Hands On: Installation and Initial Review of SRAM Red 22 Hydro HRR

Sram Hydro Rim Brake Spread

When SRAM introduced the new Red 22 Hydro R groups, I think it’s safe to say the disc brake stole the show. With road discs everywhere you look, the notion of a hydraulic rim brake seemed almost like a step backwards. Truth of the matter is though, that most road bikes are still rim brake equipped, and hydraulic rim brakes do offer some advantages – at least on paper. We were invited to check out the new Colorado Springs Development Center and get a crash course in Red 22 Hydro R HRR direct from STU.

Get a grip on hydraulic rim brakes, next.

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After a quick tour of the facility and presentation on the new groups, it was time to get to work. Armed with individual work stations, a few drawers full of tools, and the tutelage of the experts it was time to go to work. I mentioned it in the last post, but for a dealer considering sending one or more of their mechanics to STU it is definitely a worthwhile investment.

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Questions about installing your new SRAM unit? Use the QR codes attached to each part or box that will take you right to the instructions – a smart use of QR codes!

SRAM Red 22 - Hydro Rim HRR Install

This QR tag is making sure you know to use a 13mm cone wrench to center the brake while the brake nut is loose. Hold the 13mm wrench in place while you tighten the brake nut to keep the brake centered. Otherwise you risk damaging the mechanical spring on the brake.

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Avid had an updated version of their Pro Bleed Kit on hand for us to use, which essentially just has a longer threaded fitting on the end of the syringe. This is supposed to help with getting into tight spaces on mountain bike brakes, though we haven’t run into a brake we couldn’t bleed yet with the older Pro Bleed Kit it should make it easier.

Sram Red 22 Hydro Rim Reservoir

Hiding under the much larger hoods are the reservoirs and bleed fittings for the levers. The bleed port it situated right at the top of the hood which makes it a great vantage point for removing bubbles which have nowhere to go but up. Brake hoses find their way to the levers by way of a banjo fitting that resides underneath the reservoir cap. If you need to remove this cap for any reason, remember to treat it like any other reservoir cap and tilt the bike so the gray cap is horizontal – which will keep fluid from spilling into your shifter.

Bleeding of the HRR brakes is almost exactly like the process for Elixirs, yet seemed even easier. Extricating the unwanted air bubbles was supremely easy and each brake was finished in short order.

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On each brake, the bleed port is found on the front left of the caliper with a standard T10 plug.

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The only adjustments to the brake other than reach adjust at the lever come by way of the adjustment knob at the top of the brake. Functioning just like the barrel adjuster on a mechanical rim brake, turning it clockwise will close the caliper, while counter-clockwise backs off the pads.

Pro Tip: If you need to shorten the hoses on the system, turning the barrel adjuster all the way clockwise will open up the gap between the two caliper arms allowing much more room to work the 8mm box wrench on the nut.

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SRAM Red 22 - Hydro Rim HRR Install142

Red Hydro R  hoses are shortened just like any other brake hose – use a high quality hose cutter to chop it to size, then add the new olive and thread in the barb with a little bit of DOT grease on the threads. The DOT grease keeps the inner lining of the hose from twisting which could cause a crack in line. The other tip comes in handy when reinstalling the brake hose. It looks like it is just a straight fit, but the nut actually threads in at an angle. Due to the tight space around the brake, knowing this little detail will make a world of difference. Make sure to push down on the hose while you are threading in the compression nut.

Sram Red 22 Hydro Rim Open to close

In addition to the barrel adjuster the brakes also have a 3 position quick release similar to that on mechanical brakes. The brake is open to close, left to right. Other than the obvious removal of the tire this feature allows for up to 28mm tires, and is compatible with Firecrest-wide (27.4mm) rims. Since the brakes operate on a closed hydraulic system, there is no compensation for pad wear like a disc brake which is why the adjustments are important.

