The Cleg 4 is a beautifully made and well-engineered disc brake, designed by deranged German engineers at who wanted the most powerful braking system that could be made, but also one that could also be precisely modulated. Its master cylinders, levers and four-piston calipers are CNC-machined aluminum, its stainless steel rotors are extra thick, and it uses a special DOT 5.1 brake fluid that was developed for Formula 1 motor racing. One side weighs 245 grams without a rotor and mounting hardware, which makes the Cleg 4 among the lighter stoppers in the high-performance trail brake class. It is also the most expensive. Two Cleg 4 brakes, ready to ride, will cost you $1,150 USD. I am certain that when this review is posted, the roar of discontent reverberating from skinflints in the UK will be heard around the world, but the Cleg 4 brake exudes the powerful attraction that well-executed, handmade machinery has on cyclists and many are happy to pay a premium for it. Trickstuff, the people who make Cleg 4 brakes, produce them in small batches and in a number of color combinations, with each set custom-configured for individual customers. Construction and Technology
• Four-piston calipers CNC-machined from 7075 T6 alloy
• Two-part bolted caliper halves
• Rotors: Stainless steel, 2.05mm thick - 140, 160, 180, 200, 203mm
• Tapered rotor for quick wheel changes
• DOT 5.1 brake fluid
• Extremely simple, "idiot-proof bleeding."
• Top-loading pads with Shimano profile - organic or sintered metallic
• Lever-reach adjustment via 2mm hex key
• Post-mount fitting with extended adjustment range
• Low hand force through high ratio, low-friction master cylinder piston.
• High pressure-resistant Kevlar hoses, cut to length as required, reusable Goodridge fittings.
• CNC-machined aluminum, short or medium-length levers
• Options: High pressure-resistant Goodridge steel hose, low viscosity “SuperFormula” brake fluid, special anodized colors
• Standard colors: anodized silver, black, red
• Weight: 245 grams (claimed) charged, with lever, caliper and front-length hose (no rotor or hardware.) Test weight - 420grams (front, with180mm rotor).
• MSRP: $575 USD per side as tested.
• Contact: Trickstuff
, Radsport USA
The Cleg 4 brake adds a powerful 4-piston caliper brake to their original two-piston version and creates what is essentially a new, ground-up design. As mentioned, the entire system is CNC-machined from aluminum and stainless steel. The radial master cylinder and reservoir are in the lever perch to conserve space on the handlebar and to maximize the rider’s options for shift lever and remote dropper placements. The Cleg 4 lever assembly, hoses, and caliper, fully charged weigh 245 grams, depending upon hose length. Add a 180-millimeter rotor, an adapter and the necessary hardware to that, and the weight recalculates to around 420 grams per side for our test setup. Compare that with 390 grams for a Shimano M9020 XTR trail brake and the Cleg 4 is in the ballpark, but certainly not the lightest in class.
The hydraulic ‘leverage ratio’ (differential between the area of the master cylinder piston and the combined area of the caliper pistons) is set to maximize the stopping force generated at the caliper, with a minimum squeeze force at the lever blade. Trickstuff notes that this configuration slightly reduces the firmness of the lever’s feel at the pad’s contact point, but the benefit is less hand fatigue and easier modulation in maximum braking situations.
Levers are available in both a one-finger and a two-finger length, and special profiling is used to make the flats of the blade follow the change in the grip angles of the two fingers most often used for braking. Adjustments for lever reach and engagement are flush, so there are no protruding dials to break off in a crash.
The Cleg 4 calipers are made in halves after Trickstuff’s testing revealed that steel pinch bolts resisted flex measurably better than a one-piece machined or forged caliper body could. The four-piston arrangement features a smaller-diameter leading piston (13mm front, 16mm rear) to even out the clamping force of the caliper across the brake pads, which is reported to reduce noise and improve braking power, in addition to their promise of longer lifespans for the pads.
The top-loading pads are manufactured for Trickstuff, using its organic compound and the backing is the same design as Shimano XT and XTR to ensure that customers can find replacements anywhere in a pinch. Cleg pads are also available with sintered metallic friction material for riders who need a longer wearing pad or desire a firmer feel at the contact point.
Cleg rotors are made from a special stainless steel and are thicker than average (2.05 millimeters) to conduct heat more efficiently and better resist warping under maximum stopping conditions. A chamfered edge eases the task of installing a wheel by guiding the rotor between the pads, and rotors are available in six-bolt and Shimano’s spline system, as well as a number of popular, non-standard bolt patterns.
Trickstuff makes Cleg brakes in small batches and in a number of anodized color combinations (expect up-charges for some colors). Brakes are made to order, and arrive in a fancy wooden box in your selected colors, pre-bled and with hoses made to your specified lengths, and with your choice of rotor diameters and adapters. Standard levers for Cleg 4 brakes are the longer, two-finger models, but you can ask for the short lever blades if it suits your fancy. Goodridge steel-reinforced hoses are optional for the firmest contact feel.
Trickstuff touts that its Cleg brakes are foolproof to bleed and sells a service kit, which looks and operates exactly like an Avid twin-syringe type kit. Stock brakes use DOT 5.1 fluid, which is a higher temperature formula based upon the universally accepted DOT 4 and not the problematic DOT 5 that probably should be abandoned by the industry as a whole. If you are interested in upgrading your present DOT 4-type brakes, DOT 5.1 is compatible and Trickstuff sells SuperFormula brand 5.1 fluid, which is reportedly used for F1 racing and has the highest boiling point one can buy off the shelf. Trail Test Results
The Cleg 4 brakes are targeted at the sport's most elite riders in both price and performance, and they have received high honors from respected European media channels, so a gloves-off review is fair game. Sitting alongside the current leader, Shimano's XTR trail brake, the Cleg 4 looks like an award winning street rod
parked next to a McLaren P1
. Both are beautiful in their own right, but a generation apart in style and execution.
