New Phat WORKS website and product review

Tuesday 1 March 2011
by Ben Swales
popularity : 9%

PNG - 8 kb PhatWORKS are a new(ish) UK trials company, specialising in braking products. Their Phat Pads (available for both Magura and V brakes) are a popular choice among street and natural riders alike and their new Phat Phluid, which claims to be as responsive as water but without the freezing or corrosion often associated with water bleeds, sounds like it could be the brake fluid that the people have been crying out for! And with riders such as Ryan Leech, Martyn Ashton and Tarty Bikes rider Dave Marshall trying out their stuff, they come very highly recommended!

Company boss Mike “Phat Mike” Singleton told us a bit about PhatWORKS when we spoke to him at the final of the British Trials Cup:

The company’s main aim is to support the trials community, we want to give back whenever we’ve got the opportunity. At the moment that’s consisting of providing parts and kit to riders and events, but I hope we’ll be able to do a lot more in the future. As the main designer of components, I want to make sure that what we produce is as good as it can be - every fit and finish must be spot on. Whilst a set of backings might not be a Mona Lisa painting, they should be attractive and show just as much care. I think it’s important that each last design and manufacturing detail reflects the quality of the overall performance and experience. This goes for our packaging and service too.

Phatpads started selling back in 2006. This wasn’t planned as they were for personal use, but suddenly everyone started wanting them! The material’s not changed since then, but the pads have gone from being hand-cut in a shed, to cnc machined in college to cast moulding now. Each pad is still hand sanded and checked by a member of our staff.

I’m keen on British manufacturing, and would like to maintain production of our parts in Britain wherever possible. This means that we can use local firms and engineering know-how to produce exactly what we want, rather than modifying catalogue parts from the far east! There are a few parts that we’ve got in the pipeline, but nothing’s going to be rushed out until it’s good and ready.

JPEG - 113.4 kb PhatWORKS have recently updated their website, which has been offline for a while due to server problems, and it now features an online shop and there are a couple of neat videos on the homepage of Phat riders in action, including this really well put together video of Phat Mike riding in London by David at Caravan Films.

They thought it would be a nice idea to accompany the relaunch of their website with a review of some of their products. Mike sent us some Phat Mag and Phat Vee pads, complete with backings, and a bottle of Phat Phluid to test.

Our testers, Ben Swales, Matthew Ogley (Ogre on the forums) and Dan Cox (Dan6061) would kit their brakes out with these products and test them on a variety of terrains and in a variety of conditions in order to give you as fair and complete review as possible. We rode both natural and street in wet, dry and freezing conditions and with a few different brake setups and recorded our impressions.

The Products

Phat Mags (£31) The Phat Mags comprise Phat WORKS’ own compound pads, which are cast moulded and then sanded by hand to give a great finish, set into the new CNC aluminium backings. The finish on these pads is fantastic; the pads themselves have clean, sharp edges and tapered ends to aid even wear and an really glossy finish (although the braking surface is slightly textured). The backings are a thing of beauty. At just 6mm deep, they are some of the slimmest backing available, and the O-ring fitting is a nice touch. We had some silver backings and some black (pads with gold backings can be won in the British Trials Cup competitions), and both colours look great and the Phat WORKS logo etched into the end finishes them off with a touch of class. The pads are presented in a small blue box with the Phat WORKS logo on the lid.

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Phat Vees (£30) Phat’s V pads are no less impressive. They come with their own backings (also available in silver or black, or gold if you’re lucky enough to win some), bolts and a unique washer system whereby the washer sits into the backing to further lower the profile of the brake. The backings have the same superb detail and finish as the Mag pads and come packaged in the same neat little box.

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Phat Phluid (£12) (300ml) Phat Phluid is Mike’s answer to the cries of trials riders calling out for a brake fluid with the performance of water but that doesn’t freeze in the winter. It comes in a slimline 300ml recyclable aluminium bottle which has an industrial looking brushed finish.

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Dan

(Magura HS33, water bleed, Phat Mags, Echo Urban 19” rim with a medium grind)

When I first installed these pads I was a bit unimpressed with their initial performance; they lacked the bite that I had heard so much about on the forums. However, once they had had a chance to bed in and wear to the rim, after about four hours of solid riding, they began to perform as expected.

