'Cross bikes, especially steel and Ti ones, are some of the most beautiful bikes in the world. And it seems that the 'cross bike scene is keeping the renaissance alive, and bountiful landscape full of fresh, vibrant artisian frames. Also alive and well in this biking utopia, are cottage parts builders, small margins and one of the smallest segments in cycling, keep a lot of the big component companies away. No other part on the bike is a better example of this than brakes. Sure Avid, and Shimano make 'cantilevers', but try to find a set of the mud-shedding, euro-syle Mafac's from those guys. No luck.
There are some solid designs from small builders out there, but Paul has seemed to corner the market here with two offerings, the traditional Cantilevers, and the Neo-Retros. These are the Cantilevers, which I ran last season, but will be running the Neo-Retros in 2006. Besides a beautiful black ano finish, the brakes come stock with Eagleclaw pads, and straddle cable and hanger. Mine are paired up with Campy Record carbon brake only levers (sans gears), but can be run with any brake/ shifter lever combo on the market.
Easy to set up, with some cable cutters, a 13mm open-end wrench, 9mm hex wrench, mine were going in about a half-an-hour. Choose the red Eagle pads if you are running carbon rims, they brake better wet and dry, and save wear on the rims. Riding discs on my mountain, it doesn't take long to get used to the slightly reduced braking performance, but I mean this in a good way. Down in the drops, my bike will come down from orbit in a hurry. Not too mention out on epic all day rides, I have the confidence of a quick trail side reapir of cable brakes vs. that of limping home w/ one disc brake.
The Paul's are sweet, light weight brakes, with a great finish quality to match. They are much better than most on the market, and are not as expensive as some of the carbon or European models. Around $35 will get you the very nice upgrade to the MoonUnit cable hangers, and a little more coin you can add Paul's top-mount interrupter levers - if you can find them. It seems they are no longer in production.
Stop by www.paulcomp.com for more info on his brakes, and other great products available. Be sure to check out Paul's Bikes section for some very cool rides.