IRD CAFAM 2 CANTILEVER BRAKES
96g £ $85.99 £62.80 per wheel
The IRD Cafam 2 Cantilever brakes are homages to the iconic Mafac design that’s been around for decades. (The sharp-eyed among us will have noticed Cafam is an anagram of Mafac). Stopping prowess is bang up to date and in some respects, superior to low profile M system patterns but price could well prove a deterrent.
The Cafam 2 weigh 96g per set, including straddle wire, anchor bolt and mounting hardware. These are made from stainless steel, whereas the arms are beautifully CNC machined aluminium alloy, mirror polished, rather than silver anodised.
The slots have a very reasonable 16mm vertical adjustment, which permits easy tailoring to suit most rim and pad combinations. Not that IRD have skimped here. Stock units are Yokuzuna cartridge shoes with Scott-Mathauser Gen-X salmon pads.
These contain iron oxide for enhanced stopping prowess, while the harder compound reduces the likelihood of grit and other rim chomping debris getting embedded in wet, muddy conditions.
This is relatively straightforward, although a bit of a culture shock if you’re used to low profile M systems. Other factors, including short reach levers, such as the Microshift brifters fitted to my Univega make fine-tuning a bit more involved, especially when other factors, such as cable quality are considered.
Slight stretch of the Jagwire pro road cable and straddle wire induced a sharp intake of breath and seamless expletives when a kamikaze folder pilot swung into my path. Crisis averted, I pulled both cables through by a few millimetres and nipped them tight.
Talking of which, the mounting bolts and straddle wire clamp are 5/4mm respectively, whereas the anchor uses an old school 10mm bolt, which aren’t usually found on multi-tools these days. Potentially a deal-breaker for some riders but easily substituted for more modern hangers, such as this Tektro.
Teething troubles exorcised, modulation and feel have been superb. More importantly, stopping prowess has been superb. Cruising along the icy backroads, Bob Yak pattern trailer following behind, that additional mechanical leverage ensured predictable braking, even when I was pushing close to 30 down a 1in 7. No hint of judder, squeal, or fade for that matter.
Not on par with my ‘cross derived fixie’s TRP Spyre/Cane Creek SC5 combination, so required a bit more forethought. Nonetheless, superior to the Avid Shorty 4 previously sported up front.
Subsequent rides along extremely wet dirt roads and churned bridle path have proven equally pleasant, revealing no apparent weaknesses.
To my surprise and the pad’s credit, flushing them through, as part of the bike’s weekly wash hasn’t revealed anything nasty embedded rim chewing grit in the pad material. The arms and fasteners have also remained free of unsightly white fur despite January’s wet, salted roads and lashings of impacted trail grime.
For all their charms, there are a few downsides. I should point out, these apply to wide arm designs per se and tend to be more problematic with smaller frames, including semi-compact and hardtail MTBs.
First up, they can interfere with larger panniers and some racks. Secondly, riders with bigger feet can find their heels catch on the rear when dismounting, although this is more of an issue for cyclo-cross and to a lesser extent these days, cross country mountain bikers.
I have size 9 (43) feet and fitted to my other drop bar mtb these have tended to catch the arms in the manner described. I’ve adapted my dis/mounts accordingly, so needn’t be a deal-breaker.
Simply put, I’d be inclined toward something like Tektro 720 for a daily driver/workhorse, which retail around £22 apiece.
These will offer decent bang for modest outlay and the choice of anodised black/silver anodising means they’ll suit riders wanting to retain a classic mountain bike, or tourer’s aesthetic. However, the Cafam 2 are still a good bit cheaper than some magnesium models I’ve tested in the past.
There’s no doubt the Cafam 2 are beautifully made with performance matching the aesthetic. They’re also offer a weight advantage over some mid-range models.
Riders restoring a top flight tourer, ‘cross or mountain bike should take a closer look. However, there are still a few mid-range, wide arm units, which represent better value for starter and mid-range machines.