Hayes Dominion (3).JPG
REVIEW

Hayes Dominion A4 Brake Review

Words Andrew Major and Cam McRae
Photos Deniz Merdano (And Noted)
Date Jan 29, 2020
Reading time

Is Hayes Back? (Andrew Major's Review)

The Hayes Dominion is another option in a sea of great four-piston brakes like the Magura MT, Formula Cura4, Shimano Zee/Saint/XTR/XT, and SRAM Code.

To Hayes, the Dominion is a pull-the-goalie fight for credibility in an increasingly choked market, after years of lacklustre systems. The brakes seek to compete on both power and feel while delivering a unique experience that will sell brakes. As I noted in my first impressions, Hayes immediately makes a mark with the lightest lever action in the business, a clean-and-easy tool-free reach adjustment, ample leverage at the lever blades, and a fierce amount of raw stopping power.

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I've ridden this ladder set on Boundary Trail in every weather condition. The Dominions are so easy to modulate here.

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The Dominions work with my 29 x 2.8" Vigilantes and the CushCore+ inserts I'm testing to see me down some sketchy trails.

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Massive power that's intuitive to control. On the trail there are no negatives with Hayes' new brakes when trails get tricky.

Choice is chief. To be considered over the established players, a system has to at least match them in quality and raw power. To really grab market share, brakes have to deliver something special. Is the feel and light lever action of the Dominion enough to set them apart? It isn't without precedent; the performance and feel of Magura's MT series brakes won acclaim as aftermarket options for riders seeking something better, or different, and now they have a decent, and growing, level of penetration in the OE market.

Does the Hayes Dominion have the juice to get there?

Teardown

Doing the teardown of the Dominion with Jeff, it became obvious that Hayes pulled out all the stops to make a quality product and nothing in my testing experience has refuted that conclusion. The levers still cycle silently, the cartridge-bearing lever pivots move smoothly, the pistons retract perfectly every time. I've not had to touch the brakes since ride one.

The Dominion brakes are bled with a syringe at each end - caliper & master cylinder - in the same technique SRAM has popularized. Interestingly, both the brakes I'm currently testing, the DOT fluid Dominion and mineral oil Formula Cura4, are bled in exactly the same way and equally simple to bleed. I'll give them a tie for second place in the easy-perfect-bleed competition with SRAM's excellent Bleeding Edge design.

The dual bleed ports on the caliper confuse some people. On a truly haggard set of brakes, this allows for the caliper to be fully purged of any old fluid sitting behind the pistons without having to disassemble the caliper. It's a feature that 95% of owners will never appreciate but I've flushed coffee-coloured fluids out of more than a few one-piece calipers on brakes that were "recently bled" so I think it's an excellent addition.

To reiterate one more note from my teardown article, Hayes is unique among brake manufacturers in that they produce both DOT fluid and mineral oil hydraulic brakes so their choice of DOT 5.1 doesn't just come down to choosing one fluid and being a dick about it. They say that the choice to stick with DOT fluid for the Dominion A4 is an important factor in their achievement of a light lever feel and consistent bite point in all conditions.

Dominion

At first, going back and forth between the Dominion and Cura4, or Magura MT5 took my brain a few pumps to recalibrate. Compared to the more traditional feel of, well, any other system on the market. Hayes has engineered a brake that's so comparatively light to the touch that once my brain adjusted, other brakes felt significantly overdamped. Then I would readjust to other brakes and the Dominion felt a bit vague. Now I regularly jump back and forth between the three systems I listed with nary a second thought.

The Dominion's lever action is almost akin to typing on a keyboard and I can certainly picture a key demographic being riders who grew up playing video game consoles where modulation is more in the brain than at the lever. Power was consistently simple to control, it just has a very un-brake-like feel compared to say pushing the brake pedal in a car.

Hayes Dominion (1).JPG

Big caliper. Big rotor. Big power. Just over 300-grams a wheel (w/o rotors). I can't imagine a rider not being impressed with the DH performance of the Dominions. Photo: AM

Hayes Dominion (3).JPG

I'd prefer to ditch the massive, tool-free, reach adjuster inset in the lever blade for aesthetic reasons. I never adjusted the brakes after the initial setup. Photo: AM

These brakes will work for anyone but between the raw power and feather-light action, any rider who has issues with grip strength should give them a squeeze. The Dominions are a product that has the potential to be experience-changing for some riders.

For everyone else, there's the consistent bite point in all conditions, the nicely shaped lever blade, that gentle action I can't stop talking about, and the brutal but easily controlled power snapping at the rotor. I chose a 203mm rotor up front which matched up nicely with a 180mm in the back, which is what I'm generally running on 29ers these days.