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Obviously the levers are big. While they do take some getting used to, those with larger hand will probably find them better than the previous Red. Personally, with my average sized hands, they do feel big but not bad. The one potential issue I have with the lever is the hard plastic edge where the bottom of the plastic body meets the hood. If you like to wrap your fingers under the hood, this edge is very pronounced and could be irritating. After a 3 hour ride today it didn’t bother me as much as I though it would, but it’s something I’m keeping an eye on.

Otherwise, the bigger lever certainly provides different hand positions and initially feels like it may offer more support to your palm when on the top of the hood.

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Transition between the hood body and the handlebar is better, but I still added an extra piece of tape on the outside corner to make an improved transition to the hood without that hard edge.

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Reach adjustments to the brake lever are made through a 2.5mm allen that hides under the shift lever. Pull the lever up, insert the wrench and turn counter-clockwise to make the reach shorter, clockwise for bigger hands. Due to the hydraulic mechanism doing the work, the tips of the brake levers can be made smaller which feels really good in your hands when braking from the drops.

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SRAM also continues their shift paddle reach adjustment, which is changed through another 2.5mm allen on the inside of the lever.

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Proper lever angle looks a bit more pigeon toed than previous Red, but for me this is the ideal spot.

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No mistaking the new hoods from the back.

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As far as the installation of the 22 group, it’s mostly business as usual compared to the previous Yaw equipped Red group. We’re all guilty of getting a new part and immediately jettisoning the instructions, but if you’re new to Yaw, definitely read the step by step. Installation of the derailleur requires a specific order and factory setting that if you mess up, you’re on your own.

But, get the setting right, and you are rewarded with this impossibly angled chainline that somehow manages to have no rub even when completely cross chained. Yes, it goes to 11.

I wasn’t sure it was really possible, but Red 22 has managed to squeeze out even more precise, instant, tactile shifting than the previous generation. Still quiet, the new group offers lightening fast front shifting without any detectable rub no matter what the gear, all without any trim at the front shifter. My bike was fitted with an 11-28 cassette, which thanks to the extra gear has more manageable jumps between some of the cogs. Available after Christmas, SRAM will have a Wi-fli version of their Red derailleur and cassette as well with an 11-32 option (the derailleur will be available next month). For anyone who is wondering, 11 speed shift lever and front and rear derailleurs are not speed compatible. Anything with the “22″ moniker is 11 speed only. Same goes for the 11 speed Power Lock chain link, which is Silver to distinguish from the black 10 speed version. According to SRAM, 11 speed chains have proven to have 20-30% longer life and have been 10-15% stronger than 10 speed.

Like Tyler, I noticed the slight dead stroke the the brake lever on the HRRs. When asked, the cause is the fact that the lever is the same for the HRD and HRR brakes. Due to the closed system on the HRR, you can feel that dead stroke before the piston opens in the brake, actuating the arms. Out on the bike it’s almost unnoticeable and allow you to grab the brake levers without actually braking. Theoretically, this also means that you could swap out disc brakes from rim brakes if you wanted to in the future – though SRAM isn’t sure they would sell the parts in that orientation.

My first rides on the bike have been on Zipp 30 alloy clinchers which turn out to be pretty incredible. Certainly not the lightest wheels at 1655g, but what they lack in lightweight they make up for in stiffness. We’ll have a full review on these as well, but for now the aluminum braking surface was excellent with the HRRs.

Weight:

Unfortunately, due to the super tight schedule at SRAM we weren’t able to weigh each part individually before it was installed. We’ll weigh the parts before the final review, but we were able to weigh the entire bike. The Fuji Altamira SL was built up previously with a full 10 speed SRAM Red group, with the exception a KMC X10-SL chain. With Dura Ace pedals installed the previous version weighed in at 13.87lbs – now, the same bike with the same wheels, tires, everything except the SRAM 22 Hydro HRR drivetrain tips the scales at 14.24 lbs. Obviously, the chain is different from the KMC to the SRAM, and the original bike had Gore cables and housings while we were supplied regular cables and housing for the 22 build.