The Cleg's long lever, compared to the XTR's shorty blade suggests that it would feel cumbersome, but it is quite comfortable in hand. Neither XTR nor the Cleg 4 has an engagement-point adjustment (Shimano pretends to have one). The Cleg's engagement is quick and crisp feeling, which provides a consistent contact point at a wide range of lever positions. Shimano's Servo-Wave cam provides a similar function, but it feels a tad clunky. The Cleg 4 has a boxy radial master cylinder and reservoir which triples the footprint of its clamp on the handlebar compared to XTR, but Shimano's in-line reservoir and master cylinder design bangs on SRAM shift pods and limits options for positioning a remote dropper lever. The Cleg's, boxy profile and all, did a nice job of squeezing between the existing controls of our test bike, and the angle that the hoses exit (similar to Magura and Formula), ends up tracing a much better path around the frame's head tube. So far, so good.
Initial setup was easy. The thick rotors had no runout, and all we needed to do to get the brake pads centered over the rotors was to squeeze the lever while tightening the caliper fixing bolts. As promised, the rotor's tapered edges made short work of wheel changes. They seemed to fall into place between the pads. The test bike was a Cannondale Jekyll, which has a remote suspension lever on the right and a RockShox dropper button on the left side of the bar. The band-type clamp eliminated the annoying castings and pinch bolts that most brake lever perches have, giving our thumbs a cleaner shot at the remotes and the SRAM right-side shift lever.
We were warned that the Cleg's organic pads, which were said to have a mix of ceramic, metallic and organic fibers, would take a longer time to bed into the rotor's braking tracks, so we were not surprised to discover that braking continuously improved over two solid rides before stopping authority occurred the instant the pads contacted the rotors. The feel was much like Galfer's organic pads - slightly noisy and very grippy, but with authoritative stopping power that was very proportional to the squeeze force at the lever blade. The Cleg 4 brakes modulate better than XTR at the point of pad contact, which led to a lot less skidding on the dusty rock faces where most of our test riding took place. When it did rain, the pad material bit the wet rotors hard enough to produce a similar feel as in dry conditions with no perceivable lag at the contact point.
Three rides in and the rear brake started to howl and moan, and no amount of cleaning or rotor preparation would silence it. Trickstuff said that I either had contaminated pads, or that the Cannondale's swingarm was winding up near the caliper mount and causing an oscillation. New pads and a freshly resurfaced rotor silenced the rear brake for the winter season, but the low howl returned just before testing concluded. Occasionally, we would get a peep from the front brake in wet conditions (XTR brakes do that also), but otherwise, the only sound it made was a slight hiss when the pads first contacted the rotors.
Trickstuff is quite proud of its claims that the Cleg 4 can handle a lot of heat without fading, and that proved true. San Diego has some monstrously steep descents that routinely barbeque brake pads. The Clegs seemed to bite into the rotors harder and get more sensitive as they heated up - which took a little getting used to - after which, they remained consistent as long as they remained warm. No test rider reported fading or a change in the engagement point when we put the screws to the Clegs on the downs. We'd run them on a DH bike without question.
With the power of the Cleg 4, we never needed two fingers to stop the bike in any situation, so we would get the shorter blades next time. Where the German brake shined most brightly was when negotiating our way down boulders and steep chutes - any situation that required dexterity and precision. At speed on DH trails, where most of the braking events are simple speed checks and skid entries into tight corners, the Clegs did not have any advantage over the Shimano XTR stoppers.
Except for a brief period of grabbiness as the pads and rotors got some heat into them, the Cleg 4 brake feels smoother at the bite point and slightly more controllable than XTR in almost every situation, and while maximum braking power versus lever pressure can only be validated using a calibrated dynamometer, our call is that Clegs are easily on par with XTR for maximum events. All told, the Cleg 4 would have earned our highest marks for a technical trail rider's brake if it were not for the nagging noise reverberating from the rear caliper. Every make of disc brake has produced an occasional howler in our experience. That said, we had used three different brakes and four pad and rotor combinations on the Cannondale and the Cleg 4 was the only howler in the bunch and only in the rear position. It was heaven for the two months when it was silent. Perhaps a switch to sintered metallic pads would have done the trick. Pinkbike's Take:
|The Cleg 4 disc brake pose an unresolvable question among cyclists: why pay more for a handmade product when a mass-produced version of equal performance and quality can be had for significantly less? It's awkward to think of Shimano XTR as being the inexpensive alternative to the Cleg 4, but the MSRP of an M9020 XTR trail brake with a 180-millimeter Freeza rotor is around $380 USD a side, while the Cleg 4 sells for $575. Both feel like a custom-tailored instrument in hand, and both look beautiful in their own style. Both are designed to be easily maintained and either brake will enhance the value and appearance of your mountain bike. The Cleg 4 brakes are a miracle in that they work as well as they do, considering how hard major brands, armed with teams of engineers and manufacturing resources, have sweated to produce competitive braking systems.|
The Cleg 4 is the disc brake equivalent of a handmade titanium hardtail from the likes of Steve Potts. Somewhere, a factory is banging out Ti hardtails at the rate of one per hour, and they will have stunning finishes and be perfectly aligned, and I am sure they will ride beautifully. Functionally, the Steve Potts will be about the same, but it has a connection with the man who built it. It is rare and unique and it has details, however small, that will cause its owner to stop and run a finger over the frame, or inspect how a weld transitions from one tube to another long after he or she has taken ownership. Only its owner can judge whether that Steve Potts is worth four times the cost of a factory-made frame. Cleg 4 customers are paying for a similar experience. - RC
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