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Shimano offer road hydraulic disc brakes with mechanical shifting for the first time

Shimano is introducing road hydraulic disc brakes for use with mechanical shifting for the first time. Shimano has also launched a new version of its 105 groupset giving the opportunity for 105-equipped 11-speed bikes with hydraulic braking and mechanical shifting.

Shimano released hydraulic disc brakes for the road last year, but the hydraulic braking mechanism was integrated into the Di2 electronic lever (ST-R785). That meant that if you wanted hydraulic disc braking with a road groupset from Shimano, you had to have electronic shifting too; you couldn’t have hydraulic braking and mechanical (cable-operated) shifting.

That has changed now that Shimano has launched the ST-RS685 (main picture), a compact hydraulic disc brake lever for mechanical shifting, so you use regular derailleurs and regular cables. Shimano see this as an Ultegra level product but it is compatible with the mechanical version of Shimano’s top-end Dura-Ace groupset and it also works with the new 105 groupset that was launched today

Shimano has included a mineral oil reservoir and brake system in the mechanical lever, while managing to keep that lever compact. The lever features a 10mm reach adjustment to customise the fit for people with smaller or larger hands.

The brake caliper Shimano introduced last year, the R785, has been replaced by the RS785 (Shimano has slung an S in there). The new brake caliper, which works with both electronic and mechanical shifting levers, has improved cable routing, according to Shimano.

"The [old] R785 uses a banjo fitting for the hose which fits onto the outside of the caliper," says Mark Greshon, Shimano's UK brand manager.

"The new [RS785] caliper doesn’t use a banjo fitting, it uses a direct hose connection which goes straight to the top of the caliper. Also, it has a slightly slimmer design so it looks a little better for road bike use.

"The main reason for switching to this new caliper is that in certain situations, especially if the frame manufacturer chooses to mount the caliper on the inside of the rear triangle, it’s possible to catch your heel on the outside of the banjo [with the R785]. With this new caliper [the RS785], the hose is completely in line to improve heel clearance."

Shimano equips its hydraulic disc brakes with Ice technology that features a clad rotor blade with a three-layer sandwich structure of stainless steel and aluminum. Shimano says that this provides a better radiation performance that reduces the temperature while braking.

There are two Freeza SM-RT99 rotor size options: 140mm is the standard with 160mm as an option for people who want more brake power.

Shimano also have a new high-end disc compatible wheel, the RX830, to go with the road disc brakes. Check out our previous report for details on that.

Shimano say that the ST-RS685 (the lever) and BR-RS785 (the caliper) will be available from August.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

35 comments

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Mat Brett [624 posts] 2 years ago
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No prices yet, sorry. We've asked.

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tom_w [204 posts] 2 years ago
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This is what I've been waiting for. Any idea on price and when they'll be in the shops?

That lever looks like an incredible bit of packaging when you consider how big the SRAM equivalent is.

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tom_w [204 posts] 2 years ago
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Cheers Mat. Guessing you also asked about the release date and got a similar lack of answers?

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nug8321 [22 posts] 2 years ago
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No one wants to catch their heel on their banjo now do they...

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nug8321 [22 posts] 2 years ago
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No one wants to catch their heel on their banjo now do they...

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Mat Brett [624 posts] 2 years ago
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No, actually, tom_w, I do have that info. I'll add it now. My mistake.

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NeilXDavis [122 posts] 2 years ago
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A very important piece of equipment this..how many of us have been waiting on discs for our winter steeds only to be put off by mechanical only. Assuming price is ok(ish) this is a game changer.

As mentioned in another comment very cleaver design work from Shimano.

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harman_mogul [226 posts] 2 years ago
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+1 for 'game changer'

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mrmo [2075 posts] 2 years ago
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I am meh on disc brakes* and want to know what Campag's response is, but this is the first disc brake I could in all honesty use. Cable is a waste of time IMO and SRAM....

*its happening so no point worrying about it.

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munded [54 posts] 2 years ago
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Great stuff.

Now if they can just take all the shifting gubbins out, at last we can have singlespeed drop bars with hydraulics. (or bar end shifters for your tourer). I realise they'd sell about five a year....but I'd buy a pair. Only viable option at the minute is TRP Hylex...

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paulrbarnard [182 posts] 2 years ago
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There is my next winter bike sorted! I have been looking ahead to what I would get for my new longer commute through next winter, I want it to be disk, can't justify Ultegra so this looks fantastic!

Only problem then is that my winter commuter will have 11 speed and my summer bike a measly 10... I don't need 11, I don't need 11, I don't need 11....... Dang that Durace Di2 is spendy but how will my summer bike hold it's head up in the shed if the winter bike out blags it.

