When first we built up the Mandem, we threw on a set of Avid BB7 brakes that I had laying around. I’ve spent a lot of time with BB7s on the Vaya, the Big Dummy, and various fat bikes, and have gotten pretty adept at tuning them. On the Mandem, I never could get them quite right. Maybe it’s all the cable pull, but they would either drag or not have any braking effectiveness.
I’m a big fan of hydraulic brakes, and find that on drop-bar bikes, hydro discs are head and shoulders above mechanical. Looking at the Mandem, going to hydro looked like it would involve custom brake lines running to the rear, which was not something I was excited about. Hence, we looked into the HY-RD setup. Honestly, the reviews that the HY-RDs get are pretty bad, so I did not have high hopes…but I wanted to at least try them before we cobbled together custom hydro brakes.
They HY-RDs have the brake fluid reservoir, piston and caliper all built into one device. The brake cable runs to the caliper and activates a self-contained hydraulic system. Ours installed without any bleeding or other issues.
Clearance is similar to BB7s.
The cable pull is pretty short, for full activation (compare the 2 pics).
As noted above, install was a breeze. The brakes self-clearance like any hydro system, so even if there’s a waffle in your rotor, these don’t rub. Modulation is perfect–just like you’d expect from hydros. Total brake force is also fantastic, which is pretty important on a tandem. They’re predictable, braking force is linear, they work great in rain/mud, and they’re easy to install.
For a ‘regular’ bike, I prefer true hydros because they’re lighter, and in the long run, I suspect more reliable. You never have to recable true hydros. For the Mandem, or for a budget alternative to true hydros, however, the TRPs are great. They really provide a very high degree of confidence in riding the Mandem, in all conditions. Thus far, a few months in, they come highly recommended.