Product Review: TRP HY/RD open hydraulic disc brakes – including set up tips

Until the release (and rapid recall) of the SRAM Red and S-700 Hydraulic disc brake systems, cyclocross riders wishing to emulate the performance of hydraulically braked mountainbikes on their newly acquired disc cx frames were forced into a bit of an ‘ingenious engineering solution’ corner. Or stuck with existing mechanical (cable) systems. A lack of hydraulic road-style shifters on the market spawned technical solutions from Hope (V-Twin) and TRP (Parabox) as well as a couple of keen engineering amateurs. And all worked, up to a point, delivering hydraulic braking in one form or another, but stopping short of a neat and practical solution in the absence of a full system.

Enter the HY/RD into this semi-hydraulic market…. Whereas previous solutions had focussed on taking the cable from the shifter and quickly converting cable-pull into a hydraulic force through a converter unit attached to the stem/handlebars, the HY/RD leaves pad actuation to the last gasp with an individual hydraulic caliper on each brake mount, and a full mechanical cable run leading into it.

And in this simpler solution (dubbed ‘plug and play’ by TRP) lies the strength of the HY/RD system. Gone are the box-type attachments under the stem and the long hydraulic hose lines, to be replaced by full mechanical cable run leading into a neat hydraulic reservoir on each caliper. And very effective it is too.

The older box solutions worked OK, at least on the versions I tried, but lacked feel at the lever, suffering from degrees of sponginess and stiff operation even when well set up. Add in chicken levers on the handlebars (valued by many 3 Peaks Cyclocross racers) and set up required Heath Robinson levels of ingenuity. Plus knowledge of setting up hydraulic hoses and systems, something many new-to-disc ‘cross users, like myself, lacked. NOt so with the HY/RD which simply attaches onto the end of your cable in the same fashion as an Avid BB-7 or similar.

In praise of running…

Running. Another ‘marmite’ activity for two-wheel-centric enthusiasts. Hated, avoided, tolerated or occasionally embraced by riders throughout the country, we’ve been thinking about the role running can play in your cycling performance, and more specifically your cyclocross performance.

Pic: Jo Allen

You hear (a small number of) people moaning regularly about having to get off and run in cyclocross races. Usually mid season, and on a grass based circuit following weeks of heavy rain. Somehow, the possibility that a wet maritime climate combined with a winter, grass and woodland based sport could produce an extremely muddy surface, seems to have escaped them. Perhaps they haven’t seen the regular race coverage from Belgium – the climate is similarly damp there and their races often produce parcours that require more than the occasional dismount and carry, particularly if conditions have been properly ‘Flandrian’ in the run up to the race.

The mechanics of cycling don’t naturally lend themselves to peak running performance. Different muscle groups, and a lack of impact in the pedal stroke all conspire to produce serious stiffness and DOMS (look it up) in a cyclist branching out into running. But we urge you to give running a chance and by persevering gently, try your hand at it this spring, by way of build up to summer cross and the full winter season.

We’ve found that the benefits to your general cycling performance can be significant: increased strength on steep climbs, an extra boost to fitness as well as increased core stability when on the bike or on longer rides. All of that before you even examine the ‘cross-specific benefits: fluidity when mounting and dismounting, better speed across muddy stretches or climbs too hard to ride and better aerobic tolerance when transitioning back to riding from an off-the-bike section.

By introducing 10-15 mins of running, preferably off-road or on grass, a couple of times a week, we are sure you will notice the difference in your next ‘cross race where the course designer has conspired (with or without the weather) to have you off your bike and hot-footing to the next point where you can get back on. As the winter season approaches you can then introduce more specificity to your running with short, sharp hill efforts that mimic the running efforts in your races.

On the subject of cyclocross disc brakes. And pads.

Discs in cyclocross are the ‘love ‘em or loathe ‘em’ Marmite product of the last couple of years. Enthusiastically adopted by some, fiercely rejected by others. And only partially embraced by the professional end of the sport.

At Fluent in Cross we’ve tried them all. From single-moving piston BB7 type mechanical systems, through hydraulic compromise systems like V-Twin and Parabox, into cable operated hydraulic caliper systems like Hy/Rd to full on hydraulic systems from the likes of SRAM and Shimano.

And they all work to varying degrees of success and performance standards. We won’t go into the pros and cons of each system here, let alone the full debate about cantilever vs disc – we’ll leave that for another time. Instead, this article will focus on the biggest issue affecting disc usage amongst first time users – that of pad wear.

This writer’s email inbox, twitter feed and anecdotal feed (gabbing on) has been full of the same story over the past year or so. An enthusisatic disc virgin whose hopes of a miracle cure for their cyclocross braking woes have been dashed, by the apparent failure of their lovely disc brakes within a single long ride, or even 1 hour cross race. The complaint is always the same – that of pad wear so great as to render the brakes useless within X timeframe.

And in almost all cases, the cause is the same. It’s something mountainbikers have initially suffered from too, then learned to work with and now have mastered completely. Those cyclocross disc newcomers from outside of an mtb background have usually neglected or at least underestimated, the importance of pad compound and pad bedding in. That is not to say that there haven’t been instances of complete pad wear within a few laps or few miles in particularly challenging conditions – think US Nationals in 2012 – but mostly the solution is simple.

Many new users of disc brakes are unaware that there are different compounds out there ranging from soft organic to fully metallic sintered, with several gradations in between. And it is also not always known by the first time user that original factory products are almost always issued with the soft organic pads. Partly on grounds of cost and partly that most producers aren’t located in the high rainfall, high silica and grit geologies that we have here, at least in much of the UK and in particular NW England.

Put simply, an organic pad in a normal UK winter is unlikely to last long, especially in bad conditions, and needs to be swapped out pretty much straight away for a semi-metallic or better still fully metallic sintered pad. Equally pads that are not bedded in will simply shred through in double quick time, even to some degree sintered compounds as well. Bedding in with heat allows a crust to form on the pad, that then protects from abrasion, as well as spreading pad material onto the disc rotor to allow stronger ‘meshing’ of pad and rotor and consequently, more powerful braking.

So, unless you live in a dry dusty area, make sure you always run semi- or full-metallic pads and bed them in properly. Bedding in can be done by repeated runs (in the dry) down a hill utilising hard braking efforts to get heat into the pads, and allow the glazing process to work. Dragging the brakes also gets some heat in but it is those hard braking efforts that will really set your pads up for longevity and performance. Enjoy.