Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes: Braking

First off, the keywords for the BB Bike o’ the Future: integration; single-purpose components.

So, in Part I of the Bliggity Blog Road Bike of the Future series, I pointed to the upcoming/already released Volagi carbon frames as, to my knowledge, the first instance of a production line of racing and/or sportive-oriented road bikes designed around disc brakes. Just going by what you can see online (I have not touched nor seen a Volagi in person), these seem like about the best option going – at least given the current design and technology constraints. However, I would expect that, once the disc brakes on road bikes ball gets rolling, the Volagi design will quickly be seen as a v. 1.0 attempt at truly leveraging the potential strengths of the disc brake paradigm.

Braking

Right now you pretty much have to use cable-actuated mechanical calipers – probably either Avid or Shimano. Again, I have not used either of these, but I know from endless online debates in the MTB world that mechanical brakes have their proponents. However, mechanical discs are just plain stupid. For one, you still have to monkey around with adjustments, cable stretch and cable degradation over time. Secondly, they just do not seem to offer the power of hydraulics (at least when each is set up to the best of its abilities). Finally, they are clunky…and, overall, likely to be heavier after a few more rounds of hydraulic revision in the next couple of years.

So, what if you wanted hydraulics on your (drop bar) road bike, right now? You are pretty much out of luck. One option is to rely on the the previously discussed mechanical-to-hydraulic converter, which appeared at Eurobike 2010. Although it brings a weight penalty, this would allow for any shifters/brifters you would like. Another minus: it’s ugly. I will say, though, that this is pretty elegant given the fundamentally kludgy nature of what it is doing. I suppose this thing could be further refined, and it is somewhat neat to think it would allow you to swap “brifters” over time, without touching the braking system.

It isn’t hard to imagine how a nice, super lean hydraulic road caliper could look – just think of the new Shimano XTR race calipers with maybe even a bit more taken off. And, how long would it be before some crazy cool composite rotors started to appear for the road market. Like this:

Still, what is really needed is a true, purpose-built hydraulic disc shift/brake option. I would bet good money that Shimano has one or more of these mules buried somewhere on a test bike in Japan or Irvine, probably machined from Alu with Sharpie notations all over it. For now, though, this is vaporware. Why would it be Shimano (apart from deep pockets)? Because, in my view, you cannot address the hydro disc issue without addressing the shifting issue…and Shimano, more than anyone else, has dealt with the shifting issue. Which leads us to….the next episode, which is forthcoming!

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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes: Focus Edition

So, I’m not really trying to make BB into a “hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes” advocacy blog….but this still seems to me like one of these “so obvious that nobody sees it coming” kind of shifts and moments. Above we see selected shots from the Focus 2011 MTB introduction, all of which illustrate the brilliance of hydro discs on modern road bikes. Hell, you could pretty much run the brake lines through the bars, into the stem and down to the calipers, all internally. And you wouldn’t really need to care about access because, at least for non-pro riders, hydraulic lines get set one time and pretty much don’t need to be touched for years.

Yes, I know you need a more reinforced/rigid fork to handle the braking torque of the disc system…but, jeez, everyone is switching to tapered steerer columns and it’s hard to imagine that the Fisher/Trek widened flange system won’t become an industry standard. Every road manufacturer in carbon is shifting toward an “everyday aero” model as well (like the S range from Cervelo), so a deeper fork blade (maybe with a little “door” of sorts to enclose the caliper) isn’t much of an issue.

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all via Cyclingnews.com.

Road Hydraulic Discs – When?

Having a number of high-end shops around here in NorCal, I’ve handled Shimano’s Di2 levers a number of times now (and tried them out in a ride-on demo at the NAHBS a few months back). Definitely my favorite lever feel of anything out there currently.

When I see and feel those levers, though, all I can think is that we are one step closer to a viable, top-end road hydraulic disc option. Looking at the 2011 XTR hydro levers, just drives this home for me:

After all, factor out the bar clamp and lever arm and you’ve got very, very little material left on these. And, assuming that the full extension of the hydraulic chamber there could be shortened a bit for a road application, seems like that could pretty easily be shoe-horned into the existing Di2 levers without much modification. Given how svelte the new XTR disc calipers are as well – and, again, factoring in the smaller size needed for a small-rotor road model – this doesn’t seem all that crazy, does it?

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via mountain.bike198.com.