Singlespeed or Barcon loyalists have a hydraulic disc brake option with the TRP Hylex.  photo: TRP

Singlespeed or Barcon loyalists have a hydraulic disc brake option with the TRP Hylex.  photo: TRP

When we stopped at the TRP Brakes booth at the Outdoor Demo in Vegas before Interbike 2012, we inquired about the HyWire, the innovative hydraulic disc brake levers with TRP’s own electronic shifters built into the brake lever. The company had figured out how to make shifters compatible with Shimano’s Dura-Ace 7970 10-speed Di2 derailleurs, and I had the opportunity to ride an early prototype in the spring of 2012 and was excited to get an update on a production release of the shifters.

Unfortunately, in Vegas, Lance Larrabee told Cyclocross Magazine the project was “dead in the water.” Shimano’s move towards chip-based components, where the shifters, batteries, and derailleurs all have chips in them that allow plug-and-play compatibility, made the HyWire incompatible with the more popular and affordable Shimano Ultegra Di2 6770 components, as well as the upcoming Dura-Ace 11-speed 9070 Di2 group. The engineering required to reverse engineer the newer Shimano Di2 components was difficult (although Calfee Design has figured out how to reverse engineer the chip-based Shimano Di2 batteries with their PowerBar and PowerPost Di2 internal battery options – see Issue 20 for details on the Calfee Powerbar and their custom bamboo cyclocross bike).

After hearing the news of the HyWire’s sudden death, I asked Larrabee about forgetting the Di2 shift buttons but just offering a hydraulic lever for singlespeed use (or for retrogrouches or tourers using Barcon shifters). As someone who has a bit of experience with both singlespeed racing and Barcon shifters, I could see someone like myself using hydraulic brake levers, even if there’s not a huge market for such a product. Hearing my question, Larrabee turned to the Tektro representatives from Taiwan who were in his booth, and asked them about the possibility of bringing the hydraulic lever without the shift buttons to market. They shrugged, looking a bit disinterested, and I assumed the idea wouldn’t see the light of day.

Fast forward more than six months, and at the official unveiling of the TRP HyRd and Spyre cyclocross/road disc brakes, perusing the TRP catalog I noticed that the idea I had suggested was now being displayed in the TRP catalog. TRP did not show a sample at their product launch or at Sea Otter, and told Cyclocross Magazine they were going to officially unveil the product in Europe to offer the European press an exclusive launch after American media like Cyclocross Magazine got exclusive first looks at the Spyre and HyRd disc brakes.

TRP's Hylex system uses the same hydraulic brake calipers with 21mm pistons that were included in the TRP Parabox 2012 system. photo: TRP

TRP’s Hylex system uses the same hydraulic brake calipers with 21mm pistons that were included in the TRP Parabox 2012 system. photo: TRP

Nevertheless, your bike geeks at Cyclocross Magazine gathered some details on the product. The hydraulic brake levers will come with the same calipers that are included in the updated 2012 Parabox system, with the one-piece calipers with 21mm composite pistons that were ridden by Ben Berden last season. Without the bulky steerer-mounted adapter of the Parabox or cables and housing of the HyRd, singlespeeders are in for a simple, elegant system that offers the power of hydraulic braking and complements the simplicity of running one gear.

The Hylex levers are much more svelte than the recently released SRAM Red 22 hydraulic levers, and the integrated master cylinder is entirely enclosed in a brake lever that appears to be no bigger than a normal (non-hydraulic) DoubleTap lever. Not having to accommodate any shift mechanism appears to have left TRP with a bit more room for the cylinder.

The TRP Brakes’ Hylex system will be available with either 160mm or 140mm rotors. It will be 352g per wheel, and retail for $160. The self-adjusting pads should adjust for pad wear, which should be helpful in a particularly gritty race.

There are certainly other hydraulic disc brake options, with the Parabox and 324 Labs’ Formula R1-based system both still available. Don’t want an adapter? With SRAM’s Red 22 hydraulic disc brakes now launched, and Shimano’s long-rumored hydraulic road brakes possibly being only months away, TRP certainly isn’t the only game in town for cyclocrossers wanting hydraulic disc brake levers without adapters. But the other systems will require the expense of buying a brake lever with a built-in shifter that singlespeeders won’t use, and thus with the Hylex and HyRd brake systems, TRP may dominate the growing singlespeed cyclocross disc brake market, as small as it might be.

Stay tuned as we put a set through a full test and get you one of our famous detailed and objective reviews.

TRP Hylex Hydraulic Disc Brake Drop Bar Lever and Caliper Specs:

MSRP: $160 per wheel
Weight: 352g per wheel (lever, hose, caliper), 89g rotors (160mm)
Fluid: mineral oil
Pistons: 21mm composite pistons
Rotors: 140mm or 160mm
More info: trpbrakes.com