Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes for cyclocross bikes and road bikes review and actual weights

The Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes have been getting a lot of good comments from many brands we’ve spoken too over the past years. Starting with placement on Indy Fab’s NAHBS show bike, they’ve been spec’d on bikes from Ridley, GT, Trek and lots more.

And since I was looking for something other than a hydraulic conversion kit for my own cyclocross bike, I wanted to give them a whirl. I’m glad I did.

The CX5 uses a static inner brake pad with a lever driven outer pad that presses in to squeeze the rotor between them. The inner pad’s position is adjustable, and the caliper body borders on being overbuilt. Overall, it’s a very stiff, strong brake that sticks to Hayes’ performance over weight savings mantra. Click through for details and the full review…

Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes for cyclocross bikes and road bikes review and actual weights

The CX5’s “Anodized Smoke” dark gray metallic finish goes well with Shimano drivetrains from the past seven years or so through current groups, which helps it visually blend into your overall build. It’s available with either 140mm or 160mm rotors, comes with steel hardware and semi-metallic pads. The built-in barrel adjuster makes small tweaks to pad clearance super quick and easy.

Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes for cyclocross bikes and road bikes review and actual weights

The other side of the pads is also easy to adjust. An allen key turns the inside pad holder in or out, moving it toward the rotor. A smaller bolt on the top lets you lock it into place, though I never adjusted it and things stayed where I set them. It lacks the tool-free ease of Avid’s mechanicals, but there are no indents or clicks, so you can really fine tune the pad placement.

Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes for cyclocross bikes and road bikes review and actual weights

A view from the top shows how burly these things are built. The lever arm is thick, and the amount of material in the bridge over the rotor borders on excessive.Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes for cyclocross bikes and road bikes review and actual weights

Initially, it took some trial and error with set up to get the performance I wanted from them. Factor in cable stretch and fiddling with pad/rotor proximity, and I was four or five rides in before I was happy with it. Hayes’ rotors are as robust as the calipers, which means they’re straight and stiff, so I could set the pads in pretty close without any rub. Their caliper adjustment tool makes alignment ridiculously easy, and it works with any disc brake brand.

Put it all together and you get a very robust system that performs really well for a mechanical brake. Sure, they lack the powerful grabby feeling of hydraulics, but progression from start to wheel lock is really linear, and I had plenty of power with a half pull of the lever. That is to say I didn’t need to pull the brakes to the bar to keep things in check. I’ve been very, very happy with their performance.

Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes for cyclocross bikes and road bikes review and actual weights

Hayes makes no apologies about their brakes’ weights. Yes, they’re conscious of it, but in conversations I’ve had with them in the past, they sum it up as “do you want brakes that work, or do you want to save a few grams?” Given my past experiences, I’ll opt for the former. Caliper weights are 197g, and rotors come in at 103g (140mm) and 115g (160mm). While the rotors are a tad heavier than similar sizes from Avid, Magura and TRP, they have a pretty good contact patch and slightly bigger arms, all of which aids the overall performance.

Retail is $65 per wheel and includes cables and housing, street price is a bit lower. They’re designed to work with standard drop bar road levers.



  1. Mindless on

    There are plenty of brakes that are lighter (BB7 is 50g per caliper lighter) and still work better then Hayes. Their excuses for poor engineering do not fly. Same for their hydraulic brakes. They are not as good as lighter Shimano or Formula.

  2. A Dork on

    Good on ya’ for opting into stopping power over weight savings!
    I’m liking the one-piece caliper. When my BB7s give up the goose I will consider these.
    I wish my CX whip could accept larger than a 140mm rotor in the rear, rotor sizes need to come up! I’m excited to see some 180’s under drop bars.

  3. Anders L on

    You still have to have an allen key to tune these brakes!? I’m so happy the rear brakes on my Kona are rim brakes because if they were the same as the front I would probably be dead

    The hayes mechanicals I have simply does not work a lot of the time. Surprised they are still in business.

  4. Troy Junge on

    I was shocked to see Kona spec this brake on their new Rove, after they had been using Avid BB7’s on a number of previous models. Interested to see if there is a reason other than price….

  5. Editor on

    LP – No, that was the 1st gen TRP Parabox with ultralight Ashima rotors, not the right combo for screaming down a paved road. These feel much better and are way easier to set up. I’ve felt the TRP system when set up perfectly with their rotors, and it’s good, but it’s very difficult to get perfect and, IMO all of the converters are a stop gap to complete systems that will be here very, very soon. And even then, mechanicals will have a place on less expensive bikes and for those that don’t want to cut, bleed and re-bleed hydraulic systems for internal cable runs. Even my Moots would require disassembly of the hydraulic line because the hose mounts are closed loops.

  6. bin judgin on

    Ugh I hate those Moots closed loop hydraulic mounts!

    How are they compared to BB7? Fun fact: Typically using the “XX” style rotors with BB7/5 will give you worse braking power due to the rotor being laterally stiffer from the aluminum carrier so it can’t contact the second pad as easily!

  7. The Goats on

    Word from some we have spoken to in the pits are they are likeing these. The simpler design and fixed inner pad make for easier adjustments and performance is found to be on par with BB7’s.


  8. mullet racer on

    In my mud race yesterday I had to click in my pad adjusters every couple of laps on my bb7s because of pad wear. Having tool free adjustment is a major plus for those who race.

  9. Slow Joe Crow on

    It looks like a shiny rounded version of the Hayes MX2 MTB caliper. Since the MX2s on my Kona have been stone reliable, these are on the short list if my wife insists on replacing her mini-Vs with disks.

  10. kj on

    I have some Hayes MX2’s and 3 sets of avid bb-7s on various bikes and I think they are comparable. Odd coincidence; I sanded and polished my mx2s, so they look a lot like these.

  11. Dano on

    I have these on my cx that i use for everything in Vancouver, B.C. and they are bulletproof. Mostly hills and rain here, with plenty of grit that manages to get everywhere and these puppies have never let me down. Easy to adjust and reliable, can’t ask for anything more especially in this price range.


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