The 0.37 lb difference works out to around 168g, but considering it adds another gear plus hydraulic brakes, that’s not a big weight penalty. Though first indications are that it is slightly heavier than 10 speed mechanical.

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Honestly, when I first saw the HRR rim brakes, my inner curmudgeon really wanted to hate them. I mean, in certain situations I’m sold on hydraulic disc brakes for road – but rim brakes?

I totally get it now. Like Avid’s Paul Kantor said, “hydraulic rim brakes don’t offer that much more stopping power, but how you get there is a lot less effort and a lot more control.” SRAM’s HRR brakes offer silky smooth lever pull, and offer slightly more stopping power than mechanical rim brakes with a lot less effort. Throw in the fact that the hydraulic system will continue that same feel and won’t deteriorate like a cable system will, and you can route the hoses however you want inside a frame, and it starts to make more sense.

Long term testing will be the ultimate decider, but barring major mechanical issues, the new Red Hydro R HRR brakes are surprisingly good.

Comments

Antoine - 07/12/13 - 2:08am

But mechanical brake have already enough power and good control. So what’s the point ?
I mean i know HS33 where good so i don’t doubt this is good but it does not look like worth the money hassle.
Disc brake however have 2 big selling point: consistent braking in the wet, and cyclo cross.

fanboy - 07/12/13 - 3:15am

and ability to run with (slightly) buckled wheels

Jugi - 07/12/13 - 3:33am

For me, hydraulic road brakes (and electronic shifting) would be a sensible solution if I had to buy a new bike which would be factory equipped with this hardware. My current frame doesn’t have anything routed inside so electronic shifters would be a hassle to install and these brakes are in the same ball park. However based on the experience I’ve had with Avid hydraulic brakes for mountain bikes, I think maintenance and small adjustments are possibly easier than on the cable brake counterparts.

Currently I’m waiting for winter sales and a cheap SRAM Red 10sp group. Staying old school in the fore-seeable future.

Argh - 07/12/13 - 4:36am

It is better if brakes are integrated in fork, so then it is usefull to use hydraulic.

Samuel J. Greear - 07/12/13 - 6:46am

I recently did a 110 mile gravel race on my ‘cross bike — which is setup with 700×40′s and is more of a “rough road” bike than a ‘cross bike, since I don’t really ride cyclocross, but I digress — I rode through a few unsuspected mud holes at various points, nasty sticky mud that covered the rim sidewalls and stuck there. I easily spent 15 minutes of my day trying to get enough mud off of the rims that the bike would roll and I had something resembling functional brakes. This was just the last in a long line of similar cantilever/v-brake/other rim brake incidents throughout my riding career. When the weather turns inclement I hate finding myself out on anything but a mountain bike, even on the road — they stop and they do it fast and consistently every time basically no matter what and it’s hard to contrive a situation in which disc brakes don’t perform well.

This group is a step in the right direction, but would all the road frame/component manufacturers please just get the heck on board and lets get this whole rim brake phase behind us as quickly as possible please? Thanks.

Bayard - 07/12/13 - 7:03am

Sport. Do these Brahe slow me down or make me faster?

biketroll - 07/12/13 - 8:27am

Cool but unnecessary.

CXisFun - 07/12/13 - 9:13am

So, what happens when you need new hoods on your levers? It sure doesn’t look like these will slide up and over that enormous tumor on the top of the shifter housing the bleed port. Do you need to completely remove the shifter from the bars?

rentedshoes - 07/12/13 - 9:16am

“Theoretically, this also means that you could swap out disc brakes from rim brakes if you wanted to in the future – though SRAM isn’t sure they would sell the parts in that orientation.”

Hello, Sram? Yea, the only reason anybody is going to buy the hydraulic rim brakes is if they need/want to buy a group now and are planning on “upgrading” to a disk bike in the future. You guys never seem to be able to get out of your own way. See ya, bye.

