TRP came up with a unique solution to having hydraulics on a road bike: put the reservoir at the brake and hook into the existing cable system.


I like this because

  1. it allows for using secondary line-interruptor cyclocross brake levers on existing cables from your STI levers
  2. the price for this system is also in the reasonable range

There are a couple downsides though:

  1. Is there enough fluid in the reservoir to handle long descent heat buildup?
  2. This setup still suffers from cable stretch and squishiness, as early reviewers out in the field are reporting

All things considered, I wouldn’t get it yet.

Canyon Project 6.8 complete hydraulic road bike

Direct sales bicycle manufacturer Canyon Bicycles will soon be offering a complete bicycle that comes with a very customized hydraulic brake system.

As one can see in their very technical brief on the technologies included in the bike, they have decided to go with non-standard sized rotors and to customize the fork for heat and stress resistance.

From personal experience riding my own hydraulic road bike that I designed and built (using mostly off-the-shelf commercial parts wherever I could), I can attest that I don’t experience any of the heat and stress issues that they claim to avoid. My Wound Up carbon cross fork is light, stiff and handles all the heat I’ve thrown at it so far riding down steep Canadian highway descents. Canyon’s technical brief doesn’t really make it clear how their design improves on existing cross frames and fork which seem to be handling the stress and heat from cable actuated systems like Avid BB7 quite well, but perhaps Canyon will provide a clearer value proposition once they officially begin selling the Project 6.8.

Given all that, I can see that their system is likely lighter due to the smaller rotor sizes, so for a performance cyclist where every gram is an issue, the Project 6.8 from Canyon bikes would be a good choice.

Coming soon, TRP Hywire DI2 compatible brake / shifter pods

Taiwanese manufacturer TRP Brakes is launching a new shifter/brake pod called the TRP Hywire that provides shifter buttons compatible with Shimano’s DI2 system, along with a hydraulic brake lever.

The system looks to be a pretty clean implementation using a standard reservoir piston setup. The retail price is set at $599 and units are to be available in fall 2012.

No word on the exact weight of the system, but expect it to be light due to the heavy use of carbon fiber in the levers.

Beru Factor 001 becomes the Aston Martin One-77 Cycle

Automotive racing company Beru F1 Systems have built a road bike with integrated hydraulic disc brakes. Their original prototype shifter/brake pod design was remeniscent of the Mavic Mektronic setup of old.

Beru Factor 001

Mavic Mektronic wireless shifting system

More recently, the prototype was re-launched as the Aston Martin One-77 Cycle, a $36,000 bike that includes a large variety of built-in training sensors tied to a large handlebar-incorporated display. It’s quite a marvel of engineering, but priced well out of the realm of the average cyclist.

Aston Martin One-77 Cycle

For now, I’ll just be enjoying the pictures like the rest of you.

SRAM Red hydraulic road brakes

Component manufacturer SRAM has released some preliminary marketing details for their new line of levers and brakes. They are launching two models; one aimed at replacing traditional road rim brakes, and the other as a disc brake option.

I’m very keen to try the disc brake option in person. What I’d like to see is an option to add cross levers on the center flats of the road bar like the Paul’s cross levers for existing cable setups and the STI to MTB hydraulic levers the way I run mine.

Magura RT8 TT hydraulic rim brake

A lot is being said about Magura’s RT8 TT hydraulic rim brake and lever set.

Magura RT8 TT

This is primarily designed for triathlon and time trial events due to the lever configuration.

Magura has partnered up with Cervelo in order to package their brake and bikes together in the Cervelo P5 model. One can now purchase the RT8 TT separately for $399 for the entire 495g kit that includes 2 brakes and levers (pads are not included).

The advantages are huge. This is by far the lightest and strongest triathlon and time trial braking system ever. The price is very reasonable for the level of performance. I still run and maintain a set of Magura’s original MTB hydraulic rim brakes, and they deliver outstanding performance.

In particular, the design looks to have very good mechanical leverage, akin to v-brake pivot technology. The clever engineers at Magura have come up with a light-weight single piston design that moves a triangular block upwards, forcing apart the lever arms and driving together the pads at the other end of the pivot. That explains the weight savings.

Magura RT8 TT V-brake like action

Unfortunately, if you’re using Shimano STI shifters, SRAM brifter pods, or Campagnolo equivalents, you’re out of luck for the moment (although Magura is coming out with a converter similar to TRP’s Parabox). Additionally, you’re still dealing with heat and wear on the rims of your high end race wheels, especially those with carbon rims.

Overall, this is an excellent product for a specific application; triathlon and time trialing setups using wing style aero handlebars.

TRP Parabox Conversion Kit

Here’s an interesting way of converting STI brake cable input to hydraulics. It’s the Parabox conversion kit made by a company called TRP.

TRP Parabox – 902g at a list price of $469.99 USD

Basically it’s a box that sits under your stem and converts cable tugs to hydraulic fluid pulses. TRP’s site says that the weight is 451g per wheel which brings it in at 902g extra for your bike. They have this categorized as a cross component, so I imagine most of us would want a set of Paul’s mini levers thrown in on the flat part of the bars, which weight in at an additional 140g plus cable hardware. I had a set of Paul’s and they are a very well made minimalistic component. If you’re running a cable cross setup, definitely go for them.

Paul’s Cross Levers – Excellent design and only 140g

With TRP’s Parabox solution, one of the factors to keep in mind is that this is only sold as a complete package. That means you have to use their brakes along with the conversion box. In theory you could change it over to one of Shimano’s mineral oil brake models since the Parabox also runs mineral oil, but that would be messy and then you’d have a wasted set of calipers.

So it seems like a good solution provided you’re comfortable with the box under the stem, the lack of cross brake levers and being locked in to TRP calipers. Where it really shines though is installation speed. This is something you could be riding minutes after unpacking it, all while using your existing STI setup.

Hydraulic road bikes – the Beginning

If you want hydraulics on your road bike, at the moment your only option is to go custom.

Let’s start with what’s out there for wheels right now.  Most of the disc compatible wheel offerings are simply not very appealing.  A perfect example Shimano’s WH-T565 wheelset, which although they look good and are very strong, actually weight a ton and feel like you’re spinning up steel car rims instead of bicycle wheels.

Nice looking, boiler-plate heavy

Custom building your wheels will give you much more satisfying results.  These Zipp Kings are very responsive and light.

Top notch wheels

HED double disc.

Disc on disc

Here is the world’s first working daily rider hydraulic road bike:

STI to hydraulic braking solution

Hydraulics on road; no standards yet

As of mid 2012, road cyclists wanting to use the superior proven stopping technology of hydraulic brake systems are faced with choosing between prototypes:

  • secretive hydraulic road rim friction brakes or
  • conversion kits to allow existing cable road brake levers to drive mountain bike hydraulic disc brake pistons.

Join us on this website as we track the development and maturation of this technology as it becomes mainstream.