From bleeding them in the shop to riding them on the trail, there's really only one thing I'm not impressed with and that's the stock semi-metallic pads that come installed but Hayes also includes the sintered metal option in the box for a quick swap. After some experimenting with both materials, I ended up running the harder biting, but noisier, sintered pads front and rear.

With a fresh set of Dominions, I would be tempted to run the sintered pads up front and burn through both sets of the semi-metallics on the back brake but that's just my min-maxing nature. That said, with how much power they have on tap I can foresee some riders choosing a slight increase in modulation and a notable decrease in noise (especially when the rotors are cold & wet) by sticking with the semi-metallic pads.

There are some very good non-sintered metal pads out there - Magura's Race & Performance pads being obvious examples, but Formula now also has a great organic pad as well - that blow up the convention that sintered metal is always better. Hayes joins my experiences with Shimano and SRAM for which I now choose all sintered all the time even if they are much louder in use.

Hayes Dominion Details NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

The semi-metallic (bottom) pads are stock but the sintered-metallic (top) pads are also included in with the brakes. I prefer the sintered pads every day but the min-max-money-saving hack is to burn the semis out on the back. Photo: AM

It's tough to crack the SRAM-Shimano stranglehold on OE brake sales and with the rise of long travel 29'ers, the aftermarket is inundated with full-power DH stoppers and some really nicely made also-rans for folks happy with a bit less juice at the lever. I'll make a bold prediction that the Dominion is good enough that Hayes will ride it back from obscurity in both aftermarket and OE sales. I'll also bet that many of the next generation of brakes from other companies will feature much lighter action.

My experience with the 230 USD per wheel Hayes Dominion A4 brakes has been excellent. I've recommended them to a few friends for whom I think the light lever action will be ideal and I'll recommend that anyone who can get some hours on them take the opportunity.


Cam McRae's Review

Andrew and I were both riding these brakes, so it made sense for me to share my impressions as well. I didn’t read his thoughts before writing this and he will only see mine once this is published. Hopefully we haven’t tripped over each other.


“Wow!”

That was often the first reaction when one of my buddies pulled a lever on the Hayes Dominion A4 brakes. The lever feel is smooth, silky and light enough to provoke that exclamation. While lever feel is great for the showroom floor, it also translates into improved performance. Less effort from your fingers improves endurance, power and control. The Dominion A4 stands out in each of those categories and I was impressed on the trail virtually every ride.

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The set screws to adjust the caliper came in handy when pad wear began to compromise retraction. Photos - Cam McRae

It got to the point that I stopped thinking about brakes, even in the nastiest moments; times when I had to feather smoothly in steep, rough terrain, or jump hard on both ends to rein things in for a panic stop. On long descents I didn’t experience any fade and heat control seems to be effective. The tool free reach adjust is the best I have used, and can be engaged with gloves on from the saddle.

PeaceMaker

When it came time for the install, I pulled off a set of XTR brakes, thinking this would be relatively simple. Hayes doesn’t yet have a system to integrate with I-SPEC EV so I had to add two more clamps to my bars. It turns out that Shimano’s I-SPEC EV system isn’t compatible with individual clamps so I couldn’t use the XTR dropper lever or the shifter as it was: they only mount to the brake levers. Shimano sent me a shifter with its own clamp (SL-9100-R), but there isn’t a clamp available for the dropper lever at this point. Instead I swapped out the XTR for a PNW Loam Lever (PNW makes adapters for the Loam Lever for both Matchmaker and I-SPEC-EV). Hayes makes clamps for the SRAM Matchmaker and Shimano I-SPEC II (they call these adapters 'PeaceMaker'), but only a right hand clamp so nothing for a dropper mounted within reach of your thumb (I was told something is in the works). And it was silver rather than black. Woe is me. Of course everything works just fine with multiple clamps, but I really like having only two clamps on my bars.

hayes-dominion-a4-clamp.jpg

This was the only clamp I had for the left side. It would have gotten in the way of shifter placement on the right side, where I used the only clamp with no adapter I had.

Lever

In most situations the lever shape was fine, but there were a few times when I could feel my fingertips slipping off the end if conditions weren’t perfect: poor lever placement, cold fingers or a thicker glove than usual, for example. I prefer a slightly deeper, rounder and more pronounced hook. Lever stiffness was solid and I liked the increased grip afforded by the dimpled texture.

hayes-dominion-a4-lever-shape.jpg

I prefer a deeper hook with a rounder profile for a little more grip, but in most situations I was happy with the Dominion blades.

