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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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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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes: Shifting Update!

Following up on my post on Di2 shifting options and the Fair Wheel Bikes Di2 hack, I’ve looked a bit longer at the Calfee Design Di2 battery modifications displayed on a titanium frame from Vuelo Velo. Looks like Calfee has actually been doing this for a few months now and can also retrofit other carbon frames for the internal Di2 option. Here is the core of their kit:

Calfee Di2 Retrofit

photo via Calfee Design.

Also turns out that my old buddy Mike is now working on promotional type stuff for Calfee…and his brother and other buddy, Ian, owns a shop in Waco, Texas that is taking delivery of some really nice Calfee rigs. Ian’s own personal bike is simply incredible – not to mention WHITE! – and employs the internal Di2 setup. Apparently Ian will also be on Calfee’s new “Adventure” frame for gravel road riding as well. Take the following as a teaser; he’s got gobs more photos on his shop’s site…but that white Specialized crank setup (on a PressFit 30 bottom bracket, I would assume) definitely warrants a picture here on BB:

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