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The Yokozuna Motoko disc brake calipers are the lightest option for cable-actuated hydraulic braking, and have many benefits to consider, but the comparison with the market leader isn't a simple one.
It's a given that full hydraulic brakes are the best stopping option if you have the cash for a setup including the mandatory hydraulic levers. For some time now the cashflow-constricted or theft-conscious person's option has been to run the highly-regarded TRP HY/RD ('High Road') cable-actuated brake. A downwards glance at any cyclocross race start line showing the faith put in HY/RDs by all levels of racer, and as an upgrade option on entry-level disc-braked bikes, the HY/RD has been the go-to answer for years. HY/RDs have long been a favourite of cycle tourers, needing to slow down loaded bikes in all weathers but again while keeping cost down. Now there's a new kid on the cable-actuated-hydraulic-caliper block, the Yokozuna Motoko.
Yokozuna are the Japanese firm known for their compressionless brake and gear cable housing and have entered the brake caliper fray with the Yokozuna Motoko, which is a rebadged Juin Tech R1. Among cyclocross racers the R1 is a highly-regarded (and lower-priced) option to the TRP HY/RD, with a few fundamental differences that we'll cover further on. We'll ignore the fact the Motokos are rebadged R1s as rebranding is commonplace in the cycling world, and Yokozuna add a two-year warranty, better appearance plus their special cable to the stock R1 party.
The Motoko comes as a complete setup - in black or grey caliper (that's 'pewter' to you Britishers), 160mm rotor, pre-threadlocked bolts, an IS-mount adapter, Reaction compressionless cable set and even cable end ferrules. The pad is the same shape as the Shimano R010, aka XTR-XT-SLX-Deore A-Type, and a multitude of replacement compound options are easily available. In the box is enough of the Reaction cable outer to do a full run to a rear brake, plus the stainless inner cable with pear-shaped ends. If you want to use the Motokos with barrel-shaped end brake levers you'll need an aftermarket inner cable, and be aware of any difference in the cable pull compared with a traditional road or canti lever.
As of now the Motoko is only for post-mount frames, though rumour has it there will be a flat mount version out this year to catch up with TRP's flat mount HY/RD option. Likewise the only option is to run 160mm rotors; if your frame was designed for 140mm there's an included 160mm adapter so you can fit the larger rotor. The actuation arm protrudes vertically from the rear of the caliper about 10mm to the left of the mounting bolts, so people with particularly steeply-raked seatstays (such as on a Giant Defy) may lack the clearance required.
A fairly fundamental issue with the Motokos is the cable routing. The cable enters the barrel adjuster 9mm to the left (outboard) of the mounting bolt as you look from the rear, as opposed to the TRP HY/RD, where the barrel adjuster is 15mm to the right (inboard) of the mounting bolts. This meant I had to route the very stiff Reaction cable housing down the outside of the chainstay, adding a layer of insulation tape and a zip tie to prevent any rubbing. I'd say this cable routing is likely to be the dealbreaker for some potential users. If your frame has internal or inboard chainstay routing for your rear brake cable and the exit angle is too sharp to accommodate the Motokos' termination point, you won't be able to use the included Reaction housing, thereby removing a fair chunk of the overall system value.
Assuming all is good with your cable route (installing the Reaction cable system is another world of potential fettling pain), the setup of the Motokos is easy, with clear instructions provided. Anyone with a T25 Torx bit, a 5mm allen key and 10 minutes should be up and running. An oft-heard criticism of the TRP HY/RD is the borderline technician-wizardship required to achieve an perfect setup. The barrel adjuster is limited to just 1.5 turns, which leads to lots of re-tensioning the inner cable to get the bite point and feel just so.
The Motokos present no such hurdle; they set up perfectly first time, and the braking was spot on. The near-frictionless Reaction cabling and hefty return-spring in the caliper meant throughout the five-month winter-summer test period there was nary a hint of the dreaded lever rattle as a loose cable didn't fully return.
The best performance comparison I can make is with a well-set-up pair of TRP HY/Rds. Swapping between a few times I couldn't tell the difference in modulation or overall stopping power. One finger with your hands in the drops or at most two when on the hoods will pull you up sharpish while retaining modulation to control wheel lock-up at the edge of performance. This is high praise, as the HY/RDs are admirable themselves when done right. Both the TRPs and Motokos benefit from swapping to softer pads for grip in wet or muddy conditions, albeit at the expense of pad longevity. This is a general observation of all disc brake systems, and it's cheap and easy enough to swap pads if you see the need. The pads of the Motoko are accessible from the top using a 3mm Allen key. This also aids cooling and cleaning as they are effectively vented unlike the TRP enclosed pads.
