If you're not familiar with modern video game history, I envy you. The brain power I've dedicated to it would probably be better used for just about anything else. Maybe the names and platforms of my state senators, for example. But sometimes, I find poignant parallels to the bike industry.
For instance, the early-nineties were dominated by two brands, Nintendo and Sega. Then, the new generation of consoles that arrived halfway through the decade brought us the Sony Playstation. Sega had already released its own next-generation console, but it sank quickly to a distant 3rd. The generation that followed five years later introduced Microsoft's Xbox, slipping Sega's offering right off the podium. That was nearly twenty years and four generations ago, and Sega has not released a console since. In fact, the world has given up on ever seeing a new Sega console again.
It makes me think of the fall of Hayes disc brakes. Remember when nearly every disc-brake-equipped bike had a set of Mags or 9s? In a word, Hayes dominated. And unlike Sega, it had no significant rivals. But competitors eventually emerged, offering things Hayes was not, like lighter weight, better modulation, more power and refined ergonomics. Hayes held on for a couple generations with a few new lines, but they then fell silent. It's been over eight years since Hayes has released a fundamentally new brake platform, and much of the world had given up on ever seeing one again.
That changed at this year's Eurobike convention. Named with an obvious nod to its past market-domination, the Hayes Dominion is looking for a seat at the table.
For now, there is just one Dominion. No Dominion Comp or Dominion Pro. No Dominion XC or Dominion Enduro, though this is definitely an enduro brake. It's got a beefy, overbuilt look, and none of its standout features are there to shave grams, but instead to add power.
Starting at the rotor. The Dominion went thicker than its competitors. Partially for strength, but also for a greater heat capacity. And the pad material, which is still offered in sintered or semi-metallic, was engineered to have an opposite resonant frequency to that of the rotor. Every object has a particular resonant frequency, and every frequency has an opposite. Put the right energy into an object, and it'll vibrate and resonate. But challenge that with the opposite freuquency, and they cancel each other out. Not only does Hayes claim this makes for a quieter brake, but a more powerful one too. Brake noise is an expression of energy, energy that should be dedicated to slowing you down. Less noise means more power.
The caliper is also decidedly strength-first. The two-piece design is held together by three bolts, not two like nearly every other caliper. If you look closely at the Dominion caliper, you will probably count just two bolts. But if you look more closely, you'll see that the pad retention bolt is actually a lode-bearing member of the structure. It makes for the stiffest caliper in Hayes's history.
Then there's the caliper's dual bleed ports. I know you're saying to yourself, "Finally, someone's added another step to bleeding brakes!" but hear me out. When bleeding a traditional brake, fluid is pushed from behind one set of pistons, across to the other, and then up to the lever. It's possible for bubbles to get trapped behind those second pistons, so the new Hayes bleeding procedure addresses that. It goes: Step 1: Bleed from the first side of the caliper up to the lever. Step 2: Detach the syringe from the caliper, close the port, and re-attach the syringe to the other side of the caliper. Step 3: Bleed from the second side of the caliper up to the lever. Step 4: Detach the syringe at the lever, close the port and reattach it to the first side of the caliper. Step 5: Bleed from one side of the caliper across to the other.
This detaching and reattaching potentially increases the possibility that bubbles will be introduced to the system, but that can happen in any brake bleed. And there really is only one more port being opened in the Dominion system. If you're careful (which you should be anyway) you'll be fine.
There's also a nifty feature, not totally unique to Hayes, but definitely uncommon. On the side of each of the caliper's slotted mounting holes is a small setscrew. When adjusting the Dominions, you first slide the caliper in until the outermost pad rubs the rotor. Then set the mounting bolts just tight enough that the caliper can't slide freely. Next, use the setscrews to push the caliper out until it stops rubbing, and finally tighten the mounting bolts. You get far finer adjustment than you would freehand. It's a similar concept to that of many slotted-axle single-speed chain tensioners.
Hayes made refinements in the hose as well. We don't often think about hose stiffness, but Hayes did. It designed the Dominion hose to be 8 percent stiffer than its stiffest hose. Doesn't necessarily translate to 8 percent better braking, but we'll take it.
The lever, though… That's where all the magic happens. The first thing you notice in the always-informative squeeze test is the incredibly easy action through the dead stroke. You're not fighting a stiff spring or a tight piston. It's light. Feather light. The next thing you'll notice about the dead stroke is that there isn't much of it. There's an external freestroke adjustment behind the push rod where most brakes keep their reach adjustments, but in their stock setting, these levers get right to business.
The action is so quick because the reservoir cutoff port, which the piston needs to have passed to start applying force to the caliper, sits immediately in front of the piston's foremost cup seal, as opposed to a couple millimeters away in other designs. Pair that with the Dominion's potential for a more thorough bleed, and it's business time just a few millimeters after you pull the lever. During those millimeters, the light action is thanks partially to the sealed cartridge pivot bearings, which we've all seen before. But also thanks to a unique teflon glide ring that sits around the master cylinder. That, we haven't seen before. Like an inverted suspension fork bushing, this guides and smooths the action of the piston sliding inside the cylinder. It's why the action, that seems almost fragile, is actually quite robust.
Also robust is the feeling when the pads hit the rotor. There's no vagueness and no squish. It's pretty remarkable next to the light deadstroke. There's both ease and definition to the sensation of pulling the Dominions.
None of this happened by accident. Before starting development, Hayes identified what it wanted to accomplish in its re-entry to the market. It sought a function and feel that would set it apart, and that most of us have always wanted. We can't wait to ride them.
A single wheel's worth of Dominion brake weighs in at 310 grams, the 180-millimeter rotor is 160 grams, and the 203-millimeter is 200 grams. There's no OEM spec planned for 2019, but the Dominion brakes are available aftermarket now. Brake, hose and caliper will run $230, and the rotor, sold separately, goes for $50.