WHAT: Hayes HFX Mag Plus
HOW MUCH: $250 per wheel
There are a few disc brakes on the market right now that everyone is talking about and the HFX Mag Plus is not one of them. This is unfortunate, but I suppose, also a bit understandable, as the HFX Mag Plus does not feature any fancy contact-point adjuster dials and looks a whole lot like the Hayes Mag disc brakes of yore. If you can get beyond those two minor points, however, you'll find a lot to like about the Mag Plus model.
The HFX Mag Plus looks a lot like older Hayes Mag models because it pretty much is one: with two notable exceptions—carbon fiber lever blades and a lightweight set of titanium bolts. These two modifications cut weight a bit (368 grams per set as opposed to 418 grams for a set of garden variety Hayes HFX Mag XC discs). All in all, though, you can expect the general range of Hayes features: the magnesium, flip-flop master cylinder (which allows you to remove the brake levers from your handlebars without removing your grips or shifters), aluminum dual-piston calipers, all-weather, semi-metallic brake pads and a set of Kevlar brake lines. Being a lightweight disc brake, the Mag Plus comes equipped with six-inch, stainless steel rotors.
The Hayes Mag Plus is available in both the 74-millimeter post mount (Manitou forks) as well as International standard front and rear mount. You can even use the Mag Plus with a 20-millimeter through-axle set up. Ease of installation is on a par with Magura and Shimano—which means that you have to use a bunch of shims to keep the rotor from rubbing in that oh-so-annoying way. Avid still takes the cake for easy caliper set up.
Here's the bottom line. The Hayes stop well. On a dime. Plenty of power, in fact. I've used Mag Plus brakes on both cross-country and All Mountain bikes and never found them wanting for sheer stopping power. If freeriding is your game, however, you're probably better off with a brake (like the HFX Mag, Hayes' new El Camino or Avid's Juicy Seven) which gives you the option of running 8-inch rotors.
If there is a downpoint to these Hayes, it's probably that the brakes have a decidedly On/Off feel to them. If you've read any Hayes HFX disc brake review, you've probably heard this all before: lots of power, not a lot of modulation (a "sorta wooden" feel when compared to the lever feel of, say, Magura or Shimano discs). Well, that's a fairly accurate summary. To be fair, though, I've found that after a few weeks of riding the Hayes, you quickly adapt your braking style to the brake's narrow range of modulation. In short, the lack of modulation is only a real downside if you find yourself sharing saddle time between bikes outfitted with different brands of disc brakes. In that case, you'll probably find yourself locking up the Hayes from time to time.
Aside from the impressive stopping power, the greatest thing going for this disc brake is its reliability. I've run the Mag Plus for two years solid and (other than swapping out a set of pads) haven't done a damn thing to them. Like all Hayes, the Mag Plus models rely on DOT fluid (which has a tendency to absorb moisture) so you really should bleed them every year or so, but like I said, I've yet to bleed mine and I still haven't developed air in the lines or experienced brake fade.
Are these the lightest hydraulic disc brakes on the market? Nope—Magura's Marta SL takes the cake at 324 grams per set. The Mag Plus, however, is lighter than many of its other competitors, and when it comes to dependability and sheer pucker power, the Hayes have few rivals. At $250 per wheel, the Mag Plus runs shoulder-to-shoulder, price-wise, with most other high-end disc brakes. The question you might be asking, however, is how do these brakes compare to Hayes new El Camino (a model that DOES feature reach adjustment and allows for a wider range of rotor sizes). We'll answer that question in just a few short weeks.