordinary after 6 months under my unskilled abuse. Looking at some hookless LB rims. Supposedly 120kg rider weight limit.

pharmaboy's picture

What about XTR's? They are the ducks nuts and can be got for only $200 an end now from overseas sellers! You could even get the brilliant centre lock rotors which would of course require a wheelset - good resale too....... Eye-wink

KameramanDan's picture

lol nope getting a bit pricey there!! And if I have to start replacing hubs and stuff meh way too much for this bike

Choice between a new set of XT's for $277 or used Avid Elixir 9's for $200, both with reasonable resale and good enough to transfer to a better bike...

Will think about it for a few days and see how it goes

Thanks for the tips guys!!

rossco_'s picture

Is your gear shifter attached to your current brake? When I changed from SRAM to xt, I need to buy a separate ring to hold SRAM gear shifter and costed me $50 for a pair of rings.

KameramanDan's picture

Hey rossco thanks for the heads up! Just had a look though and luckily for me the SRAM shifters are mounted separately to the Tektro brakes..

hathill's picture
CyclinAl's picture

That Deore offer's certainly hard to beat.
I'm not sure how much performance difference there is between Deore and the next step up, XT but I do know that, while I always favour XTR (For good reasons), brakes are one component where I don't mind having XT as they are very good.
I guess these 2 options fall squarely in the 2 camps you've been considering: Cheap and disposable or more pricey and transferable.
Tough choice actually...

hawkeye's picture

That Deore deal at CRC looks hard to go past. The only thing missing is the adjustability, the Ice Tech system and perhaps the servo wave action? Otherwise looks very similar to current XT.

hathill's picture

The Deore's definitely have servo wave.

KameramanDan's picture

Thanks for the tips guys I am still pondering it, went for a shred in the bush here today and was fun but am still craving stronger brakes.... dead set I can't lock the rear wheel up going downhill on gravel unless I grab the fronts as well and put some weight over the front wheel..

I don't want to spend a *lot* though so I'm thinking the Deore's will do me. I don't really want to spend $200-300 on brakes on a $600 bike, but I'd be happy to put a hundred or so in to feel more comfy.

Do you think I'll be right with my current discs or should I grab some new discs as well? They aren't hugely expensive, about 60 bucks a pair... worth doing at the same time?

KameramanDan's picture

And my bike has 160mm rotors... if I go with new 180mm rotors (no 160's in stock at CRC) I'm gonna need adapter plates to position the calipers in the right spot, yeah?

I searched CRC for adapters but found LOADS... not really sure which ones to use...

Scottboy's picture

Look on ebay im sure you will find plenty of used on there or gumtree classifieds we all been thru it . I bought a brand new 3k bike not long ago , I stripped it as soon as I got home with better brakes and shifters , handlebars , wheels tyres and I took the big ring off and replaced with a bashguard and bigger middle ring

KameramanDan's picture

Have been looking on ebay and gummie but can't find anything better than a new set of Deore's with RT86's from CRC for $190...

KameramanDan's picture

Have been looking on ebay and gummie but can't find anything better than a new set of Deore's with RT86's from CRC for $190...

rossco_'s picture

If u can't lock your wheel even on low speed, it make me think it is something to do with your brake pad. Try to swap your pad and see. However, safety goes first in MTB.

KameramanDan's picture

Thanks Rossco, I cleaned and sanded the pads but it didn't help... am probably heading into the bike shop tomorrow so will see if they have some pads. If they're really cheap I'll replace them otherwise I'll just look at the Deore's.

KameramanDan's picture

Bike shop closed... will check em out tomorrow Sticking out tongue If they don't have any in stock I've found them on ebay cheap as chips

hawkeye's picture

Unfortunately once the pads are contaminated, they're toast.

I try to recover them each time I stuff them, usually from being careless with either chain lube or hydraulic fluid, but it never works.

No power and they squeal like a banshee. Sad

danielschipper's picture

$800! So long as this is in ok condition you'll be able to ride for a few years until you want to "level up".

I own the same bike; 2010 Trance X2. I can bomb downhill as fast as anyone else, its got beautiful balance for technical trails and it's good on long rides (I've just done the Convict 100 on it).

After 4 years I'm only now finding reason to upgrade; and that's mainly after Convict and wanting to get into some endurance events more often... But the Trance won't be leaving the stable and will always be a bike I take out to have a blast on!

Scottboy's picture

Id actually save your money and get the trance it is a good price for that bike and shouldn't need to spend on it , but you will we all do

KameramanDan's picture

True I'll try a new set of pads but I think I'll just end up buying some Deores or maybe go all out for XT's or whatever. I can always sell them on or move them to a new bike...

KameramanDan's picture

Just saw the posts on the trance, sounds pretty nice and i'll be in sydney this weekend so might have a lookie


EDIT he just posted pics and specs, I may have a new bike next weekend

Any tips on what to look for when inspecting? I'll take it for a run and see how the brakes and gearing works but anything else I should look for?

Scottboy's picture

Check brake pads but they are cheap might just throw a set in after your first ride and maybe a new chain , now checking the bike look for oil leaks check cassette , jockey wheels ,and front chainring or ask him straight up if anything that might need replacing soon and of course you are buying a used bike not a new one so there will be wear and tear .

hathill's picture

Hmmmm - fix a brake problem by getting a second hand bike with elixirs????

KameramanDan's picture

Haha wellllll I read up on elixirs when hawkeye had his up for grabs and decided against them...

But it is starting to becoming obvious that spending money on this Fuji is pointless.. last night I did a full clean/lube of the calipers and lapped the discs/pads to no effect... I also pulled the axles out, lubed the balls in the hubs and did a few other things while I was there and it's clear that this fuji is pretty much farked. Front wheel doesn't seat straight, shocks are sticky with heaps of play, front and rear gear teeth are all worn badly (slips gears a fair bit, even after adjustment by the bike shop)... list goes on.

Anyway it's no longer just a brake problem, this bike is trashed so I've pretty much decided I'm in the market for something else.. if I can get something in reasonable condition for <$800 then I think I can swing that and as long as the rest of the bike is in good nick I wouldn't mind spending another couple of hundred on some shimano brakes a bit down the line..

On that note can you guys offer any suggestions for any other bikes either hardtail or dual that you would expect to go for a similar price ($800ish) in good used condition? I might top out at $1000 but it would have to be a pretty amazing deal to push me that far

CyclinAl's picture

But may I suggest you start a new thread, cause I'm starting to get cramps in my index finger scrolling down this one! Smiling

Scottboy's picture

I thought you were looking into getting the trance advertised in the classifieds ?

KameramanDan's picture

I'll be in Sydney on Saturday and will check out the trance then, but not in a huge hurry to buy and don't want to rush into anything... if the trance feels right I'll probably take it but would like to see what else is available in my price range

Time for a new thread!

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