Hayes Stroker Grams Review

by Brian Mullin on February 9, 2010

I have been out cranking and bashing away on a pair of Hayes Stroker Gram disc brakes for almost a year now on my Ibis Mojo. Although they are not the lightest pair of brakes I have used in the ever expanding weight weenie disc brake world, they are quite powerful, with excellent fade resistance.


Hayes Company

Hayes Brake has been in the brake technology business since 1946, and their brakes are used on everything from all-terrain vehicles, bicycles, construction equipment, motorcycles, riding mowers, tractors, snowmobiles and utility vehicles. Their work was extended to the mountain bike market in 1997 when Hayes Disc Brake was formed, and this group eventually morphed into the vast Hayes Bicycle Group, which includes Wheelsmith spokes, Sun Ringle wheels, Answer bike parts and Manitou shocks.

Hayes Stroker Grams
The Stroker Grams is the lightest of the Hayes Stroker series (5 versions), and they have been designed and marketed towards the cross country riding user group. Each kit includes the brake, a rotor, a mini bleed kit, carbon levers, alloy backed pads (semi-metallic) and a full titanium bolt kit. They are available in 140, 160, 180, 203, 224 mm sized rotors, and come with an appropriate sized post mount adapter. The master cylinder and caliper are made with aluminum, and use Kevlar hoses, and Hayes high temp DOT4 brake fluid. They are only available in the Lucky Black color (soon a white version), which has a sort of cool looking speckled finish. To minimize weight, Hayes removed as much of the already minimal lever body as possible, and on the master cylinder, they used finite element analysis, removing as much non-structural and redundant material as possible.

Finite element analysis (FEA) is a numerical technique for finding approximate solutions of partial differential equations (PDE) as well as of integral equations. In a structural simulation using computers, FEA helps tremendously in producing stiffness and strength visualizations and also in minimizing weight, materials, and costs. In a nutshell, it does mesh discretization of a continuous domain (the body or structure) into a set of discrete sub-domains (elements).

My usual long term brakes have been the Magura Marta SL brakes. I have a set of the 2007 Marta SL’s and recently got a brand new set of the Marta SL Mags, which use the larger Louise brake pads and much improved caliper system. The Marta SL’s are my main brain comparison and cross referencing brake, although I have used most of the current lighter brake systems for short periods of time.

Although the lines were a tad long on my bike, I never did get around to bleed them (lazy), but they are supposedly easier to bleed then previous Hayes brakes?

Impressions
The Stroker Grams are very easy to install since they use a split clamping system, and have a symmetrical flip flop design. The flip flop design means you can put the brake levers on either side of the handlebars, which is great if you are like me, and want your front brake in the motorcycle mode (on the right). One pain with the Marta SL’s is they lack the split clamp system, so to swap out brakes I have to remove the grips and shifters, which is a royal pain in the wazoo. They are a bit clunky looking, but retain a certain charm, and I did like the speckled black finish.

Measured Specs
——————–
Rear (line, caliper and lever) – 57 inch line: 247.4 grams
Front (line, caliper and lever) – 34 inch line: 231.1 grams
180 Hayes rotor – 151.7 grams
160 Hayes rotor – 114.7 grams
180 Hayes adapter – 10.1 grams
180 Hayes adapter bolts – 15.8 grams
Rotor bolts (titanium) – 7.2 grams
Caliper bolts (titanium) – 7.7 grams

The levers have a small adjuster knob that allows you to alter the reach, although it was a bit difficult to adjust them on the fly while riding. I really liked the feel of the lever in my hand, it was extremely comfortable and ergonomic. The brakes performed admirably, and they were very fade resistant, even on extremely long downhills. I abused them regularly on one of my local steep rides, in which I ride the brakes pretty hard and quite frequently, and all I could get them to do is make a low guttural grit sound.

Like any brake, when they get wet with rain or snow, they squeal and howl for a bit, but it seems to be short lived. They do make a deep gritty sound, especially when grabbing a good handful of brake. Their power loss when they were extremely wet was noticeable, but not significant.

I did find that the levers were just a bit flexible, and it took a long amount of stroke before the lever actually engaged, which made them feel a bit spongy until you really pried hard on the lever. Their modulation was good, though they could be a bit grabby, and you really needed to grab a good handful of brakes to get the power coming from the system, but they were quite powerful when you needed them. One thing that they seem to lack is an ability of lightly feathering the brakes, something that is nice to have in some technical terrain. Another quality was their lack of drag from the pads, which is always a slight issue on my Marta’s. My overall highlight would be to call them powerful, with a good bite, a tad grabby, excellent fade resistance, with good modulation.

The brake pads are easy to take out, even with the wheels still on the bike. However, during re-installation I sometimes had some issues getting the little spring to pop back in properly on the piston. If it doesn’t pop back in just right, then things won’t line up, and you’ll get rubbing on the rotors.

I was initially a bit apprehensive about the levers getting damaged since they sort of stick out from the body, but that turned out to not be the case. I have taken a few good diggers, and twisted handlebars in some strange contortions, and the levers have survived without a scratch. I think the flexing levers might help protect themselves, since they can subtly move, which prevent them from breaking or getting damaged.


Bottomline
The Stroker Grams are a moderately light brake in comparison to their weight weenie competition, yet they are powerful, and seem not to fade on long downhills or during extended hard braking. The levers are a touch flexible, and along with a long throw, they have a spongy feel, but a robust handful makes the brakes work just fine. Their main downfall is that they can be a bit grabby on slow technical terrain, so you need to modulate them properly. In regard to their noise levels, they rarely squeal, but can make a deep gritty sound.

The Hayes Stroker Grams are a fine brake, are well made, and have good attributes and features, and they would be a nice addition to any bike.

Strengths
-Excellent fade resistance
-Lever has good comfortable feel in the hand
-Good power
-Ti hardware
-Pad replacement without taking off the wheel

Weaknesses
-Bit grabby
-Not the lightest of the weight weenie
-Slight gritty sound

MSRP $280-$310

Hayes url: www.hayesdiscbrake.com

Hayes specs
-Titanium hardware
-Carbon Lever Blade with tool free adjust
-Radial, Symmetrical; Aluminum Master Cylinder
-Two-piece aluminum caliper, Caliper positioning window, titanium bridge bolts
-Semi-metallic pads with aluminum backing
-Kevlar wrap hose
-Hayes high temp DOT4 hydraulic fluid
-535 sq mm pad size
-6-bolt T-25 rotor bolt pattern
-Rotor sizes 140 (rear), 160, 180, 203
-Published Weight: 355 g(160mm rotor), 339 g(140mm rotor)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Roman 'Skiver' Skyva April 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Thanks – that's really helpful mate. I just ordered a pair for my hardtail and this is exactly what I wanted to hear – I made the right choice 🙂

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