The dual syringe bleed procedure went very smoothly and I am completely down with the thread-in fittings of the pro bleed kit. It was as simple and smooth as the last bleeds I did on my beloved Purple Hayes in the early 2000s.

pad-wear-hayes-dominion-a4.jpg

These front pads are very well worn, and the bite point began to wander as a result. Power and modulation remained solid and the reach adjust allowed me to keep using them without much drama.

An element which tempered my affection for the Dominion A4, was the worn pad performance. I got to the point where my pads had perhaps 1 mm left, or maybe slightly more, and the honeymoon was clearly ending. The bite point began to wander and a squeeze would sometimes almost hit the bar. Luckily the reach adjust was magic as a remedy and power and modulation didn’t suffer at all. I prefer the Shimano XTR 9120 performance as pads wear, which stayed strong and consistent almost until metal, but this was better than SRAM in the same circumstance. Pads are expensive and buying them more often is less than ideal. Not to mention the fact that many of us don’t check our pad wear regularly so this threshold might be reached on some long ride without warning.

hayes-dominion-a4-full-lever.jpg

The industrial design of the lever body, with too many angles and bulges, didn't impress me.

After a few months of riding, and lots of rides in absolutely hideous conditions, both levers started to squeak and complain. Their return speed slowed and that lovely light feel was compromised. As I’ve mentioned before, I generally try to simulate Mordor for bike parts by spraying the crap out of them after muddy rides, and shooting water where it should never be shot. Consistent with this theme, rather than disassembling the lever mechanism and meticulously cleaning every part, and repacking the cartridge bearings, I grabbed a can of spray silicone and shot it into each lever, with low expectations. Much to my surprise they once again began to work perfectly, and have done so for the six weeks since I performed this pro-level maintenance.

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Dimples improve grip.

Comparing Hayes Dominion, SRAM Code, and Shimano XTR brakes

To compare these to the best brakes I have been riding recently, SRAM Codes (245 USD an end) and Shimano XTR 9120s (350 USD at full retail w/o rotors), I’ll have to chop things up a little.

For lever feel, Hayes takes the crown with XTR in second and SRAM third.

I’d put modulation as a tie between Hayes and Shimano, with Codes reasonably close in second, and for power I think Shimano has a slight lead over Hayes, with Codes a close third.

I’d need to do some long, mid summer runs with each to get a better feel for the heat management, but all three have been good.

Worn pad performance might be a personal category but I’ll list it anyway in descending order; XTR, Dominion and Code.

For lever shape it’s XTR, Code, and then Dominion in third.

The bleed procedure and bleed kit crown goes to Hayes followed by SRAM and then Shimano in third.

Aesthetically, XTR are the prettiest, followed by Codes, and then Hayes in third because of the lever. A fairly distant third.

Tool free reach adjust in descending order; Dominion, Shimano and Code.

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This is the best tool-free reach adjust I've used - and I found it useful in several situations, particularly when pad wear became significant. It would also help when you are overdue for a bleed.

The Hayes Dominion A4s are a set of brakes that, with a slight proviso regarding clamp compatibility, I could see using forever. Do yourself a favour and give them a try. I'd guess my first 5 or 6 sets of hydraulic discs were made by Hayes and it's great to see them making a top notch product once again.

As Andrew mentioned, these top of the line brakes will set you back 230 USD per wheel. More info here...

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Comments

Kelownakona
+2 Cr4w Andrew Major
Kelownakona  - Jan. 28, 2020, 11:23 p.m.

Can we have a full bike check with photos sometime Andrew? 

Really keen to build up a similar style.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Cr4w
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:45 a.m.

That’s my V.1 (Pink/Purple Fade) custom Walt in these photos. It’s stripped to a frame/fork right now. Maybe fancying some time built up as a commuter. I probably have enough material/thoughts to put something together but in my brain it’s sort of like reviewing a bike from three years ago when I’m riding the new improved version.

V.2 (Cosmic Lilac Powder) is suspension corrected and while rigid right now it will be going back and forth between a custom 100mm suspension fork and my corrected rigid fork.

Could be fun to look at V.1 vs V.2 and write about where the generation two rigid geo came from. V.2 is a bit out there with a 64-HTA static w/ rigid or sagged 25% with the 100mm fork.

Anyways, cheers for being interested. The “weird” rigid-single speed on the North Shore stuff is most likely to end up with my more out there or targeted opinions and my attempts to be artistic: on my blog.

Reply

Vikb
+2 Velocipedestrian Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - Jan. 29, 2020, 5:23 a.m.