A fundamental difference between the HY/RDs and Motokos is the hydraulic system - HY/RDs are 'open' whereas the Motokos are 'closed'. This refers to the absence on the Motokos of a fluid reservoir that deals with the expansion of fluid at high temperatures. The missing reservoir is what makes the 143g Motokos some 100g lighter and lower in profile per pair than the HY/RDs – weight weenies and caliper aesthetes take note.
In practice the lack of reservoir made no performance difference, at least in the temperate south of England. As the longest descent I could find is around 150m vertical it's impossible to build up alpine col levels of heat in the braking system, but utterly unscientific anecdotal online evidence is that the Juin Tech R1 / Motokos are not prone to brake fade or failure under high levels of prolonged braking.
The lack of reservoir also means there's no self-adjusting progressive movement inwards of the pads as they wear. For this there's a nice red knob that easily compensates for pad wear, but over five months of riding I didn't feel the need to tweak anything. The knob also allows you to adjust the effective angle of the actuation arm to the piston, thereby changing the ratio of cable pull to piston movement. This allows a considerable amount of in-the-shed or on-the-trail tool-free lever travel and feel fine-tuning that the TRP HY/RD lacks (if you take the official TRP advice not to faff with the 2mm actuator travel screw).
So all things being equal the Motokos perform well, are light, and look snazzy, almost steampunk-esque with the brass, stainless steel piston and clean lines. As with any component you need to be certain your frame will allow correct cabling and mounting.
Which leaves us with the Motokos' Achilles heel, the economics. You can bag a pair of Juin Tech R1s through UK distributor Edge Sports for just £150 including 160mm rotors, adapters and bolts, but without any cables. Add in a set of Yokozuna Reaction cables and you're all done for around £200. So it would appear at £260 for a pair Yokozuna are taking the rebadged Juin Tech R1, putting the Reaction cable in the same box as the caliper, and bunging a year on to the warranty.
A pair of TRP HY/RDs will set you back £240 at RRP, often £190 online. Add in £45 for a set of Reaction cables for a fair comparison and you're looking at £285 RRP (or £235 online including Reaction cables) versus £260 for the Yokozuna calipers and cables complete. So there's about £25 between TRP and Yokozuna, the relatively boutique Yokozuna losing out to the common-or-garden TRPs often discounted from multiple resellers. At RRP the Yokozunas win by £25. Warranty-wise both TRP and Yokozuna offer two years of cover. In my opinion the ability to perform your own servicing on the Motokos with relative ease and less cost compared to the HY/RDs will be a bonus for many less-than masterly home fettlers.
Economics aside, I really liked the Yokozuna Motokos. Easier to set up than the TRPs, lighter, better-looking, compressionless-cables included, with better tool-free adjustment and no performance drawbacks. If you can fit them to your frame with no clearance or cable routing issues they are a great choice as an all-inclusive cable-and-caliper offering.
Easy to set up and adjust with arguably the best cables available, great non-hydro brakes
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Yokozuna Motoko Disc Brake
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
They're for people wanting to step up from mechanical brakes to hydraulic, who want the best-possible cable setup to boot.
Hydraulic brake performance without the complexities of full hydraulic brakes. A great option for touring cyclists who've gotten stuck out in the boonies with a leaky brake line. But high performance enough for CX, road race and gravel events.
By sticking with a cable system you not only keep reliability, but you don't need a dedicated hydraulic brake lever. You can use your old Dura Ace brifters.
Premium compressionless cables, IS mount hardware and 160mm stainless steel rotors included. (If your bike can't handle our stout compressionless housing, you can run standard brake housing too)
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Compatible with cable-actuated Road Brake Levers
- Closed Hydraulic System (Mineral Oil)
- Includes Reaction Compressionless brake cable set for superb response
- Dual Piston pad action
- Simple one knob pad adjustment
- Caliper weighs only 145 grams.
Both the cables and caliper are quality kit - the overall package oozes quality.
Can't beat 'em.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well - one or two finger braking on the hoods. All you need.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The actuation lever - the adjustment it gives is excellent.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The cable entry point - Yokozuna should have kept it inboard or inline with the mounting bolts, for better cable routing flexibility during installation.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
If the cable entry was more centrally aligned, I'd add half a star. If they came stock with a softer, more aggressive pad, that would round out a five-star product.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Dutch bike pootling.