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First Look: SRAM Hydraulic Disc Brakes

December 5, 2012
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We all knew the day would come when not only disc brakes, but hydraulic disc brakes, would be mated with skinny tires. TRP was the first out of the gate with their Parabox Disc system that transforms a traditional cable pull brake into a hydraulic brake. At this year’s Sea Otter, Colnago rolled out a C59 with their own shifters and hydraulic brakes courtesy of Formula.

 Here’s an early piece of SRAM product info on the hydraulic disc brake that we filched from an unsuspecting product manager last year. Without knowing any specific tech info on the new brakes, we can’t say whether anything shown here is accurate or not, but it does give an indication as to how long SRAM has been working to perfect the system.

For the last few months there has been much talk about a hydraulic disc brake coming from SRAM to compliment their Red component group. And at last weekend’s L.A. cyclocross race, Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com rider Tim Johnson showed up with two SuperX Hi Mod bikes outfitted with said hydro stoppers. Unfortunately, there is not much to say about the brakes since SRAM is keeping mum about them until the official release slated for early 2013.

             The caliper casting is all new with the hydraulic cable mounting on the inboard side.

Here’s an in-board look at the hub and rotor. Tim said they had follow to pre-race regiment to break-in the brakes that consisted of ten reps of a 10-0 mph slowdown, and ten reps of a 20-0 slowdown to seat the brake pads. (He actually did the reps on the road descending from the Griffith Park Observatory the day before the race).

The Avid BB7 Ultimate mechanical brake is the most widely used cable-pull brake in the field today. You can compare the difference with the hydraulic brake caliper. All the bikes run with 140mm rotors, but Ryan Trebon was using a solid rotor to measure the mud’s impact on pads. Stu said they could easily go through a set of pads in a single race, and that despite being so easy to adjust (dialing the knob in pushes the pad in closer to the rotor), the hydraulic brakes are an improvement not just in terms of increased stopping power, but that unlike the mechanical brakes that draw the pad in from one side only, the hydraulic binders have opposing pistons that push the pad in evenly from both sides. He also thinks they will be lighter.

Cannondale did a good job with the rear disc mounts on the seat stays (versus on the chainstays). As with the front brakes, the rear uses a radial mount versus the post (side) mount style.

Anyone remember Onza bar ends? The actual height of the brake hoods is best evident here with Tim’s hands as a contrast. Yeah, they’re pretty tall. And yes, if you were curious like I was as to why a ‘cross team that involves dirt and mud at every race would run easily soiled white bar tape, well, Stu just said he likes the clean look and that basically, they end up changing bar tape pretty frequently.


Knowing that Tim was contractually obligated to not say much about the brakes, after the race I nonetheless asked him how they worked, “Night and day different?” Tim looked at me shaking his head and simply replied, “Dude!”. He then let me give the rear brake lever a quick squeeze as I rolled the bike forward. The bike didn’t slow, it stopped as if someone put a stick in the spokes. Awesome.


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