The other day we discussed disc brakes on road bikes, which seems to be the next big thing coming to the world of competitive road cycling. Not everyone is on board though, as they are a bit heavier than traditional road calipers, and to be honest, people are simply resistant to change. So for those of you not ready for disc brakes, but want some of the performance benefits, SRAM has an answer: hydraulic road calipers.
With a hydraulic caliper, you can apply the maximum force to the brake system much more easily, and this allows for more accurate control of the braking. You have the ability to modulate between applying light pressure and braking hard with just a slight squeeze. Perhaps the biggest advantage comes if you’re a fan of drop bars. If so, you probably spend the majority of your time with your hands on the hoods. You can brake from there, but normally with a cable system, you need to move down into the drops to get enough leverage to really brake hard. With a hydraulic system, you can easily apply the maximum braking force from the hoods. A light tug is all it requires.
When compared to disc brakes, the hydraulic calipers are still going to have some of the same drawbacks of traditional rim brakes. You’re still using the same rim and the same brake pads. The materials used to make lightweight rims, usually do not make the best braking surfaces. You’re still limited by that fact, and you’re still going to experience decreased braking power in wet weather.
But it’s no doubt a big improvement, and you can get the advantages of hydraulic without investing in a new frame with disc mounts, or new wheels or hubs to accommodate disc rotors. You can even put them on any Montague Pavement folding bikes. Hydraulic disc brakes are already the norm on mid level to high end mountain bikes, and it’s not surprising that road bikes are moving in the same direction. Will everyone move to disc brakes? Are the hydraulic calipers here to stay? Only time can tell, but we certainly get to see some interesting innovations in the meantime. If you’d like to see more about SRAM’s new products, check out their website here.