MONTEREY, Calif. (VN) — With the 700c disc brake market in a nascent state, component manufacturers are working out the best approach to an ever-evolving marketplace. Until its recent launch of the new True 22 component group, SRAM has taken a conservative approach, adapting existing mountain bike brakes like the BB7. Shimano and Campagnolo are even slower to get in the game, with none of their notable professional cyclocross racers adopting discs to date.
TRP’s primary focus is brakes — not shifters, derailleurs, wheels or anything else. Perhaps for this reason, the company has been agile and innovative in the realm of cyclocross and road disc brakes. Last year’s Parabox system gave the drop handlebar set a plug-and-play option to run hydraulic discs on a compatible frameset with cable-actuated levers. This week, TRP continued to introduce new and better ways to stop your bike with the HY/RD brakeset.
A hybrid approach
No other company has tried cable-actuated hydraulic discs, so TRP has gleaned its experience with the Parabox brake system and simplified matters. The HY/RD system replaces the clunky cable-to-hydraulic conversion box, integrating the hydraulic guts and the caliper and saving about 35 grams per caliper. The cable runs from lever to brake, and at its terminus, it actuates an open hydraulic system.
How do you weigh the strengths and weaknesses of an unconventional hybrid system? On one hand, the HY/RD is compatible with any drop bar brake lever. Yet this feature is shared by existing mechanical disc caliper options. Since the HY/RD calipers have a hydraulic actuation, the pads recenter themselves as the pads wear down. During a muddy cyclocross weekend, pad wear can be considerable. This is compared to an Avid BB7, where only one of the pads is dynamic and simply presses the rotor into the other pad. Rather than fiddling with barrel adjusters on a muddy day, riders will have consistent lever throw as pads wear.
If you’re planning to play in the mud, why not go full hydraulic with the new SRAM 22? That might be an easy choice if you’re building a dream bike, but the HY/RD is far more affordable at $150 per wheel and requires no additional component upgrades. With a clean, sealed brake cable setup, the HY/RD has an light lever feel. Its ideal application is a bike with internal brake cable routing, which reduces contamination and eliminates the friction and weight penalty of full-length housing, compared to hydraulic cables.
First ride impressions
Over the course of the 96-mile Giro d’Italia Gran Fondo at the Sea Otter Classic, we put the HY/RD brakes through their paces. The scenic loop had extended downhills and many banked, sweeping corners that necessitated a light touch on the brakes. Overall, the HY/RD performed well, with good modulation, strong stopping power in “panic braking” situations, and comfortable lever throw. Our only concern was the telltale disc brake squeal that’s familiar to most mountain bikers. We only experienced this on the rear caliper at high speeds and heavy braking. It’s possible that the rotor was contaminated, but fortunately it didn’t affect performance.
Looking for an even more affordable option? TRP also introduced the mechanical Spyre and Spyre SLC models at this week’s launch. The SLC sports a partial carbon construction, making it eight grams lighter at 146g per caliper (versus the 154g Spyre) and $30 more expensive per wheel than the $80 Spyre. That means each Spyre SLC caliper is 49g lighter and $40 cheaper than the HY/RD, which clocks in at 195g and $150 per wheel. Notably, Spyre calipers actuate both brake pads simultaneously, which makes setup easier, improves modulation, and helps brake pads wear more evenly. By comparison, Avid BB7 brakes only actuate the outboard pad flexing the rotor against a fixed pad.
How do you ride? The HY/RD and Spyre are two different brakes for two styles of rider. Someone who burns through pads on a weekly basis during the sloppiest part of cyclocross season will want the HY/RD’s self-adjusting system and additional power. An adventurous (off-road) roadie who needs the reliability of discs but doesn’t grab the brake levers by the handful might be fine with a refined mechanical system. With a wider variety of new 700c-specific disc brake options, it’s clear that the road and ‘cross market will see major changes in the coming years.