Disc-equipped road and cyclocross bikes are officially a thing and SRAM is leading out with class-leading ergonomics and bombproof braking performance in Red, Force and Rival flavors. After 500+ miles aboard the new Force 22 hydraulic kit, it’s hard to go back to rim brakes.

SRAM Force 22 Hydraulic Shifters and Disc Brakes Features:

  • All-new inside and out for 2015
  • Revised ergonomics for better finger wrap and improved finger clearance
  • Individual Reach Adjust™ for levers and shifters
  • Carbon Brake Levers/ Aluminum Shift Levers
  • Fully sealed system for no contamination
  • Easy bleed port access
  • Optimized stopping power and modulation for road or cyclocross
  • 18mm front/ 18mm rear pistons
  • Road specific caliper and piston ratio
  • SRAM recommends 160mm rotors for pavement or 140mm off-road (tested exclusively with 160’s)
  • Forged aluminum disc caliper with stainless steel backed pads and stainless hardware
  • Price: $449 (rotors sold separately)
Argon 18 Krypton XRoad - SRAM Force 22 HydroR

The Argon 18 Krypton XRoad served as the test mule.

Predictable shifting, powerful braking

Everything is good in moderation — isn’t that the addage? Well, with braking on road bikes, I’ll say everything is good with modulation. And, that’s what you’re getting with the new SRAM hydraulic disc products for road and cyclocross use.

This year, I’ve had a full SRAM Force 22 HydroR kit aboard my Argon 18 Krypton XRoad test bike. I’ve taken that bike and the SRAM kit through miles on every type of terrain imaginable from road, gravel, dirt and singletrack. While some may say that disc brakes are unnecessary on road bikes — I say to that, “you need to try it.”

So, try it I did and I’ve really liked it. Without a doubt, SRAM DoubleTap shifting is my preferred shifting of choice. It’s always crisp and it’s intuitive. Best of all, the brake levers are optimized for braking only and provide an unmatched lever feel compared to the competition (who have to use their levers as brake/shift devices). Having both Force 22 and Force 22 HydroR in service, I’ve been able to get a good feel for the comparison between the HydroR hoods and the regular hoods. Both are designed for a comfortable ride in the hoods with spots for fingers while cruising, climbing or sprinting. Ergonomics remains class-leading with a fantastic lever feel.

Argon 18 Krypton XRoad with SRAM Force 22 HydroR Disc Brakes

Crisp shifting even under pressure with Force 22 HydroR.

I’ve appreciated the individually-adjustable reach and have spaced the paddles specifically for winter use, as it makes it easier to shift with bulky cold-weather gloves on. I will say that I experienced sticky shifters (delayed return to normal after DoubleTap) for the first half of my testing. It went away with time, but was a little frustrating at first.

As far as braking is concerned, it’s really unfair to compare the Force hydraulic discs to standard rim brakes. Everything performs on a higher level — without overpowering the contact patch. Most everyone I’ve spoken with has concerns about brake lock-up and skidding. The thought of brake-induced skidding on a road bike is admittedly a scary idea. What’s funny is I’ve yet to have that happen with discs, but have had it happen recently with my Force 22 rim brakes and Zipp 202 Firecrest wheels.

Argon 18 Krypton XRoad

Dirt time was always a breeze with Force 22.

What I really like about the Force HydroR disc brakes is the modulation. Throughout the lever throw, the increase in braking power is mesaured and meted out with perfection. Grabbing a fist full of brakes doesn’t ever feel like an on/off feeling. And, hand fatigue is all but eliminated on long descents. That hand fatigue is further reduced thanks to the carbon-bladed brake lever.

Yeah, some folks will scoff at the tall hoods, but there’s a ton going on inside those hoods and SRAM is quite proud of their new brakes. I’m thoroughly impressed and love the fact that I’ve not had any drop in braking performance or felt even the slightest need for bleeding the system.

SRAM Force 22 HydroR Review

HydroR hoods are significantly taller, but I quite like them.

I’ve used both 160mm Centerline rotors and Avid HSX center lock rotors with this kit. Both rotors have performed well, but the Centerline’s do brake in absolute silence. The Avid’s were necessary for use with the Bontrager Affinity Elite wheels I’ve tested in gravel mode and they do make a teeny amount of brake noise (no squeal or anything like that… just a little muted brake noise is all).

The Good

  • Modulation, modulation, modulation
  • Excellent power without overpowering the small contact patch
  • Great for road, gravel or cyclocross use
  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Reduces braking fatigue
  • No servicing needed so far
  • All weather performance

The Bad

  • Hoods may seem a tad tall
  • Initially “sticky” shifters after DoubleTap
  • Weight penalty over rim brakes may not be worth it for some

Bottom Line : SRAM Force 22 HydroR

After riding the Force 22 HydroR and Force 1 HydroR road discs, it’s hard to argue against them for everyday use. With SRAM, you get all-weather performance, amazing braking quality/feel paired to the most ergonomic hood and lever design on the market.

Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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