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SRAM HydroR Recall: Luckily No One Got Hurt

HydroR Shifter

Nothing leaking here

Six months before SRAM HydroR hit the market, an insider told us it was coming. That bike maker suggested that you could race a CX bike with a rear brake only for maximum mud clearance and weight savings. The power from hydraulics was more than enough in a CX race, he thought, because you usually only scrub speed into turns with a tap or two before barriers, and no long descents.

Flash forward to this month when I find myself testing out his great idea on a SRAM HydroR Disc-equipped Crux. Except the functional brake is on the front because the rear hydraulic brake failed without warning. Not once, but twice.

I swung my leg over the Crux, landed on the seat, and rolled out of the driveway, as I do on weekdays for a training ride. Banked right, then left, pulled the rear lever descending near an intersection and (dramatic pause)… nothing. Nosewheeling with the front brake down to level ground, I got rad, and I don’t get rad, because I’m not f’ing Adam Craig. I was shaken up and mad.

No Leaks here

No leaks here either

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Living in a hilly, coastal city, there was more descending and climbing to do before I arrived back home, so I rode towards the nearest shop, Cycle-U, where their number one mechanic Jeff inspected the brakes. With no visible leak and pads intact, we concluded this failure was a maintenance issue. I’d ridden the Crux about a thousand miles, including a handful of races. The air bubble in the rear line got bled out and I was back on my way.

Bled the line

Bled the line

Meanwhile SRAM sent me a replacement caliper with shifter and I corroborated similar failures happening to other Seattle-area cyclists.

About four hours of ride time later and before Jeff installed the replacement caliper, the rear failed again in traffic when a dump truck turned towards me, and I skidded to a stop. After pulling the rear lever that hard, it gave way the next time to no brakes. WTF is going I wondered and so did everyone else I was talking to about the sudden loss of braking power. Again there was no leaks when Jeff replaced the caliper and the olive and barb (where the hose intersects with the brake mechanism) were intact. He did find the rear caliper compression nut was loose. It was tightened to 3.5 Nms instead of 5.

How did that happen? SRAM Tech Support, who built the bike up for me, said this…

When installing SRAM HydroR brakes, proper torque on the compression nut is critical to optimal performance. If the nut is not torqued to 5 Nm, the olive will not crush properly. This can allow air into the system, and can allow fluid to bypass into the hose liner, potentially leading to brake failure. Because the system is designed to function with a certain amount of air, this may not happen immediately; it can take some time for enough air to build up to be noticeable. Be sure to use a torque wrench and perform a proper bleed whenever installing a new barb and olive on a HydroR brake.

SRAM, who were also very responsive and helpful, hadn’t seen this issue happening with OEM-built bikes. Then at Deschutes CX in Bend Oregon, HydroR systems failed and a recall was issued for 19,000 units yesterday, including a stop-use immediately notice.

It has recently come to our attention that during last weekend’s Cyclocross racing in the US, in sub freezing temperatures, several failures were reported. In these conditions the master cylinder seals failed to hold pressure resulting in abrupt loss of brake power, and an inability to stop the bike. These failures are related to product that is outside the originally stated date code range and unrelated to the original failure mode. No injuries have been reported to date.

At Hugga HQ, we’re waiting for next steps like everyone else racing and riding HydroR equipped bikes, but I know that SRAM is diligently working on the issue. I’m confidant in their abilities. Just like Sinyard and Cafe Roubaix, this a defining moment for SRAM.

How they handle it will play out and they’re known for the highest QA standards in the business, including using SAP at their factories, pulling samples and testing them frequently.

Reacting to the recall, on Twitter I said this…

And the rest of the story is that I’ve been riding Hydro since the summer, both rim and disc with no issues until recently when it got cold. The demo Crux is hanging in the garage now on lockdown and I’m rattled by these failures and recalls too. I had no issues after a week of riding with the replacement caliper installed and the compression nut tightened properly. I did lament quality control in the industry on Medium, in a season where I’ve had an unusual number of mechanicals while riding.

