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"SRAM hydraulic brakes are issue-prone."

Even if this is a damning blanket statement heard about a major parts manufacturer, I am not here trying to argue it. It is simply a premise of my question. (In other words, don't flame me if you disagree; just move on—it's not even my opinion).

Now for those who are still here.

I do all repair work on my bikes on my own (with the exception of wheel truing), and I am nervous about SRAM's use of DoT fluids. In the future I anticipate learning to work on hydraulic fluids, but much of learning bike mechanics (for me) involves making inexpensive mistakes, and the risk of dissolving the lacquer on a bike from an accidental splash is (for me) an intolerable risk.

Combined, the two issues above mean that I would really like to avoid SRAM hydraulic brakes. I understand that every other brakes manufacturer uses mineral oils, possibly of some specific type.

On an MTB this is not an issue. You may have already noticed that bike builders routinely use different brakes with SRAM's fine MTB derailleurs. The two systems are entirely isolated.

On road bikes it's problematic. The "brifters" control both shifting and braking.

Is it possible to use SRAM brifters with non-SRAM hydraulic brakes? Must this be done by the end user, or do bikes sometimes come fitted with SRAM derailleurs and brifters but with calipers from another brand?

Why am I even looking at SRAM given these doubts? Because sooner or later I'll move to electronic shifting, and at that time I would like to look at my power output (how I will manage to benefit from these data without stressing my joints to the point of lengthening recovery is another question). SRAM's solution (spider- or spindle-based) is offered at a substantially better price point than either Shimano's or Garmin's.

Related (going the other direction):

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  • I'm sure there are calipers you can swap in, but they'll all require DOT fluid as well. It'd be much easier to use SRAM (Quarq's?) powermeter crank set with an otherwise fully Shimano drivetrain.
    – Paul H
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 23:29
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    I'm also unclear what the use of a powermeter has to do with electronic shifting
    – Paul H
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 23:35
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    DOT "dissolving the lacquer on a bike from an accidental splash" is really not an issue. If left on for a long period it softens paints, does not dissolve them and washes off with a squirt of water.
    – mattnz
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 0:14
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    Hope is a third party manufacturer that offers its calipers in DOT and mineral oil versions, so this could be an admittedly expensive option. Any 3rd party caliper is likely to be pretty expensive.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 0:37
  • @PaulH Intriguing. Do you know for a fact that it's possible to fit SRAM's dub on a Shimano (BB86, etc) bottom bracket? Would SRAM's chainrings play nicely with Shimano's FD?
    – Sam7919
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 2:27

1 Answer 1

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Unlike cable operated brakes where anything could clamp to an inner cable and work, your main issue is fluid compatibility.

SRAM: DOT brake fluid like used in vehicles.

Shimano: Mineral oil.

Magura: "Royal Blood" a variation of mineral oil.

And they're listed as not compatible. So adding one fluid to a system designed for another fluid will result in seal failures, or fluid that doesn't flow/compress as it should.

Even DOT fluids are all different. DOT3 / DOT4 / DOT5.1 are not interchangeable despite being Glycol-based, and DOT5 is silicon-based.

Would you rebuild a brake lever or a caliper with all new seals compatible with the other item? That sounds like a hard task, and I'd have no confidence in the result even if you could find the right seals for your caliper and fluid.

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