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Saintyl [15 posts] 2 years ago
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Superb, this is exactly why I bought my cross bike disc ready last year in the blind hope they would do a mechanical version.
Happy days.

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joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
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nice - this is proper progression but I dread to think of the cost of those levers and the heartbreak involved in smashing one to bits in a prang. Maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised.

Still, this helps settle my decision to prolong the lifespan of the 9 speed stuff on my cx (mechanical) disc bike and wait for these rather than stick that old fangled 10 speed gubbins on now.

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geargrinderbeard [95 posts] 2 years ago
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Buggerations, just purchased Ultegra with Trp HyRds for the new Kinesis. Oh well, justifies a future upgrade (or even a new bike...)

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andyspaceman [244 posts] 2 years ago
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Blimey, an almost unanimously positive response to a road disk brake article. I have to agree though - this is the missing link that opens up a lot of people's upgrade paths. They're nice looking too, let's hope they work as good as they look.

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bollandinho [64 posts] 2 years ago
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This gives me hope that in a few years' time I won't be spending weeknights tearing my hair out trying to get my cable discs working nicely.

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mattsccm [330 posts] 2 years ago
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I am sure that TRP do a full hydraulic lever for drops with no gears involved

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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"Ice" technology featuring "Freeza" discs. I feel like their trying to make me form an opinion of how it's going to perform but for the life of me I can't quite put my finger on what it is.

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Metjas [362 posts] 2 years ago
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great stuff, but only 11-speed mechanical group compatible, not backwards to 10-speed sadly.

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Initialised [307 posts] 2 years ago
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So I got a disc bike, upgraded it to TRP Parabox, and it has a current gen 105 rear derailer so these levers could be just the ticket when I step up from 9 to 11 speed, assuming that the pricing has come down a bit by then. Not sure about the logic of a three layer disc, surely that's asking it quite nicely to warp if you do manage to over heat it.

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alotronic [463 posts] 2 years ago
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Yay!
11 sp only? Boo!

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IanW1968 [271 posts] 2 years ago
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Now I just have to wait for Merlin to have them on offer.

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matthewn5 [776 posts] 2 years ago
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To those people complaining there's no 10 speed, just leave out a cog on the 11 speed (reports suggest the 14t). It fits on the 10 speed freehub and works fine, apparently.

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KiwiMike [1201 posts] 2 years ago
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joemmo wrote:

nice - this is proper progression but I dread to think of the cost of those levers and the heartbreak involved in smashing one to bits in a prang.

In 20 years of crashing MTB's I've never broken a hydro lever. People worry a rotor will sever a leg while disregarding a century of exposed chain rings flying all over the place willy-nilly. It's just not an issue.

If you are setting out to crash in a Cat 3 crit, don't bring your sunny Sunday bike  1

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KiwiMike [1201 posts] 2 years ago
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joemmo wrote:

nice - this is proper progression but I dread to think of the cost of those levers and the heartbreak involved in smashing one to bits in a prang.

In 20 years of crashing MTB's I've never broken a hydro lever. People worry a rotor will sever a leg while disregarding a century of exposed chain rings flying all over the place willy-nilly. It's just not an issue.

If you are setting out to crash in a Cat 3 crit, don't bring your sunny Sunday bike  1

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eddie11 [112 posts] 2 years ago
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A certain US site are quoting 699 dollars for levers and callipers. Which we all know in bicycle currency exchange is 699 pounds.

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joemmo [1164 posts] 2 years ago
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KiwiMike wrote:
joemmo wrote:

nice - this is proper progression but I dread to think of the cost of those levers and the heartbreak involved in smashing one to bits in a prang.

In 20 years of crashing MTB's I've never broken a hydro lever. People worry a rotor will sever a leg while disregarding a century of exposed chain rings flying all over the place willy-nilly. It's just not an issue.

If you are setting out to crash in a Cat 3 crit, don't bring your sunny Sunday bike  1

No, me neither but I have smashed an sti lever in a relatively innocuous crash, they are more exposed than a flat bar lever so a concentration of 2 expensive mechanisms at that point would be a concern for me personally. As for the rotor danger, I couldn't give a monkeys if these ever get uci approval for racing or not, I'm just glad they are becoming a real option on road bikes for the hoi polloi.

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Angeld [16 posts] 2 years ago
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Hmmm, am I the only one wondering April fools...

Just hoping it isn't, cause I'll be taking a pair of these the minute they hit the shelves if so.

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IngloriousLou [139 posts] 2 years ago
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Angeld wrote:

Hmmm, am I the only one wondering April fools...

Had me worried but:

by Mat Brett March 31, 2014

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Miles253 [198 posts] 2 years ago
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Still not sure on disks, this is going the way of convincing the majority though which will eventually mean me

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