Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Almost four years ago now, my friend Bruce L. Ross, who lives just down the street from me, contributed a 2-part story about converting his Colnago to a hybrid brake setup with a disc up front and the stock rim brake in the rear.
As I said introducing Bruce at the time, I love a great upgrade story. If you do, too, here’s part 1: https://www.roadbikerider.com/converting-your-bike-to-a-hybrid-disc-rim-brake-setup-part-1-d2/.
And, here’s part 2: https://www.roadbikerider.com/converting-your-bike-to-a-hybrid-disc-rim-brake-setup-part-2-d3/.
Bruce’s Latest Discovery
Last week Bruce reached out to me again and this time he told me about an interesting new disc brake – at least new to me. It’s Yokozuna’s Ultimo. How it differs is that it’s a cable-actuated hydraulic disc brake. This means it can be used with standard levers, no hydraulic hose compatibility or hoses required.
I know Yokozuna’s reputation for making exceptional cables and housing. So it makes sense to me that they designed these brakes around their cables. One of their Reaction Compressionless cable sets (cable and housing) is included with the brakes, plus a 160mm stainless-steel rotor.
I haven’t seen or tried the Ultimos. But because Bruce spoke highly of them, I wanted to share them with you. They might be perfect if you’re building a flat-mount disc bike around cable-only levers because your old parts are working fine.
And, the hydraulics are integral to the caliper (mineral oil is used), so no hose sizing or setup is needed. And even better, they’re good to go, no bleeding is necessary. For even easier setup, there’s an adjustment knob for fine-tuning the brake pads.
The Ultimo brake is a four-piston design with larger pads than on their Motoko brakes for excellent stopping power and modulation. To help, the rotor is also equipped with removable aluminum heat sinks.
Ultimo product page:
Price: $279.99 each
Colors: Black and Silver
Lever Compatibility: Compatible with cable-actuated road brake levers (short-pull)
Frame Mount: Flat Mount
Hydraulic System: closed system with mineral oil
Pistons: 4 coated pistons
Brake pads: Shimano D-type pads (Saint/Zee)
Adjustability: Simple one knob pad adjustment
Caliper weight (per): 139 grams
Included in kit: Yokozuna Reaction Compressionless brake cable set for superb response,
160mm, 6-bolt stainless-steel rotor, adapter (rear caliper designed to fit 160mm rotors without an adapter)
If you’ve used the Ultimos it would be great to hear what you think of them in the comments. Ditto, if like Bruce you upgrade to a set. Or if you’re using another brand and model of cable-actuated hydraulic discs, it would be helpful to hear about those stoppers, too. Thanks!
10,256 Daily Rides in a Row
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
How is this better than a cable actuated disk brake? Isn’t a solution looking for a problem?
Jim Langley says
Great question, Joe. With a cable-actuated brake you can’t say you have hydraulic disc brakes. Just half joking.. but that is certainly one reason people would buy them – and also to try a hydraulic system even if it’s only at the brake.
Also, hydraulics when set up correctly should not change whereas cables and housings can stretch/compress and change the brake performance. So even if only part of a brake is hydraulic it might perform better than a cable only brake. That’s the idea behind it. Hope this helps explain.
I’ve used these brakes on a gravel bike for a couple of years. I prefer them to my Shimano GRX hydroelectric brakes which always seem to rub a little bit… gets in my head. I really appreciate the ability to adjust the feel of the brakes to my liking.
Gary B says
I’ve been using TRP HY/RD brakes on an all-road bike I put together a few years ago. They are post mount vs flat mount but the basic concept is the same as the Ultimo-mechanically actuated hydraulic disc calipers.
These brakes have worked well and allowed me to utilize a pair of SRAM mechanical brake/shift levers I already had. Brake feel is solid and lever travel is similar to full hydraulic disc brake system in my experience.
Dave Z. says
I’ve used the TRP HY/RD as well in flat mount on a gravel bike. Last summer took it fully loaded (about 60 lbs of bike plus 170 lbs of rider) up into the Pisgah Forest and had zero problems. A bit bulky though and the cable routing was a bit tortuous due to the hydraulic reservoir on top, but they worked fine with Campy levers and Jagwire compressionless housing.
Gluteus Minimus says
Save yourself some cash, and search Amazon for “Juin Tech M1 Cable Actuated Hydraulic Bicycle Bike Disc Brake Caliper “. EXACTLY the same brakes, and for $168.95 USD. I installed them on a older Kona Rove AL I use as my gravel whip, replacing some Hayes CX Comp cable only brakes. Larger pad surface area, a doddle to install, easy to adjust via the adjustment knob, and really do work better (admittedly though, not quite as progressive as a pure hydraulic GRX system I recently tried) than what they replaced.
Quoc Vo says
Thanks for this tip. I saw the same thing on Amazon and was hoping they would work just as well. Now I just need to sort out whether it will work on my Colnago CX Zero which has a 140 rear rotor.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for sharing this tip. Gluteus. I looked them up and it looks like it’s a full set – both calipers and rotors, which makes them much, much less expensive. Here’s the link: https://amzn.to/3ABaOM2
There are a couple of reviews saying some negative things but most are positive.
The M1 2 piston caliper is not the same as the Ultimo which is the newer 4 piston caliper. The M1 is equivalent to the older Yokozuna Motolo 2 piston brake which is significantly cheaper. The equivalent to the Ultimo Juin Tech model is the GT-F or GT/P (flat or post option). The included accessories are different with each though which accounts for some but not all the price difference, so you’ll have to decide which route to go. As for me I would go for the Juin Techs (Ali) and get Jagwire Pro housings with polished brake cables as well as the rotors of my choice.
If they’re “exactly the same”, why is there such a large price difference?
Gluteus Minimus says
Haven’t a clue.
Mike Kohnle says
We have the TRP Hy/Rd on our road tandem. We run them with the Yokozuna cables. They are problem free and far superior to the XTR V-brake and Sram cable disk that came with it.
Bruce Ross says
I believe Yokozuna would be well-advised to exclude both the 160MM rotor and their proprietary cable and cable housing and simply provide the disc caliper with the option to purchase both of the other components. Their rotor is heavier than other comparable rotors on the market and the cable and housing are very distinctive looking and not a good match aesthetically for the other cable housing on most bikes. My standard Campagnolo cable and housing work just fine for the caliper.