Volagi Test Lab: Shimano Ultegra Di2 Hydraulic

By: Omar Sison

When they made their debut at Interbike several months ago, the reviews of Shimano’s R785 hydraulic road brakes were OK, not stellar, but not bad.  Most of the shortcomings seemed to be due to set up (bleed and alignment I suppose) as Shimano’s techs had scrambled to set up their lot of fresh brakes in a short period of time leading up to the demo.

We recently got hold of a set of Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes.  Though they say “prototype”, we’re confident the production version will be no different than the pair we tested.  Several days passed while the brakes sat on my work bench before I had the time to properly test them.  Whenever I get into something new, I prefer to take my time with it.

This approach has some advantages.  I really get to know a product, what it’s like to set it up and properly align, how much it weighs, what it looks like, how many threads are on the bolts, see how springy the pad spring is, and anticipate any problems it may present for our customers. By the time I was done installing, bleeding, and micro adjusting the system I felt certain that we had reached that landmark moment we’d been waiting for—the day when we had a truly refined version of a hydraulic road disc brake.

Set up:

I won’t say much about this other than that anyone who has bled Shimano brakes will be happy they pretty much require the same gravity bleed.  A clear and concise step-by-step instructional video is available online (Currently only viewable to Retail and OEM via password, but your local bike shop will have access to them) and so long as you have the proper equipment, it should be a good time in the shop.

In the stand:

The number one thing I love about these brakes is the solid tactile feedback, point of engagement in the lever where you can feel the pads contact the rotor.  They aren’t spongy. The lever reach is adjustable, as well as the lever throw.  This is great as it accommodates for variance in handlebar drop styles, hood placement, and hand size.  Such a nice feature!

On the road:

They are as powerful as you want them to be.  They are by far the most predictable brake I have used so far.

Despite the heroic efforts made by other companies to bring hydraulics to road, as expected, Shimano’s long silence has proven to be very much worth the wait.  Though it comes at a higher price, and is currently available only in the electronic shifting version, the upgrade is worth it for anyone looking for the best braking system currently available.

Omar has been with team Volagi for 3 years. He since has established himself as one of the world’s foremost authorities on road disc brakes while working for the company that introduced road disc brakes to the mainstream. 

FSA Afterburner, 15mm Rise Bar 31.8, 680mm wide (+15.00)

SRAM Road Hydraulic Disc Brake Recall

UPDATE (December  20, 2013) – Sram replacement plan for recalled brake systems: http://sramroadhydraulicbrakerecall.com/sram-road-hydraulic-brake-recall-replacement-plan/

UPDATE (December 18, 2013) –

SRAM, the maker of bicycle componentry and brakes, has issued an immediate recall for all of their hydraulic braking systems. They urge current users to stop use immediately. As a company manufacturing road bikes exclusively using disc brakes, we will cease to equip our bicycles with SRAM hydraulic products until further notice that the issues which incited the recall have been resolved. You can read more about the SRAM Recall here: http://www.sram.com/news-articles/sram-road-hydraulic-brake-recall-stop-use-immediately

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Weather the conditions this Winter with Volagi

There’s no denying the benefits of riding a bike over other forms of transportation. When traveling long distances or simply commuting to and from work on your Volagi, your bike needs to be as resilient as you are.

Both the Viaje and the Liscio incorporate front and rear fender mounts to keep Mother Nature from ruin­ing your clean duds. The Viaje has wide enough clearance for 42c tires without fenders or 35c tires with fenders. The Liscio will accept up to 28c tires comfortably with fenders mounted (with a little bit of filing to the front fender slot) and 30c tires without fenders. Never again will you have an excuse not to ride all through the winter months. Many brands carry fenders that will fit on our bicycles however here is the short list of fenders we’ve found to work quite well:

Viaje:

1. SKS Longboard 45mm

2. Planet Bike Cascadia

Liscio

1. SKS Longboard 35mm

Jim Riemenschneider, Portland OR

Thanks for getting the bike right out to me (or rather,  my local bike store).  They jumped right on it and as of November 22nd, I’ve been riding into work most every day.

I love it!

I put fenders on and have been dealing with the 20 degree weather we’re having (sunny and dry though) and will be ready for the normal 40s and rain soon.

I got a few short joy rides in and probably have about 150 miles on it already.

Looks great and rides better!

BILL CUNNINGHAM, CO

I got my Viaje two weeks ago and took it on its first Century this weekend. It was raining at the start and every part of everything was wet. I was in a 20 man pace line at mile 8 when #3 yells “stopping” – chaos – Disc brakes work great even wet. 10 guys on the ground behind me wishing they had disc brakes. I’m sold.

JASON KARP, BELGRADE MT

This bike has been a revelation. It smoothes out the heavily chip sealed Montana roads. The disc brakes were so consistent-they made feel much safer going fast downhill. I’m looking forward to riding my 400K brevet in 2 weeks-which also uses the Beartooth Highway. Thank you Volagi for building such a wonderful bicycle.