It is generally accepted that the Echo Urban rim works well with hydraulic rim brakes as they hold a grind well. After a few rides it was apparent that, although the Phatpads didn’t have fantastic bite, they did, however, have great hold. The bite is almost instantaneous but not as sharp as I would expect from a brake pad with such a premium price tag. Comparing them to my previous pads, which occasionally slipped backwards when hopping up onto the rear wheel, the Phat Mags didn’t slip once and held my weight perfectly. In terms of sound, something many riders see as a key sign that their pads are working, the Phat Mags give quite a nice high pitched ‘honk’ as the pad bites the rim.

On two of the rides I went on testing these pads, the conditions were wet or raining. The lack of bite that I had already noticed suffered slightly in the wet, which knocked my confidence a bit, but the incredible hold remained unaffected, which was a great sign.

Overall I would recommend these pads if you are after tons of hold in the wet or dry and not overly concerned with bite.

Ogre

(Bikehut v callipers, compressionless cable, sd7 lever, echo v-dapters, built in booster and additional booster, Trialtech 26” rim with medium grind)

The pads took quite a while to bed in; I only felt that they were performing consistently after about 16 hours of riding. The hold is impressive, I’m a big guy, so I put a lot of force through my brakes and these seemed to do a pretty good job of holding me up. They did slip occasionally, on taps for example, where my weight was right over the back end. The bite was less impressive, even for a V brake.

Overall, I’m overall happy with the performance of these pads and I’m confident using them, especially as a heavier rider. The quality of the pad backing is superb and the press fit is reliable and I’ve had no issues with pad corners rounding off which is a bonus. I’d definitely use them again.

Ben

(Magura HS33, long lever, Phat Phluid bleed, Phat Mags, V!Z 26” rim with a medium grind, built in booster)

I was really impressed with the pads when I received them. The box is a classy touch and the pads themselves look fantastic. The O ring in the back means that they fit snugly onto the piston and don’t wobble at all. Thanks to the aluminium backings, my brake felt stiff and responsive and their was minimal flex in the system thanks to the frame’s built in booster.

As has been noted, the bite offered by these pads is initially a little disappointing. I noticed the brake slip, only a tiny bit however, when landing on the rear wheel from a gap, drop or tap, which was a little unnerving. However, it improved over time and although the pads never bit as much as my previous pads (which had a very sharp bite), once I’d got used to it and adjusted my technique slightly, I stopped noticing the slip entirely. This allowed me to concentrate on the awesome hold that the Phat Mags bring to the table. I’d heard good things about this and I wasn’t disappointed; once they’d got hold of your rim, these babies just didn’t let go. Even on the most unforgiving slopes, edges and corners, these pads locked on and didn’t let me down once. Even in wet or muddy conditions (which we’ve had plenty of this winter) the hold remained as powerful as ever. Once I’d adapted to the bite of the brake, which had initially shaken my confidence, I began to really trust their performance and became a lot more confident when really testing them. I’ll be leaving these on after the test, they work fantastically and the gorgeous black backings look great!

The Phat Phluid was also really impressive. I’d previously used water and anti-freeze in my brakes and had been more than happy with the responsiveness that it brought. I was equally happy with the feel of my brake after it had been bled with Phluid. The lever was as snappy and responsive as I was expecting; I didn’t notice much difference over a water bleed in terms of feel, but the non-freeze non-corrosive properties mean that it is an obvious choice. Unfortunately, we never experienced temperatures cold enough to freeze Dan’s water bleed, so we didn’t get to test the anti-freeze properties, but Mike tells us he’s ridden in -10 degrees and his brakes were still working, so we’ll take his word for it!

The last word

Despite all of us remarking on the lack of bite that these pads seemed to offer, our overall reactions to these pads is very positive. Their awesome hold, which supports even the heaviest of riders (most of the time) on all kinds of terrain and in even the most punishing conditions, impressed all of us. Add to this the superb finish and packing and you’ve got an excellent bit of kit that looks and performs great! This does come at a bit of a premium however; at £30 (£31 for Mag pads), these are by no means the cheapest on the market, but we think they’re well worth it!


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