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  1. #1
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    Nov 2015
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    Mechanical vs Hyrdo Discs for All road/gravel bike

    Hey all, I'm getting caught up in the specs of a few gravel bikes. The last road/gravel bike I bought was a 1985 Specialized Sequoia which I've put some 32mm knobby tires on and taken on some gravel rides and light singletrack. I'm looking to upgrade but most of the bikes in my price range come with mech disc brakes. Is this a huge set back for braking performance or is this only an issue for those that are doing long descents in mixed conditions? I haven't used mechanical disc brakes before, only hydros on my Offering and rim brakes on the Sequoia so just wanting to get some input. Cheers!

  2. #2
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    Nov 2008
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    Cable brakes with dual pistons work well, if set up properly. Maybe not as good as hydros but the terrain you expect to ride may dictate if they will work well enough for you.

  3. #3
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    Mar 2010
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    Are you willing to squeeze the lever harder? I run TRP mechanicals with big rotors on my mountain bike and that's the biggest difference. My forearms wish I had hydros after 2000ft of descending, but they are super reliable and never drag, never need bleeding.

  4. #4
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    Feb 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by livefreerdie View Post
    Are you willing to squeeze the lever harder? I run TRP mechanicals with big rotors on my mountain bike and that's the biggest difference. My forearms wish I had hydros after 2000ft of descending, but they are super reliable and never drag, never need bleeding.
    Same experience with smaller rotors on my gravel bike. Most of the time the TRP's are enough, but I miss hydros on big days and long descents.

  5. #5
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    Oct 2003
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    hydro if you can, but this year what ever is in stock.


  6. #6
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    Sep 2004
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    Some online bike retailer was sending out emails on sale items, including hydro Shimano brifter/ caliper sets, for cheap - $200s-300s range. Some Di2, some mechanical shift. I can't remember who it was though - maybe Universal Cycles? Worldwide? Colorado Cyclist?

    I know this isn't that helpful, but if you're searching for a Shimano upgrade, maybe worth chasing down at all the usual places.
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  7. #7
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    Apr 2012
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    One benefit to mechanical discs is that if you ever are gong to do bikepacking, or long/remote rides, you can carry an extra cable and field service your brakes. Hydro not nearly as easily.

    I still like hydraulics, but lots of people I know run mechs for this reason.

  8. #8
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    Sep 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Chupacabra View Post
    Some online bike retailer was sending out emails on sale items, including hydro Shimano brifter/ caliper sets, for cheap - $200s-300s range. Some Di2, some mechanical shift. I can't remember who it was though - maybe Universal Cycles? Worldwide? Colorado Cyclist?

    I know this isn't that helpful, but if you're searching for a Shimano upgrade, maybe worth chasing down at all the usual places.
    Back on a computer and did a quick search - here you go:
    https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...s.php?id=67778

    Scroll down on that page for more links.
    Quote Originally Posted by powder11 View Post
    if you have to resort to taking advice from the nitwits on this forum, then you're doomed.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    northern BC
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    My take on mechanical vs Hydro

    my first disc brakes were hayes hydros, they broke lots and werent all that powerful

    so my next disc brakes were Avid BB7 cables they had more power than the Hayes Hydro's and didnt modulate quite as well

    big BUT there was zero maintenance, if anything did fubar you are looking at a regular brake cable not hose/fluid/bleed, this became an issue for a buddy touring in europe on an old bike with some shitty old hayes mags

    I would definatly want real hydros for any DH/ enduro/ mtn bike but I suspect cable discs will have enough power on a gravel bike,

    my new entry level fat bike has cable discs and they are fine for the slow speeds and i don't have to worry if they are gona work in the cold
    Lee Lau - xxx-er is the laziest Asian canuck I know

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    473
    How about ease of learning installation and adjustment, mechanical v hyrdro disc brakes, for old guys who only know how to wrench rim brakes?

    I'm guessing mechanical but I've been known to guess wrong. And I'm inclined to that guess b/c I like the idea of carrying a spare cable.

  11. #11
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    For mechanical you need a few of the normal hex wrenches the inner and outer cable is just standard brake cable

    back in the day I drove 6hrs with a bike on the roof, get to sunpeaks to ride lifts, somehow the line has a hole in it, so gotta spend 60$ getting a new line and bleed

    everything you need to know to work on brakes is on youtoob
    Lee Lau - xxx-er is the laziest Asian canuck I know

  12. #12
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    Worst (and not really that bad) part of disc brake install is aligning the caliper which is the same for both mech and hydro. Cable adjustment is super easy, much like rim brakes, and bleeding brake lines isnít too bad

  13. #13
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    Mar 2008
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    the avid BB7 were great cuz they had the big red knobs one on each side to adj pad clearance

    I thot they were great compared to hayes hydros which were always dragging and fucking up
    Lee Lau - xxx-er is the laziest Asian canuck I know

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    473
    Good info, thank you guys. Sounds like mechanical for my N+1.