Yes would love a V1 review, V2 review and V1 vs. V2 comparo!** Will look on ME Blog for it, but here would be great as well! There are enough articles about very similar bikes and product in the MTB media...sometimes something weird is just what we need. ;-)

** - understand time is not infinite so anything would be awesome.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 6:50 a.m.

Time/Bandwidth is definitely a big factor but there’s a thematic element to be respected as well; this is absolutely Cam & Pete’s baby and I appreciate them sharing it with me (as a reader first and then as a contributor). It’s not my toy to break with whatever weird bicycle nerdiness, or angry rant, or BITD tale that catches my fancy.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2 Velocipedestrian Truleofthumb
Cam McRae  - Jan. 29, 2020, 11:12 p.m.

I thought I already made a request for this particular weirdness?

Reply

danimaniac
+1 Andrew Major
danimaniac  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:38 a.m.

Damn I really dig these brakes. I'd like to really like the clumsy looks though. That housing is just plain ugly.

So now I will wait for your Cura 4 review. I really need to decide how to upgrade over those quickly overchallenged Guide-Rs mounted on my bike. Bringing 100kg and too much speed to every corner the guides need to go before it's drying up :D

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 danimaniac
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:50 a.m.

Yeah, any of the brakes I listed in my opening eat the Guide’s lunch and you can’t really go wrong comparatively. 

Cura4 is also a great brake review experience - but very, very different - and should be out relatively soon. Little more involved process but hopefully an equally good read.

Reply

danimaniac
+1 Andrew Major
danimaniac  - Jan. 29, 2020, 1:12 a.m.

I mean, in the end I might try and pair some CODE RSC levers with Hope V4 calipers... but who knows.

Did you ever measure things while tearing down? What's the calipers diameter, can you give information about the hydraulic leverage generated with the lever? What's the size of the master cylinder?

The rest is trickery physics.. but calculatable :D

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 6 a.m.

Ha. The calipers come out sometimes but definitely not to level you’re talking. We take things apart for fun (fun for us and fun for readers) first and foremost. That’s why it’s about having a look (teardown) vs How-To.

In terms of higher level enginerding, there are a lot of factors beyond displacement (like seal affect on rollback) and I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+3 twk DanL Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Jan. 29, 2020, 1:18 p.m.

You're after the frankenbrake thread on Ridemonkey, it's long, detailed, awful, and contains all the answers you seek.

Reply

danimaniac
+2 Velocipedestrian twk
danimaniac  - Jan. 29, 2020, 11:02 p.m.

Thanks for pushing me over there. Somehow I already had the spreadsheet with brake data from that thread in my google-docs.

Anyway.. I've added a bit of data I gathered from mtb-news forum and the Hayes Support: The Dominion A4 comes out almost as strong (on paper) as the Direttissima which (I guess) is regarded one of the strongest brakes, only bettered by Trickstuffs own Maxima Brake.

The Cura 4 is a bit less powerful... Anyway.. when looking at the overall system leverage (hydraulic and mechanic) your input would be multiplied about 39 times with the Direttissima and A4, 36 times with the Cura 4. I'm really looking forward to finding out if these paper-facts will translate into your comparison.

What sets the Dominion apart from the other brakes and explains the light lever feel is: The A4 generates by far the highest hydraulic leverage whereas Trickstuff and Formula achieve their braking power by using a relatively high mechanic leverage. That could explain the super light action and good modulation.

BTW: V4 comes out really week: Your input will only be multiplied almost 30 times.

Code is not much better (due to rather small braking calipers, factor 32.7

Combine the V4 caliber with a Code OR Dominion Lever and you'd put that brake on par with the pure A4 or Direttissima brake.

I don't know if anybody is interested in this... but I am :D

Reply

gotama
0
Gotama  - Jan. 29, 2020, 5:45 a.m.

Cam - Interesting that you felt the new Shimano brakes are on par from a modulation perspective. I haven't used the new ones but couldn't get on with the older ones due to their more grabby nature. I like my Hope E4s for sheer reliability and feel but wish they had a bit more oomph for my 100kg mass hence why it's also interesting you feel Shimano wins on power over the Codes and Dominions.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:04 p.m.

My power ranking is certainly unscientific and based mainly how I feel in certain situations. One thing is that the XTR 9120s seem to require less force to get a lot of power, which also makes that power easier to control. One element contributing to that would be the braced lever, which provides a noticeable reduction in lever body flex. The Servo Wave action likely contributes as well. All three are very powerful brakes though and I never felt I lacked power on any of them.

Reply

Shinook
+1 Andrew Major
Shinook  - Jan. 29, 2020, 6:20 a.m.

