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Thread: Disc Brakes -- Hydraulic vs. Mechanical?

  1. #1
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    Default Disc Brakes -- Hydraulic vs. Mechanical?

    Greetings All -

    Stepping up from my 5 year-old Jamis Coda Sport this Fall. Staying with the Coda (love the steel), upgrading to either the Comp (which has mechanical discs), or the Elite (which has hydraulic discs).

    In terms of hydraulics vs. mechanicals, looking for opinions regarding both performance and upkeep (frequency and cost).

    Thanks in advance!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan K View Post
    Greetings All -

    Stepping up from my 5 year-old Jamis Coda Sport this Fall. Staying with the Coda (love the steel), upgrading to either the Comp (which has mechanical discs), or the Elite (which has hydraulic discs).

    In terms of hydraulics vs. mechanicals, looking for opinions regarding both performance and upkeep (frequency and cost).

    Thanks in advance!
    Generally speaking, hydros are more powerful and require less maintenance and upkeep once they are set up properly. Google the specific models of the Tektro brakes that come on those bikes and see what people say regarding long term use.

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    All of my bikes have hydros except for my commuter (TRP Spyres). I can absolutely feel the difference when I've been off that bike for a while and come back to it. It feels like I need new brake pads or like my brakes are soft and almost questionable.

    The flip side is true though too. If I've been riding the commuter for a few days straight and then go to another bike, I'm quickly reminded of their stopping power.

    The commuter has about 3,000 miles on it and so far I haven't had to do anything with the brakes other than adjust them a bit when they felt extra soft. My other bike (with hydros) with about the same mileage hasn't needed anything since they self-adjust.
    Last edited by Tania; 05-25-2017 at 02:45 PM.

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    The only attention I pay to my mechanical disks (Avid BB7s) is 1. occasional fine adjustment of the calipers (to stay grippy without rubbing) and 2. replacing the brake pads once in a blue moon. Both are negligible, routine maintenance, which I don't think would be any different on hydraulics.

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    I'm a fan of sealed systems.

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    On road (drop-bar) bikes the difference is HUGE to me. Road BB7s or TRP Spyres offer quite inferior braking compared to their MTB counterparts, IMO. And the road hydraulic systems are much better at stopping.

    On the MTB, I'm not sure the difference in stopping power is necessarily as huge; I've had BB7s that were setup *really* grabby using fancy housing, etc. But the modulation and control of the hydro brakes on MTB is a *lot* nicer. At least, this is true for the Shimano SLX brakes I have on my MTB now. Being able to feather the brakes into turns without anything grabbing is really, really nice. I would never go back to mechanicals for that reason alone. But maintenance with self-adjusting pads is also a lot nicer / less frequent.

    The only downside to self-adjusting pads is you can be a bit surprised when they run out (you do get a few warnings, but obviously wear is less obvious than when you're having to dial in the pads yourself).

    Not sure about the models you're looking at, but replacing pads on the Shimano hydro brakes is a lot nicer than BB7s (you can pull them out the top of the caliper).

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    Quote Originally Posted by hozn View Post
    the modulation and control of the hydro brakes on MTB is a *lot* nicer.
    I am also looking forward to my first disc brake bike, in a week or two. My expectations are pretty muted (BB7s). Even though they are mechanicals, I hope the modulation is better and the hand strength required is less than what I'm used to with various cantilever and sidepull setups. If the BB7s work as well as my Paul touring cantis and non-aero levers, I'll be satisfied.

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    If I was legit touring (multi-day/week) I'd probably stay with mechanical, otherwise I'd go with hydros. I actually can't say much maintenance wise really, because I've never had to do anything on my hydros yet. That said, mechanical disc brakes aren't exactly difficult to maintain, especially if you don't change wheelsets. And I imagine one day I will need to get my hydros bled (and will have to learn how to do it / buy bleed kits).

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    I agree that hydraulic disc brakes are superior. I wasn't all that impressed when I tested bikes with mechanical disc brakes. Especially the entry level stuff which has one fixed caliper and one moving caliper. I did like the hybrid brake system I tried (TRP Hy-Rd) which uses conventional cables to actuate the master cylinder which is in the caliper body itself. I find hydraulic brakes to offer really nice modulation and I like that the pads automatically adjust for wear. Sounds like everyone here has had trouble-free experiences. I did have issues with brake rub and rapid organic pad wear on my Shimano 105 hydraulic brakes, but that was from a ride that was very wet and very muddy. I accumulated a lot of grit on my brakes which also gummed up the pistons. Lesson learned, and after a thorough cleaning they've been great and in all other conditions have been faultless.

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    Life is too short to have crappy brakes. Go for the hydros.


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