In this series we will be diving deep on the inner workings and setup preferences of some of the best mechanics and athletes on the World Cup circuit, seeing what makes them tick and how they keep their race machines humming. To start things off, we're looking at brakes, one of the more open-ended areas of bike setup.
So, where to start? The first insight comes from the beautiful and timeless Val di Sole. I thought we would start with brakes (although I suspect you already worked that one out yourselves given the title above). The VDS track is one of the most brutal tracks of the year, with the bottom half littered with giant rock gardens and some brutal steep sections; it's the hardest round of the year for brakes. Add to that, it's normally one of the hottest rounds. It's a tough place if your brakes aren't right.
Our first stop was the Hayes team, where we learned a little more about their brake, the Dominion A4. The brand has seen a resurgence among privateers and top teams in the World Series which has undoubtedly caught the attention of their competitors.
The Dominion A4 brake has already achieved impressive success this year, securing victories in Lenzerheide and Leogang with Rachel Atherton and Andreas Kolb. It's safe to say that Hayes is back with a bang. But what exactly makes the new Hayes brake stand out, and how do you set it up for a downhill World Series race? To find out, we sat down with Kevin Imig from Hayes, who walked us through what's under the hood of the Dominion A4
You can read more about the features and tech of the A4s here
, but read on for Kevin's personal setup tricks and preferencees.
Are you seeing a lot of changes to riders brakes here this weekend?
A lot of riders are trying different pads, maybe they were on the full sintered pads and now they're trying the semi metallic pad just to figure out what the best combination is for them. A lot of our sponsor teams are sponsored by Galfer as well, so there's a little bit of unknown for us with all the different Galfer rotor combinations that they could be running. But yeah, definitely a lot of pad compound experimentation.
Speaking of the Galfer stuff, is it a big issue for you guys that teams are running different rotors from your rotors and in some cases different pads as well?
No, it's not too big of an issue. I think, internally and then to our riders, we don't like tell them to do this. But we're not restricting them from doing it either and we've done dyno testing on other pads in our laboratory at home. So we have a general idea of how it works. Obviously, we could do so much more testing and then get so many other rotors and more testing to do but but we feel comfortable with what they're doing, and we've got data to back it up. So not too worried.
Are you seeing a lot more service work here at Val di Sole?
Yes and no, I just I think there's this preconceived notion that brake fluid goes bad like super, super fast and it's awesome to do a bleed like this for a rider (Kevin was midway though a brake bleed when I interrupted him to chat) and you flow a whole syringe and push everything through the whole system and everything that comes out is brand spanking new, it looks exactly the same. So I think it's confidence inspiring for the riders. And then having the dual bleed ports and being able to bleed super thoroughly while it just ensures that they're not going to have fade or bubbles that'll really cause them a problem towards the end of their runs.
What's the biggest issue you see when riders come in with their brakes?
For pro riders here at the World Series, I think there's two standout ones. One, is just the brake hose olive. Yeah, we have two different types of olives, we've got a one piece and a two piece. You've heard me talking about it a little bit, they're not a screw in like some other ones, you have to press them in. Then we'll have either for the one piece olive, they'll push it on and it's like the barbs in but the olive stops right before the hose and then they put the compression nut on and crush it, then they pull the lever and the hose blows. Okay, so olive installation is a big one and we just reiterate, you know, get the J-wire olive installation tool, push it on until it stops. Or if you're using the two piece olive, the barb of the olive you can visually see it's in all the way but then as you're installing it just make sure you're pushing it in to the master cylinder as you tighten your olive and then use a torque wrench, you know, we have torque specs published, we'll share them with you no matter when you ask we give them to you, just use a torque wrench and do it right. Then number two, it's a little bit less of a problem, but our syringes we don't use like an O ring or anything. It's a taper that seats into another taper. So we'll have some guys and they just thread it in by hand and then they do the vacuum pull on it, and they'll see air kind of coming in over and over and over and they'll be like, hey, like the air is getting pulled in. It's okay just take your pliers or whatever and just give it an little extra tighten and seat those two tapers and you're good to go. Those are really the two. The two biggest issues I guess.
Kyle Beutin jumps in to say:
Something else to add too, and this is more for people that aren't necessarily familiar with the crosshair technology and just don't recognize that, we do still see quite a few, maybe not quite a few, but we see some riders and mechanics that come in and their crosshairs aren't adjusted. So I think one of the things for us to make sure is that our athletes and mechanics are all informed. It's just all of those little minut tech details that help them just consistently build a bike or setup a bike in the same way every single time. So it's not a problem, it's just one of those little extra details that makes our brake just that much easier to set up.
So if you were to give your normal rider, not a World Series racer, some advice on setting up their brake what would it be?
For your average rider, you know, when you do your initial bleed install the bleed block. Don't try to leave it open or put pads in and do it on the rotor. If you contaminate your pads it never goes well. The other thing our bleed block has this side here (on the side of the Hayes bleed block there is a tool to help your move your pistons out) and it allows you to push your pistons out and lubricate the square seals with Dot fluid. Do that on a fresh build, it's going to make the retraction super consistent, and it's going to give the rider a better feel. Then just don't mess too much with too many settings straight away. There's a bite point adjustment underneath the lever. Just don't mess with that until you've got some ride time in on the brakes. The brakes are set to the minimum bite point at the start or dead stroke. So just leave it as it is go for a couple of rides and feel it out before you really start to adjust any of that.
I then headed over to the Continental Atherton pit to talk to Andreas Kolb about how he likes to set up his Hayes Dominion A4
What's your biggest brake set up must have?
I think I really like an aggressive brake, like bitey breaking point. Yeah, like not moving in too far. And it needs to do a good stoppie. My stoppies have got way better since I have been on Hayes. It's one of the most important things. It doesn't matter if my race run is good as long as I can get a good finish area stoppie.
Are you picky with the angle of your brake lever or anything like that? Or are you pretty chill with that?
Oh, no, I think I'm pretty chill. I pretty much always stay the same. But I change it a little bit. But it sometimes changes it just depends how steep the track is and stuff
Here at Val di Sole, probably the worst track of the year for brakes, have you made any big changes your brake setup?
No, nothing really. I think we tried like just different brake pads. But yeah, that's pretty much it. We are ran some sintered pads instead of organics just to be ready for the rain. There's a 223 rotor on the front with a 200 on the back but those haven't changed from Leogang.
What is your advice for the average rider who wants to get their brakes set up right?
Get them bled all the time, I think that's a big thing. I always used to never bleed my brakes when I was a privateer, and I was always complaining. If you keep on top of it and bleed your brakes every two or three weeks then they always stay mint, and it doesn't really matter if your pads wear down a little bit. Just give them a bleed and then they're back on point. Oh and clean them, clean them all the time.
You have your levers set in an interesting way, have you made a change to them?
Yeah I have long fingers so I have them set out quite far but with only a small pull and we've changed it a little bit, like we fixed it on the front so the lever doesn't move forward, because I think I death grip quite a lot sometimes. So yeah, I definitely do it. And then Fort William at BDS, I realized that when I put my finger back on the lever that I don't like it when the lever moves forward as I reach for it so we stopped it moving forward, it just gave me a better feeling when I reached for it. It's more of a security thing for me rather than a performance thing.
Anything you say to people who are thinking about getting some Hayes brakes?
Just get them. They're cheap and really good. I was blown away by them when I first tried them, they're just so good.
Next up we have SRAM, look out for that soon.