Mountain bikes have been reaping the benefits of hydraulic disc brakes for years now, and while they were finicky at first, the products available now are virtually maintenance-free. When they first began appearing on road bikes, mechanical discs were the obvious stop-gap—a brake cable is a brake cable, after all. But now that discs are becoming more prevalent, roadies want the benefits of hydraulic fluid, too.
First came a series of cable-actuated master cylinders that mounted in all sorts of places, and now at the high end, you can get a complete hydraulic brake system (combined with shifters) from Shimano or SRAM. But many of us already have disc brake bikes and perfectly good drivetrains. The new HyRd (pronounced “high road”) brakes are technically an open hydraulic system, but since it moves the master cylinder from the lever to the caliper, it doesn’t require any special cable or hose routing, and can work with any shifters.
TRP (Tektro Racing Products) is the high-end division of Tektro, a huge manufacturer of brakes and other bicycle components. The HyRd system is available with either 140mm or 160mm rotors, with either matte black or polished silver calipers. The compact caliper/master cylinder will fit most disc frames.
I bolted a set of 160mm brakes to my Steelwool Tweed and had them up and running within minutes. Since the brake cable attaches in essentially the same place as on mechanical brakes, you don’t even need to run new cables or housing. Weighing in at 193g per caliper, the pair is only 28g heavier than the Avid BB7 Road calipers they replaced. If you’re worried about 28g, you’re probably not reading this magazine.
Set-up is also assisted with a locking actuator arm that lets you take up any slack in the cable with a barrel adjuster, then use the self-retracting pads to align the caliper in place. Unlike most mechanical disc brakes, both pads move to squeeze the rotor, so they wear evenly and self-adjust. The pads are Shimano compatible as well, so there are plenty of OE and aftermarket options available.
Once up and running, the HyRd brakes have ample stopping power, though it isn’t overwhelming or so far beyond that of mechanical brakes that you need to use a different braking technique. What is noticeable, however, is the ease of actuation and the silky-smooth lever feel. If you have used high-end hydraulic discs, you know what I’m talking about. One-finger braking is possible on the steepest terrain, leaving the rest of your hand to securely hold the bars. The braking power is smooth and progressive, in that it never feels like an on/off equation—the power comes on smoothly and steadily the harder you pull.
The lever pull is longer than I expected, pulling nearly to the bar when engaged fully, but it helps with modulation and prevents over-braking. If you prefer your brakes set up with a hair trigger, you might be disappointed.
The price of $150 per wheel is a bit higher than most mechanical disc brakes, but quite competitive with hydraulic mountain bike brakes. In all, there is a lot to like and very little issue with the HyRd system. Until the full hydraulic braking systems trickle down to a lower price-point, the HyRd is the best disc road setup I’ve used.