Farewell to All That? Not Until “Drafts” is Clear!

So, it has come to this:

Big S is putting out disc versions of some higher-end road bikes next year. Quelle surprise, and now we can see if Specialized’s own gravity/market share succeeds in quickly sinking small ships like Volagi, even if they weren’t downed by Specialized’s legal power already.

No, they aren’t hydraulic. Yet. Wait until 2014, right?

Where does that leave us on here on BliggityBlog? No longer as a self-styled lone evangelist (read: I felt alone because I wasn’t bothering to dig in to other places where, no doubt, others were saying the exact same things) for hydraulic road disc brakes. No longer interested in paying that much attention to new product announcements for the unending and overwhelming tsunami of really cool but totally unnecessary bike shit that flows through the industry every week. And – dammit – most frustratingly with a couple of link-oid posts still in Drafts about disc-related road stuff. These should see the light of day: one on thinking through fork design in the new era of disc brakes (and thru-axles on road bikes; you had to have known that was coming), the other on English’s “show-stopping” NAHBS bike from last year.

The BB interest in bikes and builders has not really died, though. In fact, as vaguely referenced a while back, BB is in the process of starting (the very early parts of the process, that is) a new scholarly project on handmade bike builders. That might be the grist for another round of BliggityBlog activity in the next couple of years. By the way, that last target is not hard to achieve when one posts at the rate of once a month or so! Or we could talk about the other stuff that was supposed to be here: green/modern/innovative house design and building, the meaning of life in middle age, productivity, whatever. We’ll see.

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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes: TRP Hywire Edition

No sooner had I spoken about being behind on the hydraulic brake lever news than another round of information on this TRP system pops up. I guess it is the TRP “Hywire” that will integrate with either Dura-Ace or Ultegra Di2. Bike Rumor – which somewhat out-of-the-blue has become a favorite destination for tech-ish info – has some interesting shots, for instance:

While this is neat to see (as it becomes more production’ish rather than purely proto)….is this not just a brake lever with the Shimano “satellite” Di2 shifters glued on?!

And, from the front:

This last angle is most interesting, for it demonstrates the big advantage I’ve been pointing to in my earlier posts: that is, the more you can pare down specific parts to a single function (or fewer functions), the more refined they can be for that specific function. In this case, the lever here only needs to function for braking (at least in as much as the shift buttons are placed in a reasonable position). No need for the brake lever to also initiate shifts and so forth. And, if the brake lever is really about braking, then why not radically reshape it to maximize ergonomics for braking from the hoods as well as the drops? Not very pretty, I’ll admit, but definitely demonstrates the great potential with this approach.

If you want more shots and information, Bike Radar has also posted an update on the system (including the calipers they have paired with these levers).

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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes Carnival/Extravaganza/Roundup

You take a few months off from blogging and, damn, stuff changes. So it is with the hydraulic road disc brake world. Many, many developments since my last writing. So many, in fact, that I bet we are in the midst (and will be able to say so with certainty, looking back a year or two from now) of a big upturn/inflection point in the “adoption curve” for disc brakes on road bikes. At this stage, we are really talking about the “acceptance” curve for disc brakes on the road…but, once accepted and understood as reasonable, the actual adoption will likely quickly follow. Particularly, of course, if there is hardware out there in the market and in the pipeline….bringing us to a bit of a roundup:

The first big-name product announcement (well covered, so I’ll skim) in this respect has been SRAM’s update to the Red line. Interestingly, they are bringing out both hydraulic rim and disc calipers. SRAM covered up the shots quickly, but there are plenty of places to still find them online:

(Source: Daily Grind Cycling Journal)

Kind of what you would expect for styling, frankly. Or, it’s hard to imagine how else they are going to fit the reservoir and whatnot in there without a bit bump on top.

