Review: TRP HY/RD Mechanical-to-Hydraulic Disc Brake Calipers – Part One

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

Launched last April just as this whole disc brake road bike thing was starting to really take shape, TRP’s HY/RD (Hybrid Road) mechanical-to-hydraulic disc brake calipers aimed to combine the easy integration of mechanical brakes with the performance of a hydraulic. In theory, it’s the perfect add on for a bike that comes with a mechanical set up or if you’re just upgrading your frame and wheels and porting over your current group.

My first impressions (link above) were fairly good, but the layout of the demo bike at the launch left a bit to be desired. Once on my own bike (Moots Psychlo-X RSL), things got progressively better…

UNBOXED & WEIGHED

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

I picked up my test set directly from TRP at DealerCamp last summer, without the retail packaging. They’re available in  black or chromed silver caliper bodies with 140mm or 160mm rotors and include IS to PM adapters. IS to IS adapters are available separately. The pad is a semi-metallic compound. Retail is $149.99 per wheel.

Both calipers came in at 190g (5g less than claimed weight) and a 160mm rotor is 108g. TRP recommends 160mm for the front, but I ran 160mm front and rear. I’m 6’2″ and 188lbs before kitting up, so I like the additional grab of the larger rear rotor.

TECH & DETAILS

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

The interior tech and functionality was covered in detail at the launch, so this is a brief recap. Essentially, the HY/RD puts the master cylinder directly on the caliper body, eliminating all the hose by using standard mechanical cables to connect it to your brake levers. That means it’s considerably bigger than other brakes, which may cause some fit concerns in the rear:

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

If your frame puts the brakes on the outside, you’ll likely be fine. If they mount inside the rear triangle, there are two things to look out for – cable stop/port placement on the frame and seatstay clearance. The latter is self explanatory, either the caliper clears the frame or it doesn’t. The former, cable placement, takes a bit more figuring out. You want the cable to exit the frame (if internal) or stop (external) far enough in front of the caliper to allow for a smooth, wide bend into the brake. Otherwise, you’ll end up with cable drag that’ll make them feel like poo.

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

The brakes work by pulling a lever, which pushes the push rod into the master cylinder. As it goes in, it closes the system and pushes fluid to the pistons, which push the pads toward the rotor. The bleed port is on the upper, outer side. Under the polished cap is a flexible diaphragm that allows for fluid expansion and contraction. So far, same as normal brakes.

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

Brake pads are pinned in place with a bolt that threads open to the outside of the unit.

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

The HY/RD-Spyre rotor works far better with them than their Dash rotors. When I got my test set, they were without rotors, so I installed the Dash rotors I had on hand from the Parabox. With those, there was a distinct pulsing, but once replaced with the proper rotors, performance was smoother and stronger. And I think these look better.

SET UP & REVIEW

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

Set up is extremely simple. Simply thread in the lock bolt to prevent the lever from moving, pull the cable as tight as humanly possible, clamp it down and you should be all set. With the lock bolt still holding the lever still, pull your brake levers – there should be zero movement. If there is, pull the cable tighter (the Park Tools BT-2 Cable Stretcher works wonders) and try again, or use the barrel adjuster to take up any slack. Once there’s absolutely no movement at the brake lever, they should be set. All in all, installation and set up should only take a few minutes if you have the right tools handy.

That said, even with my brake levers immobile with the lock bolt in place, I had too much lever throw once it was released. I could pull the lever (Shimano Ultegra Di2, first gen) to the bar and still not lock up the rear brake.

TRP makes it very clear that once set up, there should be no cable slack and you should not use the barrel adjuster to tighten up the brakes. And for good reason. By doing so, you can pull the pushrod in too far, making it so that even when released, the timing port remains closed. To work properly, a hydraulic brake needs the seal on the push rod to move behind the timing port when released. This equalizes the pressure of the oil between the pistons/hose and the master cylinder and allows for heat expansion. That’s what lets the pads fully retract and prevents them from closing down if things get too hot.

But, on my bike, they felt way too soft, so I used the allen key on the push rod to adjust the brake pressure. This has the same effect as dialing down the barrel adjuster and is a no-no. But, it made the brakes feel right, and it only took a minor amount of tweaking to get them dialed, so I went with it. I haven’t had any problems with them. That said, neither I nor TRP recommend you do this. More on that at the bottom. I mention it only because it’s highly unlikely I’m the only person that would try this.