Luckily, none of us experiencing these failures got hurt. As that insider thought, there’s enough power in just one brake. To get you home at least.

High-rez photos from this post are on G+

It Was So Cold In Bend


King of the Snotcicle has a Suffer Face

The conditions in Bend this weekend are best described by this photo Matt sent us of a Suffer Face Snotcicle. How cold is it at the Deschutes CX? Too cold for clever catchphrases describing how cold it is.

Pro podium finishers literally crying in tents after the finish cold. A few years ago, it was almost as cold and I was hypothermic, emotional too. That’s when

Mahan, who’s comforting Russie in the photo, pulled me off my bike. He then dragged me to the Redline tent to get warm and a few minutes later handed me a cup of Espresso. In the tent, Tim Rutledge checked on me, made sure I wasn’t hypothermic, and handed me a plastic rain cape. The propane heater steamed the cold and wet perspiration off of my kit and I felt at home.

Back to racing next weekend for us and today it’s riding in the cold with embro’d legs. When Matt gets back to Seattle and warms up, he’ll have a report; including how well Di2 worked, staying upright, and hydraulic fluid clotting.

Cyclocross Explodes in the Pacific Northwest

Written and produced by Nina Milligan with photography by DBC Photo, this video slideshow captures the best of Cyclocross racing in the Seattle area during the 2013 season. For my MFG story, see The Roulette Wheel of a Race and a why we love Cross moment on Suffer Faces.

The Roulette Wheel of a Race


Results don’t show it, but that was my ride of the season. Photo: Kevin Tamura

In a season that’s included CX Worlds and CrossVegas, I’ve written about the importance of starting the race, finishing it, and breathing. Last weekend at MFG Woodland, those topics combined with blowing up. Lap one went like, I’m in, I’m in, and then boom. That I finally have the fitness again to go that hard is great, to blow on lap one of the biggest race in Seattle well; it’s what Jacques Anquetil said, “There are no races, only lotteries.” And in that lottery, it takes lots of luck to not crash, as many did in the elite fields.

You know in a techno song, there’s always some kinda high-pitched noise like a siren? That shrill sound syncopated with my pedaling after a warp-speed start. It indicated a system failure was approaching, but I kept pushing towards the max, hanging on at the back. As the pack rode away from me, I got angry, because the space that separated us was just a gap that I couldn’t close. Damn gap.

Concentrated now on finishing, I eased up, settled into a manageable rhythm, and regrouped. When the leaders lapped me, I went into the race zone again, and a few laps later crossed the finished line with nothing left.

After the race, Anthony Dickson who recently upgraded to the elites and raced with me said

“Damn, racing with the 1/2s is hard. Why did I ever upgrade and subject myself to this pain? Cross is anticipation, exasperation and elation, all in that order. Can’t wait to do it again next week!”

Yup and later he also said, “it helps to train if you want to race cross (and do well) - learning that this year.”

I’ll add to that advice something Matt Hill would say, “In training, you push to learn where your max is, so in racing you know when to back off, lest you blow at the worst time.” On the same intense lap, Matt blacked out in the pits from an acute asthma attack. Had that randomness not happened, he would’ve likely podiumed.

Ed. note: Date night has turned into a date weekend with the Seahawks today. Mark V raced with a report to follow.

Max Crashed, Ended His Season

The plan was for Max to podium in the Cat 4s on his Davidson and in Bike Hugger kit. Then move up, race well, and get his name and new bike out there – it’s built to race cyclocross in the Pacific Northwest mud and all conditions. After building the bike up and during Max’s first ride, I got two texts one Summer afternoon. The first was a joyful photo of a climb and then a few hours later…

Wonder Max

As Max learned, the Davidson is NOT an MTB! He overcooked a turn on the descent and crashed. He’s recovering now, back to riding, and racing next season.


Notched chainstays for wide tires

We’ll tell you more about the bike when it gets raced. It’s an interation of the D-Plus with room for really wide tires. See more photos about Max’s first ride that ended in a crash on the Tiniest Princess’ tumblr.

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