The best rim brakes ever made

Every once in a while, a bicycle part comes along that is so good, it transcends the bike it’s on. Like the Chris King headset. So good that owners move it from bike to bike as they progress.

If you ride a lot you know that parts generally don’t last – it’s the nature of the game – but the King headset does.

Avid Arch Supreme

Avid Arch Supreme

Another part on this level, was the Avid Arch Supreme brake. It was a set of V-brakes with an arch connecting the brake arms. Though to be more accurate, the arch connected the pads. This forced the pads to move in a straight line into the rim when you pulled the brake lever, rather than in an arc.

Ingeniously, the  arch also provided for the spring tension adjustment. Rim brakes need to be adjusted so that both brake pads hit the rim at the same time. You would tighten or loosen a tiny screw on the brake to increase or decrease spring tension, moving one pad closer, the opposite pad further away.  With the Arch Supreme, all you did was loosen the knob at the top of the arch, move it left or right – which moved the entire brake assembly – until both pads were the same distance away, and tighten the knob again.

On top of all this, everything was CNC machined, the pivots had sealed bearings, and the clearances were better than any other brake I have ever touched in my life.

Avid Ultimate

Avid Ultimate

I lived with a guy that bought some and he had me install them. Once installed, there was zero play at the brake boss, but perfectly smooth movement. He also bought the matching Avid Ultimate levers and Flak Jacket cables.  This was about 1998, and that package set him back about $600.

I just found a set of Arch Supremes on eBay, for CDN$272, and that’s a damn lot of money for v-brakes. But in my mind, that’s not too much. Not if you’re going for late-model vintage perfection, like a Rocky Vertex Team Scandium, or a Kona Hei Hei Ti.


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