Moving away from SRAM, rumors of some non “Big Three” manufacturers moving in on the hydraulic market are materializing. The most recently hyped of these was Magura’s “big” announcement (they at least made a big deal out of it) of an hydraulic rim system. BFD, IMHO. What is more, the Red hydraulic rim calipers look better than the Maguras anyway and will integrate with one of the

More interesting was this talk about some alternative hydraulic disc options…possibly with Di2 integration of some sort.

Well, here it is, apparently. This was a TRP (read more on the link to Bike Rumor) prototype (hence the funky hoods, etc.) but with Di2 buttons:

(Source: BikeRumor)

I still don’t really understand the Di2 hacking techniques (but, check out the crazy tuner forum at Fair Wheel Bikes if you want to learn more), and it seems like some of this is changing with Ultegra vs. Dura Ace, but, as I’ve been saying for a while now, if/once the Di2 “brain” is opened up, just about any option is possible.

In other words, I think the “paradigm” for electronic shifting is still set for a big shift (ha!): thus far all of the thinking (like with Di2) has held to the unquestioned assumption that shifting actuation must be controlled by something that, for all intents and purposes, conforms to the brake/shift model created by Shimano STI back in 1990 (or whenever). That’s what is going on with the TRP prototype. But, how long before those buttons will essentially be a kind of “cut and stick” customized model…in which case you just take any existing hydraulic lever and put the buttons where you want.

So, there we have it with the direct road disc material. But, even in the time spent drafting this little update, new material has rolled in from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show this week (NAHBS 2012) that should get me back to the “bike o’ the future” theme here as well. A couple of hints where this is going: internal gearing and electronic actuation.

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Volagi: In Motion!


(Source: Thinly Sliced, Generously Served)

As a brief aside to the Specialized vs. Volagi matter, figured I would toss up this photo of a Volagi in motion (taken from a brief interview, click the link and look around to see another interview with the other co-founder). What is funny (to me) is how infrequently I see pictures of road bikes with disc brakes actually being ridden! The front-end integration and simplicity here is quite pleasing. Imagine some Di2 shifting and minimalist cabling and it’s already a whole lot better.

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Road Disc Brakes: “Big S” vs. Volagi Edition

Given the early (and continued) attention paid to Volagi here on BB – and given the attention this current story seems to have garnered today – wanted to mention the reports that, to borrow Velonews’ title, Specialized sues Volagi over Liscio road bike. This was also being reported in the San Jose Mercury News, following on the lawsuit moving to trial. Of course, I have no knowledge about the facts/merits of the case, nor anything to add beyond the inevitable troll and flame wars to be found in the papers’ respective comments sections, but this does seem like an overreaction by Specialized. My reaction, in other words, is in the vein of Bike Snob NYC’s, who does a great job skewering Specialized and is worth reading. One interesting tidbit from the Velonews interview with Volagi co-founder, Robert Choi, is the mention that Specialized “were almost bankrupt 7-8 years ago,  and now they’re knocking on Trek’s total sales”. Is that really the case?

If Specialized were smart about this, they would just start from the fantastic looking (and riding as well, according to bikeradar) Crux disc cross bike and build up a line of disc-equipped road bike themselves. Hell, they could market it as a new addition to the Roubaix line (which is kind of what this whole lawsuit is about anyway).

The Crux, by the way:

BikeRumor - Crux Disc

(Source: Bike Rumor’s review of the Crux)

And, if they had just ignored Volagi (rather than draw attention to a pretty small fish), most customers out there would have given Specialized credit for “inventing” a disc-equipped fondo/sportive/comfort bike! Volagi seems to have a lot going for them…but, let’s face it, the primary advantage they will have is that of being “first mover” in this area. If/when SRAM/Shimano pops out an hydraulic road disc, the market will explode and pretty soon, for better or worse, we’ll have the option for a rebranded Asian carbon road frameset with disc brakes, BB30/whatever standard and tapered headtube/steerer offered at $499 from the Sette line at Pricepoint (or some equivalent). Too bad for Volagi that they have likely wasted a year of that precious time dealing with the a-holes at Big S. But I guess that’s the point of the lawsuit in the first place.