I've been on these for around 6 months now and love them. I had the M8020s and Codes previously, the former of which I had a ton of issues with (wandering bite point, regularly contaminated fluid, poor pad life, poor cooling/fade) and the latter I liked, but wanted a bit grabbier bite from. IMO most people with OEM codes will find these have better power, which comes on quicker, with little tradeoffs. 

The only thing I disagree with is the bleed process, which I found markedly messier and more complicated than SRAM. The Bleeding Edge tool on the Codes makes life so much easier when bleeding, that anything else is a pain in comparison, but the issue I had here was the seal between the bleed fittings on the syringe. If you don't put a SLIGHT (don't overdo it) amount of pressure turning the fitting with some pliers, then it will leak. I feel it should seal under hand pressure. I also tried the SRAM fittings and it made a huge mess, so they fit, but didn't work for me. It's a minor gripe, because if you tighten the fitting ever so slightly, it seals fine, but the whole process is still a bit more work and can be messier than the competition right now. It's worth it for the overall feel and power, though, I miss them on any demo bike I get on. 

Also, as someone with a lot of hand issues, the light pull on the brake levers has helped reduce arm and hand pain for me compared to brakes that require more power to squeeze.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Shinook
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 6:54 a.m.

I’ve been recommending to everyone I know with hand issues to give them a try. Thanks for the backup!

I’m not a gifted mechanic by any means but found the process went really smoothly. Happy to agree to disagree on the bleed process.

Reply

Shinook
+1 Cam McRae
Shinook  - Jan. 29, 2020, 6:59 a.m.

I should caveat that once I figured out you had to tighten the fitting a bit with the pliers, it's no more difficult than any other dual syringe bleed. When I didn't do that, fluid leaked out around the fitting :( 

In any case, it's not as easy as Bleeding Edge, but I think that's more an effect of Bleeding Edge being so insanely easy, so it's probably not a fair comparison anyway.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Shinook
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 7:16 a.m.

Bleeding Edge is the easiest and, therefore, best system for sure.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Shinook
Cam McRae  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:10 p.m.

Interesting the bleed issues you had. I believe I tightened mine finger tight without issue, but I might have used a box end out of caution. Either way, that part of the process wasn't much different than SRAM for me, but I found the process a little more streamlined. With the bleed lever, line and caliper process of SRAM (going by the book) I often find I let some air into the system and have to re-bleed. Pushing fluid back and forth between the Hayes syringes seems impossible to mess up, and I nailed it on bleed one every time. With Shimano I regularly find the hose flies off, at least before I was told to cut the old end off if that keeps happening.

Reply

Shinook
+1 Cam McRae
Shinook  - Jan. 30, 2020, 5:56 a.m.

Yea, I've never really understood why people think the Shimano process is so easy. I've found it janky and poorly thought out. I also find a lot of people overfill the reservoir, which I theorize aggravates a lot of the issues with cold weather performance and shifting bite point on Shimano brakes. 

At any rate, the bleed I did on the Hayes with the SRAM syringes was a huge mess. Like DOT fluid running down my arm mess. It was a disaster and DOT was everywhere, the system also ingested a ton of air. So despite those fittings "working", they didn't for me. 

Using the Hayes kit went much better, but I'd still get DOT fluid dripping from around the fitting. It wouldn't ingest air the way it did with SRAM fittings, but it would still drip some fluid out around the fitting. IMO those brass fittings need some kind of rubber seal to prevent this. The first few bleeds felt fine, but I found more DOT fluid leaking than I had with other brakes, even dual syringe SRAM bleeds pre-Bleeding Edge. Especially when removing the syringe from the caliper, I found DOT would come out of the bleed ports until pressure in the system normalized (which is better than air making it's way in, but still, it's a mess). Eventually, tightening the fitting slightly with pliers kept DOT from dripping out while I was bleeding, although it still likes to come out of the caliper when I remove the fitting. 

The SRAM Bleeding Edge process is probably not really a fair comparison, but it's much cleaner and less likely to leak DOT everywhere. I think that's probably more the exception than the rule, although with the dual syringe SRAM bleeds, I still didn't get the same level of mess I do with Hayes. The Hayes brakes are still easier and less messy than Shimano, which I've found to be a pain in the *@$ every time I bleed them.

Reply

morgan-heater
0
Morgan Heater  - Feb. 3, 2020, 9:48 a.m.

How do you over-fill the reservoir on the Shimano brakes? Isn't it supposed to be completely full so that there's no air in there? It's not like the hope breaks with the little rubber bladder.

Reply

DanL
+1 Andrew Major
DanL  - Jan. 29, 2020, 10:38 a.m.