The proper fix, according to TRP technical rep Dave Biehler, is to A) run the brakes for a longer period of time on test rides in non-safety-threatening situations to see if they’ll settle themselves up in the proper position, or B) add a bit more fluid to the system to push the pads in closer. That’s a job best left to the shop unless you have the proper TRP brake fluid and bleed kit. I haven’t tried that yet.

Dave says the initial feel will vary by set, and that some people like the softer feel and some like the harder, crisper performance I was seeking. There’s some degree of adjustment by altering fluid levels as mentioned, and lever placement and bar shape will affect how far you can pull them, too. Ultimately, if you can pull the levers to the bar and that prevents you from getting enough power, try the fixes above or try a different brake.

TRP HyRD hybrid mechanical-to-hydraulic brake caliper review

Now for the performance review. Assuming they’ll set up properly for you, you’re in luck. They feel magnificent.

For my first four or five rides, my general thoughts were “these feel pretty good, certainly better than mechanical brakes, but not quite as ‘pure’ feeling as a full hydraulic system.” But, as more rides passed and more braking occurred, the better they felt, inching closer and closer to a full hydraulic feel. I can’t say whether the piston seals were breaking in, the pads were becoming more accustomed to the rotor or some other magic, but they really did start feeling better the more I rode them. Since my time on full hydraulic road brake systems is pretty limited so far, I’ll equate them to a full hydro mountain bike brake this way: They’re about 90-95% there in terms of feel and power. Which is to say they’re worlds better than a full mechanical system.

I’ve ridden them in warm sunny weather, misting rain and sub-30º winter days, and the performance was solid in every instance. There was no brake squeal, either. They’ve been ridden extensively on the road and dirt/gravel paths as well as some cyclocross training and racing. If your set up doesn’t run into any of the caveats mentioned above, I’d say go for it.

Meanwhile, Rob purchased a set for his own bike. Here’s his thoughts:

ROB’S REVIEW

trp-HyRD-disc-brake-caliper-review-robs-bike

Having made the jump to disc brakes for the 2013 CX season I was somewhat disappointed with the performance from the stock cable disc brakes on my Fuji during the first really muddy race. I did not experience total brake failure like the guys at CX Nationals last season, but the drop off in performance during the race was noticable. Knowing how much nicer hydraulic disc brakes are on my mountain bike (than the canti brakes I started with many years ago), but not being able to afford some of the dedicated road hydraulic offings on the market the TRP HY/RD brakes seemed like the perfect option. I was somewhat skeptical about TRP since I had never tried their hydraulic brakes before. My only previous experience with TRP had been with their road brakes on a demo bike a few years ago. However, I decided to take the leap and try them out for the remainder of the season. I am glad I did because not only are they powerful, easy to set up and easier to modulate, they just flat out work in all conditions.

Are these brakes perfect? Pretty close, but they could be made a little lighter and maybe have a slightly different leverage ratio. They tend to work best with new Shimano levers due to the longer cable pull, but I have also used them with levers from SRAM, older Shimano and Campagnolo as well. The TRP HY/RD brakes work fine with all of these, but be aware the lever pulls closer to the handlebar during hard braking. As with all mechanical disc brakes the use of compression-less housing is strongly advised. I had the best luck using the Yokozuna cables and housing.

Final verdict: These brakes are awesome! Can Stop, Will Stop!!

TO BE CONTINUED…

So, what’s all this about a “Part One”? Two things: First, I (Tyler) want more time on them for proper long term testing, which will include some bigger descents. Second, Dave mentioned they’ve refined the design a bit, putting a stop screw on the pushrod adjustment to prevent people from doing exactly what I did, and should we get a set of the new ones, we’ll sub those in and start accumulating miles.

TRPbrakes.com

Comments

Batson - 01/09/14 - 8:44am

Isn’t there a recall on these brakes? I’m being told by my LBS that a cross bike I ordered last month is stalled in shipping due to a recall on these brakes. Pivot cannot give a firm date when the bike may ship.

What’s up with that?

