Hayes Brake




We started in the water.
We’ve evolved significantly since coming ashore.

Our humble roots begin in 1946 as HH Products, a Milwaukee manufacturer of parts for outboard motors. That morphed into an agricultural and small-engine component parts supply company. Today, more than 6 decades later, we’re a multi-national business boasting world-class operations in North America, Europe and Asia.  Hayes is a recognized global braking, steering and suspension systems supplier with core competencies at integrating components and technologies into systems, providing superior braking and electro, hydraulic and mechanical controllability for products in the Powersports, Agriculture, Construction, Military and Bicycle markets.  Over 15 million HB integrated braking systems are currently functioning throughout the world in various applications.  But throughout the years, our path has taken some interesting twists and turns.

In 1968, Kelsey-Hayes purchased the business, moved it to Mequon, WI and focused on non-automotive industrial brake components. Soon, the company was supplying brakes for all Harley-Davidson motorcycle platforms, most of Caterpillar’s wheel loaders as well as all Polaris snowmobiles.

In 1984, it was purchased by the Ohio based Brenlin Group who renamed the business Hayes Industrial Brakes. Through the late 80’s and early 90’s, the business experienced moderate growth and in the mid-90’s, our engineers created a hydraulic disc brake system for the mountain bicycle market revolutionizing this industry segment.

The Brenlin Group recruited a new senior leadership team in 2000 to better address business opportunities and improve the overall enterprise performance by adopting and installing:

  • World-class best business processes
  • Expanded worldwide lean manufacturing practices through the application of the HB Operating System (HBOS)
  • Expanded focus of the off-road powersports market segments including ATV’s and utility vehicles
  • Strengthened technological skills, equipment and overall capabilities of the company

Customer performance metrics for on time shipment, quality, cost management and flexibility all became industry leading and the standard expectation of performance by which many Tier I suppliers are judged.

In June, 2005, the senior leadership team led a management buyout (MBO) of the business with the support of the private equity group, Nautic Partners, of Providence, RI, and renamed the business HB Performance Systems.

The new ownership team quickly moved into an acquisition mode and purchased several businesses to strengthen the bicycle products group.

  • Sun Metal Products of Wausau, IN, a company which made Sun Ringle’ components, specifically rims and wheels for bicycles and wheelchairs, was purchased. We also acquired an on-going Chinese WOFE (wholly owned foreign enterprise) in the deal.
  • Wheelsmith Fabrication, Inc., the only US based manufacturer and well recognized brand of high grade bicycle spokes, was purchased and moved to Milwaukee.
  • Answer bicycle components (handlebars, saddles, stems cranks, pedals, shoes, gloves) and Manitou suspension (front fork and rear shock products)

These acquisitions along with key organic investments provided our business with a full portfolio of bicycle products and systems to service the needs to the more than 250 original equipment bicycle manufacturers and enthusiasts worldwide.

Since the management buy-out (MBO), the business has continued to perform well and we’ve successfully moved from a component manufacturer to become a system supplier now integrating electro, hydraulic and mechanical controls to improve the performance of customer vehicles.

A significant milestone was reached in 2010 with the successful launch of our proprietary Sequential Verification Assembly Process (S-VAP) and the delivery of fully bled ABS brake systems to Harley-Davidson. S-VAP allows for the complete assembly of calipers, master cylinders, lines and ABS hardware, thus eliminating any in-facility evacuation and filling of brake components for original equipment customers.

In 2011 and 2012, HB successful growth and innovation continued as we:
Opened a new European facility outside Munich, Germany,

  • Launched a new Radial Handlebar Master Cylinder for snowmobiles
  • Introduced a new braking system for the Sport Motorcycle market
  • Partnered with two leading Defense contractors and developed a new brake system for the upcoming selection of the next generation Humvee vehicle, the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle)
  • Launched a new S-VAP Hydraulic Clutch System for the Motorcycle market
  • Introduced the Powersports off road industry to TrailTrac®, our proprietary traction control and controlled braking system, for the snowmobile, all terrain vehicles and utility vehicle markets
  • Introduced the off road Powersports industry to new technology for power steering.

Today, Hayes is much more than a brake component manufacturer. Our business has evolved from being not only a world-class manufacturer of components to a systems integrator and developer of new advanced vehicle control technologies. We operate as a technology innovator and leader with a scalable global manufacturing footprint supplying over 300 of the world’s top brands in powersports, bicycle, turf care, agriculture, construction and defense. We encompass an exciting team of more than 500 talented, hands-on, passionate and enthusiastic people driving industry-leading brands, whose growth and products are based on our founding values of innovation, cost-value, quality, performance, flexibility and a commitment to excellence.