Not a fanboy (well, the engineering is very nice though) but was wondering why Hope weren't on the list of 4-pot calipers. Are they harder to come by compared to the others on the list?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 10:54 a.m.

I’ve previously owned E4 brakes with Tech-3 levers and also tested them on the aluminum Chameleon a couple years ago. I like the feel at the lever but at best they’re a SRAM Guide | TRP Slate comparison when it comes to power. In other words they’re a trail brake for other places but not something I’d choose to use for controlling a 29’er on steep janky Shore trails.

I think their brakes are beautifully made with many well considered features; I’ve reached out a few times over the last few years about testing a pair of the more powerful V4 brakes but have never received a reply.

That’s absolutely their prerogative of course. I have mentioned on multiple occasions that I think the hunk of plastic they call a ‘labyrinth seal’ on their freehubs is a sh*te way of doing things (see any premium pawl hub for a better system - I9, RaceFace, P321, Profile, etc) so it wouldn’t be the first time my printed opinion and Google conspired to keep a review from happening.

Reply

DanL
+1 Andrew Major
DanL  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:03 p.m.

Thanks for the power comparison. I'm running Code RSCs and the bleeding edge port gives me nothing but joy. Nothing piques my interest more than CNC'd billet I suppose.

Reply

dbozman
0
dbozman  - Jan. 29, 2020, 5:54 p.m.

I guess I am a fanboy, but my first internal question was -- at this price point -- why would anyone buy anything other than Hope. I haven't had stopping power issues on my Tech 3 E4 setup at 190 pounds of geared weight riding big Phoenix rocky gnar.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 6:10 p.m.

If you don't need more, then you don't need more. There are lots of folks in lots of places, including here, who get along fine with SRAM Guide brakes too. The E4 feels great at the lever and they look boss, but I gave them a very honest couple sets of pads before selling them on.

The thing about a more powerful brake system is the power band tends to be more controllable (don't have to pull them as hard as you can all the time) which is really useful trying to control a bike down steep janky trails in limited traction situations.

If you do decide you need/want more power/control then any of the brakes in my opening paragraph bring a lot more to bear than the E4. As I said, I would love to try the more powerful V4 system.

Reply

LoamtoHome
+1 Andrew Major
Jerry Willows  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:37 p.m.

Someone I ride with occasionally has these brakes and complains of the pistons continually sticking...  just a FYI

Reply

Shinook
+2 Cam McRae Andrew Major
Shinook  - Jan. 29, 2020, 12:43 p.m.

I've heard of some folks having this issue. 

It can be solved with the bleed block. The reverse side of the bleed block can be inserted to safely extend the pistons out and work them in/out to help lubrication. If you insert it (the end with the flanges poking out and non-textured on one side), then pump the lever, the piston will extend and can be pressed in with a tire lever or plastic lever. You can also drop some DOT 4 (preferable for lubrication) or DOT 5.1 onto the piston, then push it back in to help prevent stiction. 

Mine haven't had this issue on mine, though.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 1:43 p.m.

I’ve experienced sticking pistons with plenty of different systems (not these yet) and the fix is usually simple. Remove pads. Extend pistons. Lube pistons with whatever fluid the brakes use. Gently push pistons back in. Clean before reinstalling pads.

Not something I’ve heard is an issue especially/specifically for the Dominions.

Reply

velocipedestrian
0
Velocipedestrian  - Jan. 29, 2020, 1:23 p.m.

So, no troubles with the master cylinder reservoir being below the piston?

On paper this looks like the obvious fault - any air in the system can't just rise into the reservoir like all the competition.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 twk
Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 1:48 p.m.

Short answer is no. Easy to bleed and most consistent bite point of any brake I’ve ridden. I allow here for a large variation for preference for brake feel at the lever, aesthetics, and preference for fluid, but aside from that I’ve got zero reasons not to heartily recommend the Dominion to everyone.

Longer answer. I’m not an expert in brake architecture but I did spend a decent amount of time thinking about this when asked the same  in the teardown article and recorded my thoughts on the subject there. Hope you don’t mind the copy/paste:

“It's an interesting observation but I think once you account for lever positioning (in use) many reservoirs or at least the intake/return port are below the bore (in usage). Maybe less so now that everyone seems to be French. As you say, Hayes has always been this way.

I've never heard of it being an issue with Hayes but I know some older Magura brakes really didn't like to be run in a more perpendicular position especially with the pads near end of life. That could also come down to reservoir size.

What Jeff noted that Hayes has always done but other bike companies don't do is the multiple intake/return ports which are more common in other applications for which Hayes manufactures brake systems.

...

