Gevenalle HYDRAULIC: At The Finish- by Guitar Ted
The Gevenalle HYDRAULIC system is an alternative shifting style using a “bar end” shifter mounted to the front of the brake lever. This provides a robust, durable, and convenient way to move the derailleurs. The shifting system is nearly impervious to dirt, mud, and grit, which makes it a great choice for gravel riding. This shifting system is mated to a hydraulic brake set up manufactured by TRP which uses their master cylinder, hoses, and calipers. Previous posts on the Gevenalle HYDRAULIC system can be seen by clicking HERE and HERE.
The Brakes: Okay, so why hydraulic brakes? It is probably the first question I get asked when speaking to other riders about disc brakes for road/gravel applications. Many would answer, and this is a mistake in my opinion, that disc brakes are “better in adverse conditions”. That isn’t necessarily the case in reality. It also would not be a reason I would advise anyone to get a disc brake equipped road/gravel/adventure bike either. So, why use hydraulic or disc brakes at all then? In my opinion it all has to do with the effort necessary to use them and a little understood term called “modulation”.
Without diverging off track into a full blown discussion of the merits of disc brake feel and ease of use, I will just say that the Gevenalle HYDRAULIC system hits both of those characteristics spot on, and these brakes work great because of that. You have a variable application of power here which is great on loose surfaces. I can apply just the right amount of brake power and keep the rear and front wheel from locking up and loosing control of my bike in the process. Plus, the HYDRAULIC levers require very little input to generate a big clamping force which can haul you down to a stop in a big hurry if your tires have something to bite on. This would be a factor in my choosing the HYDRAULIC system for something like a tour on pavement or harder surfaces. However; for gravel, these brakes have more than enough stopping power. Your wheels will lock up long before you run out of clamping force. That’s why, for me, the modulation of these brakes is such an important characteristic. You can mete out the power as needed within reason, and that helps me to control the bike better.
So, these are really good brakes then? Yes with one caveat. The stock organic pads can get noisy. Adam from Gevenalle explained that they were aware of the issue with noise, but that the stock pads were too nice to just toss out. Once you decide to switch them out, a Kool-Stop Organic compound is recommended to reduce noise to acceptable levels. In my case, the front caliper developed a high pitched squeal, not unlike fingernails on a blackboard. It comes and goes, so I probably would be a candidate for a pad upgrade. Otherwise the brakes are really good.
Shifting: The Gevenalle shifters on the HYDRAULIC system I have are for Shimano 11 speed road components. Gevenalle also has a Shimano mtb application, if you are so inclined. The shifters on this set up were the easiest, lightest action, and most precise shifters I have had from Gevenalle. I have tested a few sets of these in years past and I own a couple sets myself. If I had to file a complaint, it would be that these shifters are too easy to use. They require a light touch for sure. I had to recalibrate my shifting effort to prevent myself from shifting over two gears. Once I acclimated to the effort required, or lack of effort, I had no issues with shifting whatsoever.
This extended to the front derailleur, which was spot on throughout the test. Of course, the BURD front derailleur is shifted by a friction type lever on the HYDRAULIC mount at the brake lever. This means, for you that are too young to remember, that there is no indexing. In other words, there are no fixed points that the shift lever places the front derailleur in. The BURD set up is as basic as it gets, which in the world of front shifting is not a bad thing. Grab that lever, move it, and the chain gets up or down a ring with authority and with a speed that rivals the best front changers out there. The bonus is that you can put that front derailleur in any position you choose, so cross chain that drive train to your hearts content. You can adjust the BURD derailleur accordingly so there is no chain rub.
At The Finish: The Gevenalle HYDRAULIC system is a braking set up that allows the gravel/adventure rider to have a braking system that is powerful and easy to use. The HYDRAULIC system brakes have great modulation characteristics and getting just the right amount of clamping forces at the rotors is an easy task to do. The shifters have a light, easy to use, and precise action which never varied throughout the test period. The BURD front derailleur also did its job without complaint.
If there is a negative to the HYDRAULIC system it is that the stock organic pad compound can get noisy. However; a switch to metallic based pads is said to alleviate that issue. This would be the only thing keeping me from saying this might be the perfect braking set up for a gravel bike in dry to wet conditions barring any gritty. abrasive dirt. When those conditions are seen, no brake pad is safe!
Overall I give this system high marks for its ease of use, shifting action and precision, and ergonomics. The shift lever placement may seem odd to those used to integrated shift/brake lever users, but it does work really well and the ergonomics are just different, not necessarily good or bad. The longer, rangy TRP brake hoods may not be good for some folks, but I enjoyed the extra real estate to move around on. If you are thinking of upgrading to a hydraulic brake and the Gevenalle set up looks intriguing, this set up is worth considering.
NOTE: Gevenalle sent the BURD front derailleur and HYDRAULIC levers over to RidingGravel.com at no charge for test/review.We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.