Yokozuna is best known for making some of the best cables and housing on the market. The Motoko is Yokozuna’s first foray into components, aiming for the heart of the rapidly expanding disc-brake, drop-bar market.
The Motoko is a cable-actuated, hydraulic disc brake. Unlike almost every other hydraulic system on the market, this is a closed system, meaning there is no automatic adjustment for either pad wear or heat-induced fluid expansion. That gave me pause. But it is my job to ride things that give me pause, so ride them I did.
Included with each brake are a 160 mm rotor and Yokozuna’s Reaction cable and housing system. For anyone with cable brakes, the Reaction system is worth looking at when the time comes to replace cables and housing. Utilizing both spiral-wound and longitudinal wires, the housing resists both compression and bursting. A very sharp housing cutter or a Dremel tool are recommended for installation, as it can be hard to get all the bits to stay square when cutting to length. I used a brand-new cutter with no issues and ran full housing front and rear.
Since they activate from both sides, the brakes were easy to center. There are adjustments for cable tension and leverage/ engagement point at the caliper; both remained easy to turn after multiple dirty, dirty rides with no cleaning in between. Matched to a set of SRAM Apex levers, it took about half a ride to get it all dialed in. Since the cable runs outboard, versus inboard as on most fully hydraulic brakes, cable routing might require an extra zip tie or two.
Honestly, I fully expected to be able to get these to heat up, but despite my best efforts, they never seemed to fade or pump up. It seems impossible that a small amount of mineral oil can stay cool enough. Engineering? Witchcraft? Does it matter? Also unexpectedly, Yokozuna claims these brakes should never need to be bled. Confidence or crazy talk? I have no interest in taking these off my bike, so I plan to see just how long I can go without bleeding them.
The brake pads are the previous-generation Shimano XTR standard, so replacements in both organic and metal shouldn’t be a problem. The stock pads offered plenty of power but squealed when wet.
After a particularly long and muddy race (the Hilly Billy Roubaix in West Virginia), braking power seemed to fade. I fiddled with things a bit and realized as the pads wore the actuation arm could come into contact with the caliper. Turning the red knob moved the lever arm away from the caliper, and the brakes worked fine again. Far from a deal breaker, but something to pay attention to, especially on long rides.
For modern gravel/all-road bikes, or even a light and simple option for cyclocross or commuting bikes, the Motoko gets a surprised thumbs up from me. These brakes have a perfect modern-classic look to them that seems to complement everything from carbon race bikes to lugged steel steeds. Easy to find brake pads, easy adjustment and installation, and enough performance to keep me safe and happy.
Price: $125 per wheel