This is stretching/extrapolating my first-hand knowledge (I'm not a mountain bike historian - and I'm always ready to be corrected/enlightened) but looking at the first hydraulic disc braking systems on the bicycle market with the exception of Hayes they were derived from brakes for mopeds. In that statement, I'm including Magura (Gustav), Formula, and Grimeca - Italian companies making moped brakes - and also Shimano and SRAM (not Avid) whose systems had way too much in common with Grimeca brakes to be a coincidence. Hope also had interchangeability with Grimeca - pads for sure and I can't recall for certain if there were other parts - and Formula manufactured the first Avid Juicy brakes.

On the other hand, Hayes has long make brakes for heavy industrial equipment with a sideline doing systems for Harley Davidson motorcycles so I'd say while the basic principles of hydraulic brakes are the same they were maybe coming at it from a different space than other companies that could/did largely adapt existing products.”

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velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - Jan. 29, 2020, 7:55 p.m.

Thanks for the long winded reply, other than the price and fluid, it's the only thing keeping temptation at bay.

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Shinook
+2 JVP Andrew Major
Shinook  - Jan. 30, 2020, 5:59 a.m.

I wouldn't let the fluid deter you. IMO a lot of the hype around mineral oil is unwarranted and DOT is superior in every way except toxicity. It handles heat better, is not prone to fluctuations in viscosity due to temperature, is cheaper, standardized, and easier to find. 

Yes, you'll want to use gloves when you bleed with it and take precautions against spilling it, but it's easily cleaned up and it's not going to peel the paint off your frame the moment it touches it (just keep a wet rag nearby and wipe it off quickly).

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Jan. 30, 2020, 6:49 a.m.

Just from a point of accuracy, my understanding is that with the additives used - i.e. not the drug store stuff - Shimano mineral oil has a higher boiling point than DOT4 and only a slightly lower boiling point than DOT 5.1. 

Technically DOT is hygroscopic and will absorb water (boiling point lowering) but I’ve never seen any test to suggest it’s a real issue with bikes.

Certainly the standardization, cost, and availability are all great talking points.

Mineral oil is probably still an easier product for the average home wrench to manage.

Pros and cons for sure but in the end maybe not a huge deal.

As I noted in the first look, Hayes chose to stay DOT as they said it helped with that very consistent, very light, lever action.

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jan-meyer
+1 Andrew Major
Jan Meyer  - Jan. 29, 2020, 3:45 p.m.

I now have 2 sets of these. One for the trail bike and one for the DH bike. Replaced 2011 Avid Codes on both bikes as they were my go to brake until I tried these.

I have also tried SRAM Guide, Hope V4, Magura MT and the Dominion brakes are way better than all of those IMO.

The modulation is by far the best, especially when using the semi-metalic pads. 
Bite point is fantastic, which is actually the reason I was on the 2011 Codes for so long.

Everyone that has jumped on my bike with these brakes on agree these feel fantastic. Hayes have a winner.

All of this is of course opinion so try them out if you get the chance and make up your own mind.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Jan. 29, 2020, 6:16 p.m.

I'll get into this in my Cura4 review but talking about brakes at the most powerful end of the spectrum the big deciding factor (other than price) is going to come down to personal preference and that usually means feel at the lever. 

Friends who took a turn on my Dominions were 50/50 on initial feedback and there was no middle ground. Power's not a question, it's all about the feel and it's either a hell-yes or a heck-no. I get it, as I noted I had a tricky time at first calibrating my brain to go back and forth between the lightest-action Dominion and other more positive systems. That said, the folks that loved them LOVED them and if that's how 50% of folks that try the Dominions feel then this is absolutely a hit for Hayes.

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UFO
+1 Andrew Major
UFO  - Jan. 30, 2020, 12:39 p.m.

Colour me skeptical, not to the performance, but to these pulling Hayes back into relevance. I believe the Stroker Ace from several years back reviewed and performed as well or better than its competition, and just kind of fizzled out. The segment is quite crowded, and sure there will be those who want to try something different for the sake of being different (see the Shigura bunch)  and an even smaller percentage who absolutely need these unique performance attributes.

I share the same opinion on the recent Manitou suspension product as well. That they are under the same ownership group isn't merely a coincidence IMO

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Jan. 30, 2020, 7:17 p.m.

I think there will always be another Elixir bleed issue, Shimano wandering bite point, Marzocchi AVA, or random QC/QA issue to open back up what seems like a set order to things.

A couple years ago it seemed like every performance mountain bike had Shimano brands and a SRAM drivetrain. Then all the issues with M8000 happened and Shimano upped their 1X game and it’s to imagine Shimano drivetrains it’s other brands’ brakes.

Manitou forks used to be legion on the Shore back in the Sherman days!

