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August 31, 2022
As an avid mountain biker, it can seem that the quest to find the perfect brake can be a never-ending task. Too much bite sends you over the bars. Too little, and you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the cliff. Well, I think I may have found the perfect brake and it’s a bit out of the ordinary... In my opinion, the Hayes Dominions are the best mountain bike brake on the market.
A little background about me, I’m a very loyal person. When I find something I like, I normally stick with it til the day I die. I’ve driven Toyota’s since I was sixteen, I order the same thing every time I go to a restaurant, and I always run SRAM brakes. So when my bike tech at my local bike shop recommended trying out the Hayes Dominion A4s I was a bit skeptical so I went home a did some research…
Come to find out, I’ve actually ridden Hayes brakes before. My first DH bike was equipped with Hayes brakes. I had no idea! I then learned that they are no strangers to the MTB world. They created some of the best industry-leading hydraulic brakes two decades ago. There was a rough patch in the late 2000s but we won’t hold that against them. They turned their focus on developing brakes for bigger equipment but Hayes is now returning back to the mountain bike world!
I’ve taken quite a few crashes in my days. We jokingly say that I could release my own “Friday Fails” episode with all the crashes I have on video. Throughout all these crashes I’ve had a fair amount of injuries. I’ve broken both of my wrists and I’ve broken my hand. This can lead to really bad hand wrist fatigue when constantly needing to death-grip my bars when my brakes aren’t responsive. Which has sent me on what seems like a never-ending journey to find the perfect MTB brake. I decided to throw the Dominion A4s on my Yeti SB150 and shortly after doing so, also put the same pair of brakes on my Santa Cruz Tallboy.
Being a "high-end" mountain bike break you can expect some of the nice amenities you would expect to see on a $250 brake. Adjustable reach (no tool required) and adjustable bite point are something you would see in a "RSC" model of a SRAM brake. Some of the more stand-out features would include Hayes's caliper alignment system which makes for a quick and accurate set up. The "2-stroke" dual port bleed system that allows for quick services. Reduced friction gives the brakes a featherlight feel while using durable components that are built to survive a crash. You can completely customize the feel of your brakes by using their SFL lever (small finger lever). You can even flip the lever orientation or your a MX guy.
When Hayes was creating the Dominions, their goal was to have the lowest amount of “dead stroke” possible. Essentially what this term means is the amount of pull the levers have until they engage with the brake pad. The Dominions have a snappy contact point while maintaining consistent engagement throughout your stop. You can even adjust the brake pad contact by adjusting the small screw under the lever blade. This helps give the brake a reliable and comfortable feel during rides.
The brakes feel like the best of both worlds. The low dead stroke gives the Dominions that signature Shimano bite, while still maintaining the modulation of something like a SRAM brake. A hard pull will give you plenty of stopping force, but not enough to send you over the bars. No more death-grip or need for a two-finger pull. The levers have such a light feel which really helps with hand fatigue during long rides. When you do have an “oh sh*t” moment and need to grab a handful of brake, there is enough modulation in the levers where you don’t find yourself skidding or getting launched over the handlebars. If you're on a heavier bike or a heavier rider (200 lbs+) , pair these with a MTX Gold Label HD Brake Pad (made here in Utah) and you'll have plenty of stopping power. Their Red Race series are great ceramic, silent, and feeling pads as well.
One of the main concern I had with not going with one of the core brake manufactures was “am I going to be able to get these serviced at a regular bike shop?” I haven’t had an issue with dropping it off at a shop as the processes is extremely similar to something like a SRAM brake. Servicing these brakes yourself is actually very easy as well. Hayes created a system they call Two-Stroke where they added a bleed port on both sides of the caliper that they claim allows air bubbles to be removed easier. Hayes has plenty of information online on how to service their brakes.
When riding these brakes, I tend to notice myself going faster on descents. Who knew that stopping easier makes you go faster? Knowing that my brakes will consistently provide me the same contact point, feel, and power, as they did on the first day, gives me peace of mind. Hayes also deserves some bonus points for making them quiet as well. No one likes a loud brake!
You can tell that Hayes put a lot of time and effort into these brakes and it shows. I’m glad that Hayes is returning to their MTB roots and developing awesome brakes again. If you’re like me and you like having predictable brakes and get hand fatigue when riding I highly recommend giving these brakes a try. Special thank you to Go-Ride in Draper, UT for helping us get these brakes dialed.
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Road bikes and gravel bikes are two popular types of bicycles that are designed for different purposes. Road bikes are specifically designed for speed and efficiency on the tarmac, while gravel bikes are built for versatility and durability on unpaved roads and mixed terrain. In this article, we will compare and contrast road bikes and gravel bikes to help you decide which one is right for you.