WHAT: IRD Dual Banger Mechanical Discs
HOW MUCH: $99.99 per wheel (includes cable housing)
Most mechanical disc brakes operate in the following fashion—pulling brake cable causes a piston to push the outboard brake pad against the rotor. The rotor then bends and rubs against the stationary inboard pad, which bring your bike to a stop.
IRD's Dual Bangers operate in a different manner. When you pull the brake lever, a cam moves both the outboard pad to the right and the inboard half of the caliper body (which houses the inboard brake pad) to the left—in effect, squeezing the rotor simultaneously from both sides.
If you were snoozing through that last paragraph, I'm going to suggest you go back an reread it again—this is NOT, I repeat, NOT a dual-piston disc brake.
IRD calls this model the "Dual Banger" because the brake does, in fact, sandwich the rotor, but the way it accomplishes this is very different from what you may have encountered with hydraulic, dual- piston brakes. In the end, I can't say that this matters a ton, but some people might feel a bit robbed if they go out and buy this disc brake under the mistaken notion that it operates in the same manner as a hydraulic Hayes or other popular dual-piston, hydraulic model.
Okay, back to the specifics….
Installation is about as simple or difficult (take your pick) as is the case with a garden-variety disc brake. Bolting them on ain't rocket science, but aligning the rear caliper with all those paper-thin washers is a bit of a pain in the ass. Avid certainly still rules the roost here when it comes to ease of set up.
Once installed, the Dual Bangers bowled me over with their sheer pucker power—definitely on a par with quality hydraulic models. Very impressive given that our test models were equipped with 160-millimeter rotors. If you need still more power a 203-millimeter front rotor is also available.
The IRD's proved fairly consistent over the long run. My first adjustment simply required screwing the barrel adjuster counter clockwise to take up cable slack. I went about ten more rides before we noticed a marked decrease in power in the rear brake. The culprit? Rapid brake pad wear. Fortunately, you can adjust both the inboard and outboard brake pads. Actually, you don't have much of a choice here—if you want to keep the Dual Bangers operating up to snuff, you really have to stay on top of pad wear because both the inboard and outboard pads must be equidistant (one millimeter) from the rotor.
Adjusting pad distance (from the rotor) is simple: a 3-millimeter allen wrench handles the outboard pad and a 5-millimeter allen takes care of the inboard one. Since staying on top of pad wear is critical to optimal performance, it'd be nice if the Dual Bangers featured tool-free adjuster knobs (again, a la Avid) to accomplish this task, but given the low price, this is a fairly forgivable trait. Since the brake pads wear quickly, the next logical question is "Can you actually find replacement pads for these things?" The good news is that the Dual Bangers use the same pads as Shimano's Deore Mechanical discs, so replacements are readily available.
You're probably wondering "Are the Dual Bangers as good as the Avid Ball Bearing 7 mechanical discs?" That's the real question since the Avids have long stood as the only cable disc brakes really worth buying. Well, if you're a weight watcher, the Avids definitely are your brake. We slapped down both brake calipers on our gram scale and at 159 grams, the Avids are substantially lighter than the 226-gram IRDs. As I noted earlier, the Avids also kick ass in the ease of installation and adjustment categories. In terms of sheer power, however, the Dual Bangers hold their own impressively well. I suppose you also have to consider price in this equation. The Avids will ding you an extra $20 per wheel and they also don't come with cable housing, whereas the IRDs come equipped with some pretty darn nice Yokozuna compression-less cable housing. When you add it all up, the IRDs would cost you between $60 and $80 less than the Avid models (front and rear, cable housing included).
There's also the issue of long term reliability. I've got about 5 months of frequent use on the IRDs now and have had no problems (other than quick pad wear). It's too early to say whether or not they'll prove as durable as the Avids. I look at the way the inboard half of the IRD caliper slides back and forth, and I have to wonder how smooth that action will remain after a solid winter of muck-riding….I dunno. I'll tell you after Christmas. In short, the Avids have more of a proven track record in this department.
Ready for the short version? Okay, here goes…
Money-is-no-object? Go with the Avids. Budget-bound? You'll find the IRDs surprisingly powerful.