Mongo - 07/12/13 - 9:21am

Unnecessary? You do know there are bikes out there with cable routing issues, right? TT bikes for one. Not to mention many aero road and smaller frames.

biketroll - 07/12/13 - 10:21am

mongo- these brakes would not fit on most TT bikes which usually use a totally different type of brake lever. But yes I agree they would be great on a bike that had poor cable routing. But traditional road bikes, ridden on the road (not in mud) do not need more stopping power- even on huge mountain passes.

Zach Overholt - 07/12/13 - 11:11am

@CXisfun, no the hoods should have no problem slipping over the brake lever to be replaced. They are quite a bit more loose than previous versions so it shouldn’t be an issue.

Aaric - 07/12/13 - 11:54am

No weights? Initial reviews said HRR should be lighter than cable setups, yet no one seems to be quantifying or verifying this claim.

Mindless - 07/12/13 - 11:59am

Rim brakes and quick releases shall die.

Zach Overholt - 07/12/13 - 12:54pm

@Aaric, due to the extremely tight schedule at SRAM, we weren’t able to weigh each part individually – I’ll get to that soon. But, I can tell you that the bike is slightly heavier at 14.24 vs 13.87 lbs. I’ve updated the post with the specifics.

Wick - 07/12/13 - 12:59pm

So wait, you spend what I’m assuming is well over 5k on a bike and you have to zip-tie the housing under the top tube? classy…

Let’s no forget Cav’s temper tantrum he through a couple days ago about those brakes too, and he magically is back on mechanical brakes now.

Zach Overholt - 07/12/13 - 1:12pm

@Wick, yes unfortunately since most road bikes are designed for mechanicals, hydraulic hoses won’t fit in the cable stops. Most of the bikes at the press even that had internal housings were able to be modified to accept the hoses just fine, and there are products on the market like Jagwires hose clamps that adapt mechanical stops to hose compatible, but they didn’t fit on this frame. That is a current drawback for sure.

Also, regarding the Cav thing – I can’t tell you one way or another, but Velonews issued a correction on that article saying that the bike was not equipped with the hydraulic brakes when he got so upset: http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/07/news/cavendish-livid-after-loss-yells-about-bike-inside-team-bus_293642
In the picture from that article, he his switching from the bike on right (with the crooked handlebars) that clearly has mechanical brakes, to the bike on the left with hydraulics.

Wick - 07/12/13 - 1:27pm

Fair enough, disregard the cav argument. And apologies for continuing an unverified story.

lesalpes - 07/12/13 - 3:24pm

I’m not completely sold on road disc brakes. Why? … Heavier, less aero, can’t swap wheels between disc and non disc road bikes. Yes, less chance of tires blowing off carbon rims on an extended mountain descent, but, on the other hand, disc brakes have a knack for fading and losing power on extended mountain descents – especially on a tandem. A big limitation with road braking systems is cable friction when routing cables under bars and with acute cable bends. Couple that with water getting in the system and you have traditional cable actuated brakes that feel like crap, especially the rear, and that require cables and housing to be replaced often. This, at least, solves that problem more or less permanently. Give SRAM some credit for not jumping on every bandwagon that comes down the marketing hype pike. …i.e. electronic shifting and disc brakes.

Chris - 07/12/13 - 3:27pm

Aaric: you really think a few ounces matter? Even a pound or two is insignificant. Keep in mind when you’re riding you’re not just dealing with the weight of the bike, you’re also dealing with the weight of the rider and anything else you carry (like water bottles). People who say dropping a pound or two is knocking off 10-20% of the weight don’t get it. If you have a 20 pound bike and 180 pounds of rider/water/tools dropping 2 pounds off the bike is a reduction of just 1%. There are so many other factors that go into the performance of a bike that saving a pound or two is pretty trivial.

