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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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: Interbike 2010 Edition

Sorting through the Interbike 2010 coverage (and post coverage), one can pull a few different threads together to weave a more complete vision of the Bliggity Blog ROAD BIKE OF THE FUTURE. In any event, a couple of interesting “proof of concept” type things popped up…as well as the first, full-fledged, market-ready framesets it would seem.

Let’s start with the disc-ready framesets, because that is probably the most exciting – or certainly the most important in terms of reasonable disc-ready bikes getting to market. There are now two bikes out by the Volagi company, which it appears was started by two engineer types who left Specialized. I assume they are in Northern CA as the pictures on their site are straight out of Sonoma County – Geysers and Pine Flat would be my best guess. Volagi seems to be aiming for the high-end endurance/Gran Fondo market opened by Specialized’s Roubaix and Cannondale’s Synapse lines a few years back. Here is the Venga SL model, shown at Interbike:

via procyclingnews.com

There are many great things about these bikes even apart from the disc brakes; the quick rundown would be:

– full carbon construction

– taller headtubes for comfort and position, without having to resort to crazy high post or a riser stem

– BB30 bottom bracket

– cool looking cantilevered seat mast design that probably offers a supple ride

– integrated fender mounts

– ability to run most any size tires without worrying about clearance

In short, you’ve got all of the features that are becoming standard for high-end carbon frames (and presumably this could quickly include a tapered steerer setup as well).

Then, of course, you’ve got the disc brakes:

That fork in particular seems really nice. Would love to know about how it works in practice, as the road disc skeptics usually argue that standard forks can’t handle the torque from braking down at the tips. More on this to follow…

So, what else do you need?

  • hydraulic discs
  • shifting options that work with hydraulic
  • fork (and frame) redesign that can take advantage of the options opened by hydraulic discs

I’ll take each in turn in the posts to come!

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