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.
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.