Gravel Gear

Reviewed: Shimano CX75 disc calipers are light and consistent, and have great action

Shimano's new ’cross-specific disc brake calipers perform great across conditions and are easy to install and adjust

I’ve said it before and now I’m about to say it again: The selection of disc brake equipment for cyclocross remains conspicuously slim and it looks like it will be next season before we see some big announcements.

Until then, we have to be happy with the simple things in life. Shimano’s CX75 calipers are just that: simple, efficient and I have to admit, with their boxy and geometric design, kind of cool looking.

Installation is breezy. Place the caliper, crank on the pads to center it on the rotor, crank it down, thread and attach cable, dial-in and you’re done. On my trusty Moots PsychloX RSL Disc test rig it took me mere minutes to swap out a set of older Avid BB7s for CX75 stoppers. As with the BB7s, there are no barrel adjusters for the cable; all adjustments are done on the caliper. This reduces variations in the mechanical advantage of the brake, which means more consistent braking.

Adjusting the caliper and dialing it in for pad clearance and lever throw is slightly more involved. The outboard pad adjustment is done with a 2.5mm hex key and the inboard requires a 3mm. Either of these adjustments would be difficult to make without tools, but hopefully that won’t be necessary. Changing pads is textbook Shimano, just undo the pad retainer screw, slide out old pads, and slide in new ones. Even the pads have a bevel on them to help guide rotors into the caliper. It’s the simple things.

A bare CX75 caliper (no mounting hardware) weighs in at a delightful 151 grams. The BB7 SL (bare) is 160g, but once we add in the mounting hardware, they are pretty much even, with the CX75 a gram or two lighter. The upshot is that if using titanium hardware on the CX75, there would be a few more grams of weight savings; the BB7 SL ships with Ti bolts so is as light out of the box as it’s going to get.

But enough appeasing our inner weight weenie. How do they perform? In a word: Great. After the aforementioned easy install it was up to Boulder’s venerable Elks Park cyclocross course to put them through the wringer. The CX75s have smooth and light actuation and modulate very well; these are the brakes I was on when I realized you could use the old moto trick of feathering the back brake to pull the bike down into corners. I love that kind of stuff. The brakes are very strong and the action is crisp and positive.

In the last month or so I have ridden in mud, sand, snow and gotten these brakes really dirty with combinations of all of the above. They performed well and still retain their smooth action.

This caliper, unlike Shimano’s lower-end disc offerings, is positioned to directly compete with Avid’s new BB7 RSL caliper. The weight is very similar, the finish is refined and as far as I can tell, the price is similar. (It’s hard to work out because a BB7 SL kit ships with a rotor and the CX75 ships as a stand-alone caliper.) On a Google search, the CX75 caliper retails for somewhere between $60 and $75, but I couldn’t find it on Shimano’s website.