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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes: WHITE(!) Volagi Di2 Edition

Volagi

Yowza – two of BB’s favorite obsessions, wrapped into big tasty package! Bike Rumor has some shots of this white Volagi, built up with Ultegra Di2 and a white TRP Parabox (more links to the Parabox to come, btw) with hydraulic discs. Can’t wait to see the ride reports on these Volagis (built with hydro discs and the Parabox) to start popping up – clearly there are a number of them out there being tested.

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via Bike Rumor.

Road Bike Disc Brakes: Latest Roundup

The whole “hydraulic disc brakes on a road bikes are inevitable” thing that we have been bumping here on BB for some time now has, it seems, crossed some sort of critical threshold in the past couple of months. As well it should. The tone is shifting from, “here is a crazy idea that might work” to, “this is going to happen, but when will SRAM or Shimano get off their asses and make a hydraulic road lever?!” This was most recently illustrated by Velonews’ general article on road discs, by Caley Fretz. His conclusion:

Without the availability of a hydraulic road disc, this is all conjecture. There are far more hurdles to be overcome, too many for this space.

That said, with every innovation comes the inevitable “my gear is just fine” argument. Friction shifting was satisfactory, as were six-speed indexed downtube shifters. Single-pivot brakes were great in their time. Eight-speed Shimano STI was phenomenal.

We never realize what we have is inferior until its (superior) replacement becomes commonplace. Mountain bikers will never go back to rim brakes, roadies will never go back to downtube shifters. Ten years from now, perhaps we’ll be wondering how anyone rode with those old dual-pivot rim brakes.

Yup, pretty much the BB party line.

Here is a little bit of a link roundup, highlighting a few of the fairly recent contributions to the ongoing discussion:

  • CX Magazine just now put up a little piece on Tim Johnson’s disc-ready Cannondale cross bike. The Cannondale fork is quite nice as well:

  • Last, but most intriguing, is this update to the Volagi from Procyclingnews’ Interbike coverage. I mentioned Volagi quite a while ago as I somewhat randomly came across their site very early on (in the life of the company) – you may recall that they are building a brand entirely around a platform of disc-only, full carbon sportive/gran fondo/”comfort” frames with all mod cons (BB30, tapered steerer maybe?). If anyone had incentive to grab one of these Macgyver-ish cable-to-hydraulic converters (that we’ve linked to here on BB in the past), string it together with some high-end gear and roll out a pro-style hydraulic disc’d road bike, it was Volagi. Looks like they’ve done so, and looks like Pezcyclingnews has it on test. I’ll keep an eye out for the review. In the meantime, here is a pic:

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Mavic Zap, in the Wild

Because I have mentioned Mavic’s original electronic shifting setup, ZAP, a few times, figured I should link through to some recent photos I saw of the gear. I’m always brining it up because it demonstrates the flexibility of an e-shifting setup that did not rely on dedicated shift/brake levers for actuation. Instead, one could use the little toggle button controller anywhere on the bars, freeing the rider to pick whichever brake levers they preferred regardless of how they connected to the shifting.

The actuator button:

The rear derailleur (which was powered by the motion of the chain through the pulleys, I believe):

via cycleexif.

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Good News/Bad News: Di2 11-speed And Disc Brakes For 2013?

Cyclingnews is reporting today a number of insider rumors on the next iteration of Dura-Ace and Di2. Shimano might finally jump up to 11-speed cassettes, which is not that surprising given Campagnolo Some of this is the obvious stuff you might expect, namely that they will be “harmonizing” Dura-Ace with Ultegra Di2 so that the systems would be interchangeable and D-A would use the better wires and harnesses.

They note:

Indexing control will supposedly be moved to a front-derailleur-mounted microprocessor, turning the levers into ‘dumb’ switches that merely send binary signals – just like on the recently introduced Ultegra Di2.

