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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Mother of Invention: UCI Weight Limit Edition

Over on the excellent Inner Ring, they mention a report that perhaps the UCI is reconsidering the (notorious) 6.8kg rule. The rule, for those not keen to the inner workings of pro cycling (read: you can stop reading now if this kind of arcane crap holds no interest), is of course that bikes ridden by professionals in UCI-sanctioned races can weigh no LESS than 6.8kg (which is 14.99 pounds).

The rule came along at a time when a 15 pound road bike still seemed kind of far-fetched, albeit not an impossibility. The technological march of progress has continued, though, and now pro mechanics must often reach into the tacklebox before stages to ADD small weights to bikes in order to meet the minimum. And, Joe Consumer (with $7k to burn) can fairly easily buy an off-the-shelf bike these days that weighs less than the bike upon which
Alberto Contador will win/not win/win and then have taken away later this year this year’s Tour de France.

This is the kind of ruling around which all sorts of stupid debate will spring up (just look at the first few comments on that inrng post to get a taste) about innovation, safety, fairness and blah, blah, blah. Some have taken this so far as to create a t-shirt that Sammy Hagar could love:

I don’t care much about such debates. This is not merely because I am currently carrying around well more than a minimum UCI bike weight of human fat on my own personal body, although that is definitely a big part of my non-concern. I also don’t care because any such weight limit is, by definition, arbitrary and kind of hard to justify.

I do care, however, for one main reason. Yes, it gets us back to the BB fixation o’ the year: hydraulic disc brakes on a road bike. As one of my sons likes to say: what the?! The fantastic unintended consequence of the UCI minimum weight rule has been removing the immense pressure to constantly lighten bikes by taking things away. By removing this incentive – and by even encouraging teams to add things to bikes – the UCI has indirectly expanded the market for reasonable and useful additions or extras. If you were going to have your mechanic literally add lead weights to your race bike, why not use that same amount of weight for a power meter while you race? Or, why worry about 250 extra grams for an electronic shifting system? Might as well test them out in competition, run them as prototypes, or just get more useful data that could never be collected in training conditions.

Thus, we return to the disc brakes. My slightly educated guess about hydraulic road disc brakes on road bikes is that you are looking at, let’s just say, about a half pound of additional weight once you get a workable system out there. This will come down significantly over time, of course. But, at the start, when the systems are more like modified mtb gear mounted on road frames not yet optimized for disc strengths/weaknesses, with first generation calipers and rotors, and with non-optimized wheels and rotor interfaces, there will definitely be a weight penalty. With the UCI 6.8kg rule in place, it is that much more likely that someone will start experimenting with hydraulic discs. The ultimate irony would be that, contrary to the protests of the “don’t limit innovation” crowd who oppose the 6.8 rule, the longer run necessity imposed by the weight limit would actually “mother” far more long-range, paradigmatic innovation in the cycling biz.

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Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes: Braking Update!

Sure enough, no sooner had I written more about braking options and ideas, I came across a few more choice tidbits.

First off, on the Fair Wheel Bikes blog, I saw this write-up of a newer hydraulic disc option – intended for MTB, but seems like it could be germane to the road situation as well. Rather than use tiny pistons (like current hydraulic calipers) this uses a system more akin to “bladders” or membranes to push the pads toward the rotor. The little red anodized line there keeps the two sides in balance with fluid, and the caliper body itself is apparently a single piece design. I feel like I saw another such system at some point, but can’t find it in my bookmarks file (by the way, I highly recommend Pinboard for bookmarking!). Anyway, the Fair Wheel guys note a more nuanced and modulated brake feel with these, even if they don’t provide the full-bore power of something like XTR Trail calipers.

photo via Fair Wheel Bikes.

These could be interesting, particularly for those who (wrongly, in my view) claim that hydraulic calipers are “too powerful” for the road context.

Secondly, I also came across a cool Canyon project bike from a couple of years ago….built around, you guessed it, hydraulic discs. Canyon’s approach was interesting, particularly for dealing with fork torsion loads. You’ll have to take a look at their site directly to see the one picture they’ve got up, but it’s worth the click. Canyon opted to go with a 2-rotor system up front. Yes, that means 2 calipers as well! This way rotors are very small and braking loads somewhat cancel each other out, it seems. Pretty impressive piece of engineering, although I’d like to see an update now that fork sizes have increased so much. Canyon came up with some kind of a shifting option integrated with the hydraulic levers, although it’s not clear from the picture what exactly their “fix” was; looks like extra levers of some sort.

Taking that Canyon Project bike from 2006 and adding the Fair Wheel Di2 hack…you’d basically be at the point of having a viable hydraulic disc road bike. Or, better yet, take the Volagi frame, add the Canyon dual-caliper fork, run Fair Wheel’s Di2 system, and you are there.

In the next installment, I’ll focus on fork design options…and eventually get to the ultimate goal: internal shifting.

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White Bikes: Torelli Edition

Poor Torelli seems to be pretty much completely ignored by most everyone in the cycling world. This is sad because they have quietly put out a couple of damn fine carbon framesets, complete with all the requisite tech-o stuff: tapered steerer/headtube, BB30, integrated seat mast. Granted, these are likely the same basic frames being sold under the Ritte label (and featured here on BB a while back), or any other number of brands. However, Torelli has always done the simple, high quality finishes just right. And, this one is no exception:

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via Torelli.

Eurobike 2010: Hydraulic Road Disc Option

In their coverage of Eurobike, road.cc makes mention of the oddity that so few cyclocross manufacturers are showing disc-brake cross models (now that discs are UCI legal).

Or maybe no-one’s doing anything until one of the big manufacturers brings out a credible hydraulic system that works with STI-style units. There was a loose handful of bikes with little cable-to-hydraulic converter units zip-tied under the stem, a small company called Cleg made the tidy if agricultural box and we’d like to get a chance to throw one down a muddy slope to see how it feels. There were a few instances of ‘cross bikes using cable discs but as a gritty cable can make them perform worse than a set of cantilevers and almost as bad to set up whilst being heavier then they’re not overly popular.

Still seems odd to me that nobody has come up with a hyrdraulic “brifter” option yet; here is the “agricultural box” mentioned above:

Maybe I mentioned this before, but there did used to be a cable-actuated hydraulic disc option from RockShox. Similar idea as this, but the action was all down at the caliper. Still, they both seem goofy.

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via road.cc.

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.