Strunk - 01/09/14 - 9:01am

Looks like the recall was for the TRP Spyre / Spyre SLC, not the HY/RD.

http://www.bikerumor.com/2013/12/10/trp-spyre-spyre-slc-recall-notice/

Micah - 01/09/14 - 9:30am

I like how every review of a cable-based brake now includes a plug for Yokozuna.

They really are the best!

Ck - 01/09/14 - 10:18am

My big hold up with these brakes was all the reports of super long lever throw. I hate that on a bike, which is why i’m running very tightly set TRP CX8.4′s on my cross bike. I wonder if the Spyres have the same problem.

Batson - 01/09/14 - 10:22am

I’ve tried the Spyre’s and thought they were pretty damn good.

Bre Rue - 01/09/14 - 11:20am

A little performance tip, replace your cables and housing with a low friction compression less brake set, they really do make a big difference!

Tyler Benedict - 01/09/14 - 12:51pm

Batson – Strunk’s correct, the recall was on the Spyre brakes, and the replacements are now in stock at TRP. Check with your shop or check TRP’s website here:
http://www.trpbrakes.com/article_detail.php?aid=31

jyd - 01/09/14 - 1:49pm

I ran these brakes for a whole cross season in the PNW on a Raleigh RXC with 7970 Di2 levers. I changed cables and housing a bunch of times and finally settled on the yokozuna. The Raleigh has internal routing through the down tube and chainstay which makes for some tight bends and stiff lever feel for the rear brake. I wanted to like these brakes and certainly spent a lot of time working on them and reviewing TRP tech bulletins. Unfortunately muddy races and frustration led me to swap out the rear for a post recall shimano cx77 brake. I’m an admitted early adopter but I honestly feel that at least for cross these are not an ideal set up. Cheers!

ES - 01/09/14 - 1:56pm

I have been riding the HYRD brakes since they came out. I also had problems with the throw and them being squishy. I added a compressionless brake housing and filled the reservoir with Mineral Oil. They work great now.

DeeEight - 01/09/14 - 2:02pm

They just had to design a heavier / more complicated brake rather than using the old Amp / Rockshox D-1 disc brake patented design (the patent for which EXPIRED already) which worked well enough for XC mountain bike racing and would have been fine for CX. I still have a stockpile of Rockshox/Amp brakes and when I get around to building my CX frameset up, they’re going on it.

David - 01/09/14 - 2:24pm

I’ve been running the TRP Hy/Rd since June on a road bike with Ultegra 6703 levers. I have logged about 3000 miles on them including lots of climbing/descending. Once the pads had worn a bit, I found myself in exactly the same situation as Tyler: too much lever throw, even after retensioning the cables. In order to avoid mis-alignment of the lock nut threads, I ended up doing exactly what Tyler did: backing out the push rod threads to get more throw. This solved the bottoming-out brake levers, and the brakes now feel great again. But there’s no way for me to tell if the reservoir port is opening when the brakes are disengaged, or if I’m inadvertently running a closed hydraulic system as warned in the TRP service note. Nor is there any obvious way to put the piston throw length “back to stock”, since the piston is not marked in any way.

lbk - 01/09/14 - 2:34pm

If you have the issue with lever throw, just add some oil to the brakes. The problem is no longer an issue.

I can’t believe Bikerumor didn’t troubleshoot this issue.

Gino L - 01/09/14 - 5:08pm

I put these on my Volagi Liscio to replace the Avid BB7s — no matter what I tried, the BB7s would always have one of either brake pad rubbing, squealing on descents, or not just be “grabby”. The worse part is the squeal — you won’t last long in a group ride because they’ll get really annoyed with you.

My experience regarding lever throw mirrors that of Tyler: there’s a *lot* of it, especially on SRAM levers (I have both 2011 SRAM Rival & Force), to the point that they reach the bar before fully engaging. Does anyone have this same experience? The Shimano Ultegra 6700 levers seemed to be slightly better.

I’ve followed through on TRP’s tips:
- Use compressionless brake housing (I have Yokozuna Reaction on one, Nokon on another).
- Top-off / overfill the reservoir

They help somewhat, but most of the time they’re not gonna have the same short-throw as most caliper brakes or full hydraulic brakes.