What is interesting here is that this clearly sets the stage for a “controller” paradigm that we’ve been talking about here on BB: with the “brains” moved to the derailleur units themselves, the actuators on the bars (or elsewhere) do become “dumb” switches. As we’ve also been saying on BB, this frees up space in the levers and it appears Shimano will be using that space to integrate a disc brake option as well.

Sounds like the disc option would be mechanical in the 2012 year, but maybe hydraulic by 2013. Can’t wait to see what Shimano would do with a high-end road hydraulic caliper, though it sounds like another year or two before we see that.

The bad news in all of this, though, is what will become of Bliggity Blog once I can no longer pontificate about hydraulic disc brakes on a road bike. Maybe then I will move into advocating for internally-geared hubs on road bikes. Or, I could actually write more about the state of the world, the collapse of global capitalism and the future of market-based socialism. Time will tell….

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Ridiculously Complicated Fixes…: Wireless Electronic Brakes Edition

via BikeRadar.

Yes, it’s the stuff of potential nightmares: a wireless disc brake setup. As noted here on BB before (and many other places), we’ve kind of been down this road before in cycling, with the Mavic Mektronic shifting setup. Which was kind of a disaster/joke. And, no, it wasn’t a disaster because of the wireless shifting alone….but the wireless deal always seemed like a solution to a problem we never had. Shimano seems to agree, given that they have now released two, big dollar (even for Ultegra Di2) electronic shifting setups that use wires for shift “actuation” (and little motors to actually move the derailleurs; which may well be the “real” actuation, now that I think about it).

Electronic shifting seems fairly simple compared to braking. For one thing, the total force and energy needed to complete a shift (which is actually just the force needed to move a derailleur a couple of millimeters at a time) must be lower than pushing the disc pistons with sufficient force, right? So, if the biggest manufacturer of components in the world – with a massive R&D budget and all that – decides to not even bother with wireless shifting, why would anyone bother with wireless braking??

If it did work, though, what are the possible advantages of a wireless braking setup? I think there are two fundamental (and obvious) ones:

  • The simplest (potential) advantage: lack of cables/hoses (and needing to accommodate cabling in/around the frame). With wireless braking, the set-up work would be almost completely centered on the caliper. You would bolt on the caliper, do the adjustments and attach whatever pneumatic source is required for the actuation of the caliper. But, this is probably going to be a hydraulic setup, right? If so, you are not actually removing the hydraulic actuation process from the bike, you are simply moving it from the brake levers on the bars to the caliper area itself. So, running a hydraulic cable from the levers is only really adding the marginal increase in hosing (a couple of feet) and whatever amount of extra hydraulic fluid is in that hose. I can say, having just installed new caliper and levers on my MTB, that there really isn’t much fluid in those hoses (the inside diameter of hydraulic hoses, in other words, is quite small). Thus, I don’t see much advantage to removing the hoses, apart from freeing up one more (albeit fairly minor) parameter for frame designer, who would no longer need to think about internal routing, external hose mounts, etc.
  • The other potential advantage is reducing the complexity of the brake lever/actuator on the bars. If you only really need some kind of electronic device that measures how much a lever is being moved and translates that into an electronic signal sent to the caliper/receiver (which would translate the movement of the actuator into an analogous movement of the “real” brake), you don’t need much up there on the bars. This could very easily (I would assume) fit into the body of even an old-school, simple brake lever. I suppose you could even have multiple actuators (think brake levers on the bar tops of cross bikes, as currently used), allowing the rider to brake from almost any position. This last option is a bit more compelling…but, then again, it’s hard to imagine many more places on the bars from where I’d rather actuate the brakes.

As I think this through here, the wireless braking idea still seems like a big loser. Or, maybe just another ridiculously complicated fix to a non-problem that we didn’t really have. Given that we still don’t have a real road hydraulic disc option yet, let’s hope for the development of one over the next year or two. Once the “traditional” hose/line-actuated hydraulic setup has been refined, then maybe – maybe – the idea of a wireless braking setup would be worth considering.

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