The future is hydraulic... SRAM hydraulic rim brakes spotted

We know SRAM are bringing hydro disc brakes to the market soon; it emerges they’re working on a hydro rim brake too

by David Arthur @davearthur   December 18, 2012  

sram hydraulic rim brakes

We know that SRAM are developing a hydraulic disc brake - they told us as much a while back, when prototypes were spotted on the bikes of US professional cyclists out training and cyclocross racing - but we didn’t expect them to be working on a hydraulic rim brake as well. These photos clearly show that they are. We’re taking a guess here at this being a 2014 product, so it’s some way off hitting the shelves of your local bike shop.

It’s clear from the photos that the same lever as has been developed to operate the disc brakes is being used for the hydraulic calipers. The narrow upright design of the hoods is necessary to contain the reservoirs of hydraulic brake fluid that makes the system work. So, naturally, once you’ve developed the lever, there’s no reason why you can’t put a hydraulic rim brake on the end as easily as a disc brake.

Hydraulic rim brakes are nothing new in cycling. During the 90s, before disc brakes had become widespread in mountain biking, German company Magura enjoyed a good few years of success with their HS33 line of hydraulic rim brakes. As disc brakes got better and cheaper, Magura’s rim brakes fell out of favour. I remember them as being extremely powerful, but lacking modulation. There’s a reason why trials riders, who need on/off braking power, leaned towards them.

Earlier this year, Magura resurrected the technology (not that it ever went away) in a collaboration with Cervelo, The RT8 TT hydraulic rim brake was designed to work with Cervelo’s P5. One of the bonuses of hydraulic brakes over mechanical is that the hose can be contorted through and around frames that make traditional cable routing very tricky. A hydraulic hose doesn’t mind what journey it takes, it’ll still work just as well. You can’t do the same with a cable; it prefers a smooth kink-free path to the brake.

I half expected Magura’s brake to become The Next Big Thing. You get the low maintenance and incredible stopping power of a hydraulic brake system, and it’s retro-fittable to any bike. That, I assume, is the reason SRAM are clearly working on such a system. There’s demand for disc brakes from cyclists, but not everyone wants them. You need a new frame and fork with disc mounts, new hubs and wheels, so it’s a lot of expense. So maybe SRAM are thinking that people who don't want disc brakes might be tempted with hydraulic rim brakes that will fit to their current bike.

Thanks to Cycling Tips for letting us share the photo with you.

18 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Not sure I want hydraulic brakes on my road bike!

I'm forever bleeding the brakes of my MTB so wouldn't want to have to do this on my race bike all the time.

posted by Ladders [9 posts]
18th December 2012 - 12:43


bring it on .... haven't had to touch the hydros on my
whippet since fitting, the XT's on the scandal were tweak
free too ....
If these rim jobbies are as good then I'm sold Big Grin

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [926 posts]
18th December 2012 - 12:52


The calipers look really neat. Unlike the levers, which look like an accident in a ergonomic design studio.

I do wonder whether these offer anything over cable calipers though. The gains to be made over current road braking systems are really focussed on the drawbacks of rims brakes - wet weather performance, rim wear, requirement for a braking surface hindering rim design - and these will have all those issues. The main benefit is extra power, which is great if you're carrying lots of weight (on bike or on person!) but for the most part, the raw power of road calipers is not an issue.

I guess the cable routing benefit is a gain, especially on aero bikes. But it seems like a second class solution when put against discs.

posted by step-hent [718 posts]
18th December 2012 - 13:58


Hopefully this will pave the way for Campagnolo to bring out a modern version of the Delta brake, wouldn't that be nice. Chunky, sexy, polished alloy anyone?

