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…
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.
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.
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.
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 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.