Earlier this summer Shimano unveiled its long-awaited R785 hydraulic disc brake system for cyclocross and road bikes, and for some it was disappointment, as the new brake looked exactly like an existing product, the M785 Deore XT mountain bike disc brakes. For others, it was exciting, since the M785 disc brake is heralded for its power, modulation and durability.

Lars van der Haar apparently has liked what we has ridden, and yesterday Cyclocross Magazine got a first look and ride at and on the new cyclocross and road bike hydraulic brake system. The first thing to emphasize is that the system is for the Ultegra Di2 levers only, so upgrading to the system is not as easy as changing a brake lever and caliper unless you already have a Di2 9070, 6770 or 6870 drivetrain on your bike or in your garage, or want to ride a singlespeed (singlespeeders have a more affordable option in the TRP Hylex singlespeed hydraulic disc brake system).

While the caliper is a refinished version of the M785 Deore XT caliper, Shimano actually chose to use hydraulic brake lines that are not as stiff as the M785 lines, in order to bring a feel and modulation that would be more familiar to road cyclists.

Free stroke adjustment lovers will appreciate Shimano also including this feature on their new hydraulic-ready 6870-level R785 STI Di2 levers. This is not reach adjustment, but rather, changes how far the levers pull before full engagement. Think of it as your equivalent of a cable tensioner.

Only a lucky few will be able to race these models this season, but for the average consumer, the models will be released later this year.

Here’s a slideshow of images and brief impression from our first look and test ride. A detailed report will follow.

Shimano's new R785 hydraulic disc brake for Di2 levers - the brake of Lars van der Haar this season. © Cyclocross Magazine

Shimano’s new R785 hydraulic disc brake for Di2 levers – the brake choice of Lars van der Haar this season. © Cyclocross Magazine