Powerful, Adjustable…The El Camino Lives Up to its Hype

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WHAT: Hayes El Camino
WHERE: www.hayesbrake.com
HOW MUCH? $250 per wheel


Can’t decide whether to go with more power or better modulation in your next set of disc brakes? Hayes might make your decision a little easier with the new El Camino.


The brake levers feature dials that can modulate power on the fly, even while riding. What’s the big deal? You’re probably thinking. Lots of brakes have those dials. While other brands do have nifty dials, they normally alter the pads placement by changing the hydraulic fluid’s pressure.


The Camino’s dial, however, actually changes the lever’s pivot point. Turning the dial increases leverage, having basically the same effect as mounting a longer brake lever. The Camino’s also sport a new one-piece caliper. For the first time in Hayes’ bicycle history, the caliper is forged from a rigid, seamless, solid piece of aluminum.


Those elements add up to some powerful stoppers. But all the power in the world doesn’t mean a thing when the wheels are skidding. And that’s where the Caminos shine.


On several test bikes, from big-hit monsters to XC race bikes, the lightning-fast adjustability offered just the right balance between power and modulation. In fact I often found myself idly spinning the knobs, in search of the ideal set up. And that’s coming from someone who rarely takes the time to adjust anything while on the trail. Call me lazy, but unless it’s a health hazard, I usually fall into the set-it and forget-it camp.


With the Caminos, however, I settled for nothing less than perfection on any given day. After a couple months of experimenting with different bikes and different conditions, I found an 8-inch rotor up front with a 6-inch out back worked the best. The bigger rotor gave an abundance of power, so much, in fact, that I ended up adjusting the power-dial to about 60-percent. In that format, the brakes stayed extremely responsive, yet modulated with the best of them and didn’t have that “on/off” feel of some other Hayes brakes.


I didn’t crank up the power or employ both 8-inch rotors until longer travel bikes, fatter tires and more momentum came into the picture. In that set up, the Caminos held their own—lever feel was positive and the brakes remained responsive—but I wasn’t overwhelmed with any whiplash-inducing power. And during those hard on the brakes episodes, the levers felt comfortable, but a little on the flexy side, especially compared to some of the carbon levers on the market.


The Camino’s aren’t the most powerful brakes on the market. But the weight, modulation, adjustability and the power they do pack make them s a solid option for any rider, from XC racer to freeride fiend.

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