Please School Me On Disc Brake Options For Cx Or Gravelbikes


New Member
Jun 25, 2015
I like the stopping power and all weather benefits of disc brakes, however I could stand to learn more about how hydraulic, mechanical and cable actuated compare and contrast. I'd appreciate any first hand knowledge or links to further explanations.

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here's a short answer based on my experiences with several types:

full hydraulic disc (e.g., Shimano BR-785) >> mechanical-hydraulic disc (TRP Hy/Rd) > mechanical disc (TRP Spyre) > V-brakes > cantis

the new Shimano hydro discs are pricy and heavy, but their power, smoothness, modulation and lack of fade make them worth every $ and gram
they're also very easy to set up and adjust
Hydraulic brakes are top of the line. They don't lose force to things like cable compression so the force that you put into the brake levers is transferred directly to the calipers. They also self-adjust for pad wear, whereas with mechanical brakes you generally have to regularly turn a knob somewhere to move the pads closer to the rotor as they wear. Finally, most (but not all) mechanical disc brakes only move one pad, pushing the rotor into the other pad, while hydraulics move both pads together.

Options for full hydraulic braking with integrated shifters for drop bars are available from Shimano, SRAM and Gevenalle (though Gevenalle's are not what you typically think of when you think of integrated shifters).

"Cable actuated" is just another name for mechanical. Their primary advantages are that they are cheaper and that they work with brake levers designed for use with rim brakes (which is most brake levers for drop bar applications).

Another option is some sort of hybrid solution where a cable is used to pull an arm that operates on a hydraulic chamber. There are a couple of products available that put the hydraulic chamber near the handle bars. There is also the TRP HY/RD brake which puts the hydraulics at the caliper. I have the HY/RD's and they work great if you use them with full length compressionless brake cable housing. They aren't quite as good as full hydraulic, but they are much better than most mechanical disc brakes.

Among mechanical disc brakes, the TRP Spyre stands out in my mind. It is one of the exceptions to the statement I made above about mechanical discs moving only one brake pad. The Spyre moves both pads and by all accounts this makes a huge difference in how the brake performs.
Building up my first disc cross frame this summer so been asking myself a lot of these questions. Seems like the Spyre's are an improvement over BB7's for mechanical. Obviously neither will really compare to hydro. I have mechanical discs on my mtb so I could probably live with them.

Would be curious to hear any other experiences with the Hy/Rd. From what I've been reading, they are appealing option once you get them setup right.
Call me a luddite but I just never found the need to move to hydros. My family runs BB7s and we get along just fine. We ride the front range so it's not as if we don't need good brakes. If you go to you'll see somewhere between 33%-50% of the members use BB7s because they work fine and have much lower cost. Upgrading to hydros on a road bike is big $$$ for marginal benefit and increased complexity.
I have TRP Spyres actuated by SRAM Apex levers on my Double Cross and they have been fantastic. I have read some bad reviews of them but they work just fine for my application. no, they are not as powerful as the SLX hydros on my mountain bike, but I don't need that kind of punchy stopping power on my commute/road/gravel bike. I like the fact that I can lock them up when needed, which is rare, but they modulate my speed well when needed. I am usuing regular cable housing instead of "compressionless" housing, so maybe that would make a difference.

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