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [551 posts]
18th December 2012 - 14:14


I've had hydraulic brakes on my MTB and have never had to bleed them. Previous post obviously has a leak somewhere.
Fix the problem and it will be fine


Marky Legs's picture

posted by Marky Legs [125 posts]
18th December 2012 - 14:17


That lever is more ugly than a one-eyed bulldog chewing a bag of spanners. While being stung on the nose by a f***ing big bee.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
18th December 2012 - 14:17


Ugliest lever I've ever seen, SRAM can keep them

posted by mikeprytherch [220 posts]
18th December 2012 - 14:18


Hydraulic rim brakes? The worst of both worlds.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
18th December 2012 - 14:50



posted by cydonian74 [19 posts]
18th December 2012 - 14:54


of Maggie HS-33s "I remember them as being extremely powerful, but lacking modulation"

Doesn't sound like the ones I have on my tourer... Wonderful things, love 'em, easy to do control to order with one finger riding down big hills with kitchen sink luggage. Even pad wear with a straight in-out action, have never needed any work except the (very easy) pad wear adjustment (just turn a wee wheel on the lever) in the 7 or so years I've had them.

The Rumpo Kid wrote:
Hydraulic rim brakes? The worst of both worlds.

As a very, very happy user of HS-33s I do wonder if you've ever actually used them? Lighter than discs and you don't need disc compatible forks or rear-end to mount them.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [79 posts]
18th December 2012 - 16:04


You don't need that with cable operated rim brakes either. Or hydraulic levers that cost a fortune to replace should they get damaged!

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
18th December 2012 - 16:43


I have a pair of Magura HS-66 drop bar rim brakes. Lack of modulation is definitely not my experience. The lack of cable stretch helps make them very precise.

posted by RobinC [8 posts]
18th December 2012 - 19:26


Fitted early Magura HS33 to Brompton over 15 years ago with U-Bugel kit. Worked a dream - far more positive and no longer the frustration of cable stretch, fray or sticking. Initially a tricky adaptation for flexible (folding) hose, but now using Hope reinforced casing.

Only maintenance required is to change blocks and occasionally fit new rims. Bliss! Ideal for commuter hack that gets no attention.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [560 posts]
18th December 2012 - 22:50


At this time of year, I'm reminded during and after every ride why rim brakes are from the past. Grey sludge dripping every where, that graunching scraping sound when you brake, having to dig bits of alloy out of pads, rim wear.

No thanks, I'll be having discs on my next bike.

dodgy's picture

posted by dodgy [162 posts]
19th December 2012 - 17:58


Ban the lever! Has a touch of Mektronic about it, and they banned them. Horrific.
I had hydro brakes on my old MTB, and tbh I was never that impressed, had a nasty habit of seizing in the winter...

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [258 posts]
19th December 2012 - 21:31


I'm not completely sold. I can't see any argument that a hydraulic rim brake has any maintenance advantage over a cable actuated brake. Cables and housing rarely need to be replaced, they cost pennies, and a monkey with 2 tools can do the work.

pedalpowerDC's picture

posted by pedalpowerDC [306 posts]
19th December 2012 - 23:41


Since fitting HS-33s I've had a practically no maintenance to do at all. It's not that it's /hard/ to maintain cable brakes (my 5 bikes with cable brakes do okay), but it does need doing and before you have to do it they continuously degrade from basically perfect to worryingly dangerous. Where with the HS33s I get on the bike and know they'll be just as good as last time.

Live with them for a while and then decide: I couldn't see any point on paper before I'd tried some on a demo bike (I was trying the bike rather than the brakes, hated the bike but loved the brakes...) and was immediately sold.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [79 posts]
20th December 2012 - 14:07


I want to get this information out there so prospective buyers of SRAM's new hydraulic rim brakes are aware of a problem.

The SRAM S Series brake levers that came on my 2014 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Elite Rival HRR (delivered early last month) chatter loudly when the bike is rolling on anything other than totally smooth pavement. Upon close inspection, I noticed roughly 1-2 mm of lateral play in each brake lever.

The retailer from which I bought the bike contacted SRAM and was purportedly told that this is a known issue, that complaints about it are growing in number, that something will be done about it, but that no date has been set by which that action will be taken and no details are available as to the nature of the fix.

The pin attaching the brake lever to the hood apparently cannot be removed to tighten it.

The only fix I can think of is to put 1/32" thick PFTE sheeting ( up as far as possible into either side of the space between the lever and its housing.

SRAM did not return a call seeking guidance. It advises it will not deal with the public, only with dealers.

I find this situation unacceptable.

posted by DanRichman [1 posts]
30th September 2013 - 21:54