Who thought Magura would be grabbing OE spec and then the MT7/5/Trail hit the scene.

It’s a fairly well established path. Produce a product, seekers find it and try it, if their feedback is positive then when a gap exist grab some small OE business, if that’s good then the exposure and good experiences bring larger OE sales and aftermarket sales.

An upcoming example is the Cane Creek Helm fork. My brother was a very early adopter after having great experiences with their shocks. I’m not sure if there was a single review when he pulled the trigger. He just hit his 100hr service interval and neither the stanchions or the steerer tube creak in the crown. Sample size one - but he’s happy. It takes SKF RockShox 35mm seals so it’s extra smooth after the service. He’d recommend it to everyone. It seems that’s the general consensus among seekers and this year Cane Creek picked up a lot of small OE business with brands already doing their shocks. Now as hard as RockS-&-Fox have the fork game on lock-down the word going around is Cane Creek have some spec with bigger players next year. 

I get what you’re saying specific to Hayes Bicycle Group but more competition is always better for riders so I hope you’re wrong.

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UFO
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UFO  - Jan. 30, 2020, 7:43 p.m.

I get and appreciate your well thought out points as always Andrew. I guess what I was trying to say with Hayes (and Manitou) is we've heard this before. 

Til then, I'll happily continue to enjoy my DVO suspension and old Shimano 985 levers paired to Deore 4 pot calipers, of which neither have never left me wanting for more.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Feb. 3, 2020, 8:52 p.m.

I totally hear you; the Mezzer, like the Dorado, is not an every-person fork in the same vein as, for example, a DVO. They're trickier to set-up and require another level of thought beyond just pumping in the air and cycling the fork. 

The thing with the Dominion brakes is I think they are really an every-person brake with the added potential, thanks to that super-light action, to quickly develope a very passionate following. I'll be very surprised if there aren't a lot of riders picking up the Dominion brakes, if not bike manufacturers, over the next couple of model years. 

I think it they toned down the reach adjuster on the lever blades it would happen faster, but aesthetics are only part of the battle.

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Vincent66
0
Vincent66  - Feb. 1, 2020, 8:51 a.m.

I am very interested in a comparison with MT5/7.

Over the last two years, I broke two magura MT levers, and I think "carbotexture" is the reason ...

But I love the power they deliver.

If another damage happens, I'm hesitating between the "shigura" option or switch to complete different system.

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AndrewMajor
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Andrew Major  - Feb. 3, 2020, 9:06 p.m.

I'm not sure what to say about broken levers. It's anecdotal, but I ride with a number of folks riding MT5, Trail, and 7 series brakes and I'm not seeing any more broken master cylinders from Magura than other brands. I've been personally on the brakes for a few years, never broken a master, and I've broken other aluminum master bodies in that timeline. Crashing is crashing. I do find it's a little trickier with Magura to find that magic tension point on the clamps where the levers spin in a crash but don't move during regular usage but I wouldn't call it an issue. 

The MT5 masters are technically stronger (same material as BMW Enduro motorcycle clutch bodies) but I'm not sure if it's extensive enough to make a difference on the trail. 

The Dominions deliver similar power to the MT7 but it's a very different feel at the lever. It's going to come down to personal preference entirely. 

I don't get how the 'shigura' is the second coming but to each their own. I felt the combination of the Servowave levers and MT7 calipers made for a weird power curve that didn't feel anywhere near as intuitive as the stock levers. I was much happier with non-Servowave XTR master cylinders, which I switched to for closer reach than the original MT7, but then started getting the wandering bite-point issue. Once Magura released the HC lever blades I was happily back on their masters. 

If you do decide to make a switch check out the Cura4 in addition to the Dominion. I'll have a review of the Formula brakes submitted soon and I think they have the potential to be the best of all worlds for some riders.

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Vincent66
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Vincent66  - Feb. 10, 2020, 10:09 a.m.

Thanks for your response.

I was very interested in those Hayes brakes since they have been released, but I don't know anybody owning them.

I know Hayes can make great products ; I'm still using 2003 HFX-Mag on my summer bike ...

As for my maguras, I might indeed just have been unlucky ...

First intention on "shigura" was to keep the power of their caliper while getting a "stronger" lever assembly ; it might not be the best -overall- option, but it appeared to be the cheapest as SLX levers are pretty cheap. But, since then, I didn't break any more lever.

I agree also on the HC lever : definitely love it !

Is there a reason why they do not come as stock ? Everybody seems to prefer them over their 2-fingers levers.

I'm very interested in your cura-4 review as well. Please, include some comparison with maguras, Hayes, ...

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