dl - 07/12/13 - 3:29pm

Something I’ve wondered but for which I can’t seem to find answers is how the hose fits in to cable stops on a frame. The final picture looks like it’s a zip tie solution, but is that really the case?

mudrock - 07/12/13 - 4:18pm

I think this group will accelerate the trend toward hydro road discs. Hydro brakes feel so slick on mtbs that its bound to draw a lot of converts to 22 hydro. smart move on Sram’s part. They had to find their mojo after passing on electronic.

dartingd - 07/12/13 - 4:59pm

I don’t know if this was mentioned. I know it was mentioned that current rim brakes work well enough so that this seemed useless. Has anyone mentioned tires? When I have to lock it up in a crit/road race crash the tires slide. I’m not worried about my brakes not being strong enough honestly. We need better tire technology I would think.

Mindless - 07/12/13 - 4:59pm

@lesalpes: Disk brakes have a knack of fading? What are you smoking. Good disks (Shimano) will fade less than rim brakes.

Mindless - 07/12/13 - 5:01pm

@dartingd: There is a better tire technology. It is called wider tires on wider rims. Which you would get when switching to disks.

Rico - 07/14/13 - 3:04pm

Those hoods are hideous. I think this weird interim group will be a total sales dud for Sram.

Colin - 07/15/13 - 9:26am

Does anyone else think that DOT fluid hydro’s is totally 90′s and mineral oil is approximately 1000000 X better?

John - 07/15/13 - 9:56am

As a MTBer as well as a roadie, I recall thinking MTB hydro and mech disc were silly. Now, I can’t imagine riding a MTB without disc and I can fully discern the difference on my MTBs between hydro and mech. (I have both)

I fully support hydro rim brakes for road, but I also wonder if it is transitional technology (like it was for MTB) as we await road disc.

I know die-hard roadies will hate me for this – but I truly believe disc is far safer. Even if you ride flats, the additional control could mean the difference between hitting another biker who made a mistake or car that pulled out and not hitting them. I believe disc is that good.

Road disc needs to get past some issues before it’s ready for prime time, but I’m hopeful. Heck, there are few (if any) modern ‘vehicles’ that move at the speed of a bicycle and do not have disc brakes.

Addy TT - 07/19/13 - 5:18am

This is all new to the road bike sector but i for one are certainly interested in getting a test ride. I remember the fuss over A-Head stems, 31.8 handle bars and even carbon frames from many traditional roadies but like all of these things, ultimately the masses will decide.

SRAM always come out with cool stuff and if you don’t like this just run the old mechanical stuff ;0)

Jimbo - 08/08/13 - 10:15am

Electric shifters and hydro brakes just make it easier to shift and brake. If you don’t care about the weight gain on the bike, go for it.

I don’t see why you need an 11 ring cassette – 9 was fine.

Klaus - 08/17/13 - 6:34am

@Antoine
That was the general opinion in mountain biking 15 years ago..

James Weaver - 08/21/13 - 12:11pm

How do you attach the hydraulic hoses to the bike? Some bikes admittedly have internal routing where you feed the whole cable housing through the frame, and that may be adaptable to the hydraulic hose. However, many, if not most, bikes still have cable stops along the top tube. Are they simply saying zip tie the hydraulic hose to the top tube? If so, that is not particularly attractive.

Kenny - 08/29/13 - 5:57pm

I have to say, the new SRAM 10 Hydro with disc brakes on the new Crux is pretty awesome. The brakes are smooth, very controllable and powerful. I have not had a chance to ride them in the wet or snow yet, Colorado is mostly hard pack and grass on cross courses. I have not attempted bleeding the brakes yet or adjusting the levers which I want to do soon…

I have been wanting Hydraulic discs for a long time. As a Motorcycle rider since I was 16, I’ve always wanted a cross and road bike to have that same feel my Moto has when well adjusted. Its just not achievable with rim pads. Now swapping from aluminum clinchers for training to a pair of carbon tubulars will have the SAME braking feel! and not need pad swapping!

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