For those who have these brakes and have others work on them, be advised that many shop mechanics tend to “pre-load” the brakes to get that short-throw feel. But this causes the actuator arm to not fully release and close off the reservoir, preventing the brake system from compensating for pad wear. TRP has a bulletin about this: http://www.trpbrakes.com/userfiles/file/TRP%20HYRD%20Technical%20Bulletin%20English%20Rev%20B.pdf

For me, these are a significant step up from the Avid BB7s. Not quite perfect (lever throw being the most common complaint), but they performed excellently in both wet and dry conditions.

Gino L - 01/09/14 - 5:10pm

I put these on my Volagi Liscio to replace the Avid BB7s — no matter what I tried, the BB7s would always have one of either brake pad rubbing, squealing on descents, or not just be “grabby”. The worse part is the squeal — you won’t last long in a group ride because they’ll get really annoyed with you.

My experience regarding lever throw mirrors that of Tyler: there’s a *lot* of it, especially on SRAM levers (I have both 2011 SRAM Rival & Force), to the point that they reach the bar before fully engaging. Does anyone have this same experience? The Shimano Ultegra 6700 levers seemed to be slightly better.

I’ve followed through on TRP’s tips:
- Use compressionless brake housing (I have Yokozuna Reaction on one, Nokon on another).
- Top-off / overfill the reservoir

They help somewhat, but most of the time they’re not gonna have the same short-throw as most caliper brakes or full hydraulic brakes.

For those who have these brakes and have others work on them, be advised that many shop mechanics tend to “pre-load” the brakes to get that short-throw feel. But this causes the actuator arm to not fully release and close off the reservoir, preventing the brake system from compensating for pad wear. TRP has a bulletin about this: http://www.trpbrakes.com/userfiles/file/TRP%20HYRD%20Technical%20Bulletin%20English%20Rev%20B.pdf

For me, these are a significant step up from the Avid BB7s. Not quite perfect (lever throw being the most common complaint), but they performed excellently in both wet and dry conditions.

Eager to see what Part 2 brings…

Smokestack - 01/09/14 - 5:26pm

Curious bit about adding extra fluid to the system. From other hydro manufacturers that is a distinct no-no, as it increases the volume of fluid in the system and therefore reduces the take up capacity of the reservoir. That in turn could lead to brake drag as the caliper pistons pump out when the reservoir hits max capacity but the fluid is still undergoing heat expansion, generating more heat and brake pressure in the system. As a tech told me, “you’d turn your brake into a pressure cooker.” The eventual consequence is fluid vaporization/boil over, and all the sudden you have no brake at all. I’d be more inclined to try one of the ‘pump out caliper pistons, reset them, repeat’ fixes that Avid and Hayes have for some caliper retraction issues they both had before I’d want to add any additional fluid to the system, just to see if excess caliper retraction is the root cause. From TRP’s spiel about brake lever feel improving as the brake is used, it does point a finger at seal lubrication (or lack thereof) causing the problem initially.

David Lewis - 01/09/14 - 5:42pm

I love the HY/RDs. Maybe this is obvious to others, but on mine, in order to thread the lock knob in reliably, you have to be pushing on the back of the clevis into which it threads. Easy to do, but at least in my case, it was easy to miss if you didn’t know about it.

The modulation is night and day better than the BB7s they replaced, on my bike at least.

MykM - 01/09/14 - 6:28pm

I’ve been using the HY/RD all winter on Sram Red 10 levers. Intial lever throw was less than ideal, I switched to Yokozuna housing and it felt much better but still had more then I wanted, added more oil..better still but the pistons still had to travel a good distance to get the pads to the rotor so I figured a thicker rotor would reduce piston travel, switched to magura rotors and now these things feel amazing.

Fraser C. - 01/09/14 - 7:48pm

But… Why? The whole advantage of hydraulic brakes is the fact that fluid is incompressible, so you get no hysteresis as you do with cable. If you actuate a hydraulic slave with a cable, then you get the same as a cable disc, but with more weight, cost and complexity.. Back to my initial question, why?

Batson - 01/09/14 - 7:54pm

My bad. The brakes are on back order, not recall. I was aware of the Spyre recall but thought this model had been too.

edd - 01/09/14 - 9:40pm

>Fraser C. I’m totally with you man! Maybe using a fluid to move the actual pads is more efficient than the ball-bearing roller system, but surely not enough to justify the complexity? I thought the compressibility of the fluid was the main advantage of hydraulic brakes.