    Quote Originally Posted by XXX-er View Post
    everything you need to know to work on brakes is on youtoob
    Yeah, I'm not proud. I've watched Youtube on my phone for roadside adjustments. Also a fan of the Park Tool website.

  15. #15
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    Mar 2008
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    I could be wrong but I believe there are road cables and there are mtn bike cables, the difference being the amount of cable the lever needs to pull ...something to check if you are buying a brake component on-line
    Lee Lau - xxx-er is the laziest Asian canuck I know

  16. #16
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    Dec 2005
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    Glasgow, UK
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    I have TRP Spyres, they're ok. They don't compare to the power of my 4-ish year old single piston XT's that are on my mtb. I've found the Swiss Stop pads work best on them, kinda spendy though. Maintenance is pretty simple, the callipers are easily rebuilt within about 25 minutes.

    Make sure not to swap bikes in the middle of a long ride with your buddy that has a nice set of GRX etc. Going back to the mechs after that is quite the difference.

  17. #17
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    Jan 2017
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    Just go hydro unless you are headed to South America or something like that.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by thejongiest View Post
    Just go hydro unless you are headed to South America or something like that.
    yup, its all the same discussion that we had in the mtb world 10 years ago.

    just get hydro, it works


  19. #19
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    Nov 2007
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    North Vancouver
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    Get hydraulics.

    I've been on road/drop bar disc set up forever. I've ridden BB7's, Tektro Lyra's, Shimano CX75's. Hayes MX3's and TRP Spyres and every one of them with compressionless housing (which I contend is a must for mechanicals). I've commuted year round in Vancouver with these. My good disc road bike had Shimano hydros from day one so I was well acquainted with how well they worked. I moved the commuter mech disc bike over to Shimano 105 hydros about a year ago.

    I can say that after 10+ years on mech disc they are a big compromise to hydraulics. And, as an added bonus, when it did actually freeze in Vancouver the rear cable would seize in the water filled housing since all newer bikes have the run on the left chainstay and the housing always faces up to meet the caliper.

    Mechanicals are fiddly. You must constantly adjust for pad wear. Hydros: no.

    Mechanicals are cheap. That's it. Hydros are every bit worth the price premium but the road ones are costly, no doubt.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
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    Cool, thanks for the input. I know how to work on hydros coming from the mountainbike world so maintenance isn't much of an issue, just the extra cost and whether or not the terrain I'll be riding warrants the extra stopping power and responsiveness. After calling around to some shops it really seems that mntlion hit it spot on with whatever is available.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoSlowGoFar View Post
    Cool, thanks for the input. I know how to work on hydros coming from the mountainbike world so maintenance isn't much of an issue, just the extra cost and whether or not the terrain I'll be riding warrants the extra stopping power and responsiveness. After calling around to some shops it really seems that mntlion hit it spot on with whatever is available.
    welcome to this year.


  22. #22
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    Jan 2009
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    Havenít had mechanical brakes on my car for years. Hydro = better in all respects. And super reliable. All shops stock parts for big brands.

    If youíre going super remote bring some parts. Just like for your shifting system.


    Sent from my iPhone using TGR Forums
    I rip the groomed on tele gear

  23. #23
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    Mar 2008
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    northern BC
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    all shops in America where you can drive in your car to get a mtn bike serviced may have the part and you don't care cuz you just get back in yer car would not be super remote.

    On the road loaded with panniers lost in a city of millions of non english speaking heathens, that never sees mtn bikes, would be super remote at least to the last sentance

    and you might have to wait for parts in any case it speaks to what you want to do/ what do you need/ what is the best for your app?

    Couple yars ago my buddy broke down touring in yurp with an older kona mtn bike avec hayes, they fixed it by selling him a set of BB7 he got home and took a bike maintenance course

    another buddy had an issues in south america on a 55000 km jaunt this time with a internaly geared hub, he sent it off twice the second time the mfger said it was too much for the product to handle, yeah its not brakes but the point is that it was not an easy local fix like a simple der system would have been ... same idea different component
    Lee Lau - xxx-er is the laziest Asian canuck I know

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