This year's contenders for Component of the Year covers a wide range of products, and there were plenty of others that narrowly missed the cut. Some of those nominated for Value Product of the Year could have ended up in the running here as well, but they have their own category, which left four to choose from.
We had Hayes' new Dominion A4 brake, the Maxxis Assegai tire, the eeWings titanium cranks from Cane Creek, and also the whole new Shimano XTR groupset in the running. Only one can take the top honors, however, and 2018's Component of the Year is...
Hayes has been in the business of making hydraulic brakes for mountain bikes longer than I would suspect most people here have been riding mountain bikes, and surely longer than many have even been alive. Back in the day, they were one of the two big brake brands, and if you had a set of purple Mags, whether they worked or not, you had status. After going through a number of years with sub-par products, the brand took a step back and re-imagined what riders needed.
Starting from the drawing board, Hayes' engineers didn't work to improve anything they already had or "re-make" something that had a flaw. Instead, they gathered new data and designed an entirely new system. It's a system that has small little things, like their crosshair alignment that helps get the caliper centered on the rotor, which makes it stand out from the rest.
RC tested the brakes and wrote, "As promised, the feel and action of Dominion brakes are enviable. Lever feel is comfortable with or without gloves and its action is smoother than Shimano's or SRAM's best... The Dominion brake is a winner in every sense, and it had to be if Hayes was going to get another chance at redemption. Throwing out convention and starting from scratch must have been a tough choice for a brake maker that has been in the game longer than anyone else, but it proved to be the right decision. If you are in search of a good brake, start with this one."
Modulation, consistency, and reliability are key when it comes to brakes. Speed, safety, and the enjoyment a rider gets out of their day depends on it. We've seen several brands make big improvements on their brakes and take great steps to rectify issues that their brakes may have had, but it's commendable that Hayes decided to throw everything out and start fresh to come out with a product that simply works, and works really well, at that. It will be interesting to see what else we see from Hayes in the coming years. Congratulations Hayes on winning the 2018 Pinkbike Component of the Year award.