Smokestack - 01/10/14 - 9:25am

@ lbk, not so much over thinking this as using the info I’ve acquired from other manufacturers (Hayes/Avid/Shimano/Formula). If you have to add fluid to the system, the bleed would be suspect from the factory, right? No big deal on that end, but if that’s the case why not just say the bleed might be at issue (aside from snide comments that’d come out in comments/forums)? I’ll let someone else guinea pig that overfill for a good long time before I’d put my or our customers’ necks on the line. Time will tell though. We have a set on order for a customer’s build, and he’s running older Campy 10 speed.

David Lewis - 01/10/14 - 2:22pm

@edd & @Fraser C: this is indeed a transitional technology. But for those of us whose bikes came with mechanical discs, it is a huge step up. I can only speak for my case. But the BB7s (with Avid heat-shedding rotors) were always noisy no matter what I did, and had a light-switch quality to their modulation (with Gore Ride-On sealed cables). By contrast, the HY/RDs are silent, because self-adjusting and probably greater pad travel, more powerful, and have completely linear modulation on both attack and release, with the same rotors. (The latter, in my opinion, is an under-appreciated quality in brakes.) They also, of course, are far less fiddly than mechanical discs. While they are larger, and therefore slightly clunky looking in silver, the weight gain over standard BB7s is actually minimal. I would not presume to speak for anyone else, as I say, but I’m quite pleased to have made the change.

Gregor - 01/10/14 - 3:17pm

I’ve been using these with some older Campy Record Shifters and they are as good as any xc oriented mountain bike disc brakes out there. Very, very happy with these.

gabbia - 01/15/14 - 10:50pm

These brakes work awesome. I rode them on Pivot’s new Vault cross bike and the modulation, power, and everything else is spot on.

Chris - 01/23/14 - 1:55pm

I have been riding these nearly everyday for the last 2 months. Commuting in SF, so multiple stops, with a lot being at the bottom of steep hills. First setup was using Shimano 6700 levers and worn (3k commuting miles) avid G2 rotors, old brake housing. Awesome. No complaints. MTB like feel. Mucho better than avid mechanical or the recalled Shimano CX-75s which I had on before. The pure mechanical stuff can work well, but is not really in the same league. Recently changed to Red Ergo 10 Speed levers, new brake housing, and new avid G3 CleanSweep-X rotors. Also felt great, actually better than the Shimano levers in spite of the throw difference.

But I had a wheel issue yesterday and swapped back my spare set with the worn G2 rotors. Yikes. A lot more travel required now. So I agree completely with MykM above. Rotor thickness seems to be pretty critical. I haven’t tried the topping off technique yet.

Ham-planet - 01/28/14 - 4:43pm

What are your summers like if <30° is winter temperature?

Vlad - 01/30/14 - 3:56pm

Hi, I am trying to buy a set of those and everyplace is out of stock. Did they stop make them?

Jorgen - 03/26/14 - 11:36pm

I have these brakes on my new Trek Crossrip LTD (delivered December last year) and they have been just about completely rubbish as delivered from factory.

I’m experiencing the same issues that the reviewer discovered initially; there’s just no way I can lock the front up by pressing any of the levers all the way in. When I ride with my son on the back, the rear really won’t lock up either.

It’s been to the shop once, and initially it was better, but I think they might just have done the barrel adjustment thing as they’ve completely lost bite now. I’ve been able to compensate for a while by tightening the cable but it’s something that needs doing on a regular basis.

This morning, first rain in a while, there was no bite whatsoever – fully depressed the bike would only slowly come to a stop. I.e. they’re a complete hazard. Bike’s going back to shop now; I’ll report back on outcome. I’d love to experience problem free braking on my new commuter.

FWIW my two Trek/Gary Fisher MTBs are upgraded to XTR and XT, both done in the last year – I know what good braking is meant to be like, and whilst I don’t expect anything like that performance I do expect that at a bare minimum the bike will at least threaten to lock up if I fully depress the lever to where it stops against the bar. My road bike’s Ultegra pad brakes have way more stopping power than this — and a major reason for my getting the CX was to have better brakes for commuting. :/

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