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We visit Tektro/TRP in Taiwan and Marketing Director Lance Larrabee tells us why disc brakes are set to dominate across all sectors of cycling…

Tektro have over 160 CNC machines working 24/7. They produce 20,000 road caliper brakes a month – nearly quarter of a million per year. And that’s nothing compared to the number of hydraulic disc brakes they make: 2.2 million per year. In short, they know a thing or two about brakes, so when the Marketing Director of TRP, Tektro’s high-end division, says that disc brakes are going to take over in every sector of cycling in the next few years, you have to take it seriously.

Of course, it’s in TRP’s interest to big up disc brakes – they make them. But they also make lots of caliper brakes so they’ll sell plenty of units whatever happens in the market.

Plus, you don’t have to take TRP’s word for it. SRAM have already announced new road disc brakes and there are strong rumours that other major manufacturers will be launching their own models very soon. A massive shift is certainly taking place.

The Tektro brand has been around for 27 years and employs 1,400 people. I’ve come to visit their manufacturing facility outside of Taichung in Taiwan, where they’ve been for the past four years. Everything is milled in here, they have a forging plant next door, and the carbon fibre parts are created at their older factory five miles up the road.

I won’t go too deeply into the manufacturing process but there’s some seriously powerful machinery here it. This is a 400 tonne press, for example. To put that in perspective, a Volkswagen Golf weighs about 1.5 tonnes. You wouldn’t want to get your fingers caught in there. In goes a solid lump of metal, out comes a section of brake.

The impression you get wandering around here is that Tektro take their testing and quality control very, very seriously indeed. Brakes are tested individually before they go out. The testing is done on machines, 300 cycles per brake, then they’re pressure tested for 400 seconds. If the brake passes, it’s held for 36 hours and then pressure tested again. This isn’t just done on sample brakes but on every single one before it leaves the factory.

As I said, TRP is the high-end division of Tektro, the initials originally standing for Tektro Racing Products – although the name is now just TRP. Essentially, Tektro products tend to be mass market while TRP are more exclusive, high-performance components. We’ve shown you TRP’s new Spyre and HyRd disc brakes recently, along with the Hylex hydraulic road/CX brake

We spoke to Lance Larrabee, TRP’s Marketing Director, about both the brand and the future of braking. As you can’t fail to have noticed, big things are happening in road bike braking right now and Lance reckons this is just the start…

 

road.cc: Tell us about TRP's track record in developing brake technology?

Lance Larrabee: In cyclocross and time trialling, we’re the number one. We invented the direct mount brake. Working with Specialized, we mounted brakes directly on pivots rather than with a centre bolt mount, and Shimano have followed us.

We had this idea for a V-brake that goes directly behind the fork. When everybody was worried about the 3:1 rule for the airfoil shapes [the UCI rule stating that the depth of the tube can’t be more than three times greater than the width], we thought we could extend the airfoil shape by making the brake part of that fork blade, so the TRP TTV brake goes directly behind the fork blade and creates the trailing edge of the airfoil shape. Giant are using that on their Propel aero road bike now, Argon 18 have been equally successful with it and so have Colnago, Wilier… more and more people.

Our lightweight magnesium brakes have been used on the highest level Cannondale Ultimates and Specialized Tarmac SLs.

 

Are disc brakes for road bikes really going to be the next big thing?

We feel like we’re the industry leaders in niche areas and if the biggest revolution coming in cycling is disc brakes for the road, we want to be at the forefront of that.

We know from motorsports that disc brakes are faster and we know that in Formula One, with those carbon fibre rotors, the drivers can leave their braking until later and reduce their lap times. Imagine if Nibali can dive into a corner and brake later on a descent, if he can get away by 30secs. If big brands are behind disc brakes for road, then the UCI can’t deny it.

I think it’s sensible not to just throw the gates open yet [disc brakes are not yet legal in UCI-sanctioned road racing], but every major bike manufacturer has a disc brake road bike coming

 

What about hydraulic rim brakes? Do you see them making much of an impact on the market?

Well, people who tested the SRAM version at Sea Otter said that it wasn’t great [we did a First Ride last month]. We’re looking at it – we have a design in the works – but at the same time we feel, why go halfway?

 

What do you think about cable systems versus hydraulic set-ups?

A hydraulic system has more power ultimately, and better modulation whereas a mechanical system is a bit lighter. The current TRP HyRd system [a mechanical interface hydraulic disc brake] is within 5g of the weight of an Avid BB7 [cable operated disc brake].

 

The Spyre, the two piston mechanical brake is 40g lighter than a BB7, it is 20mm narrower with 20% more power, so it’s for the person who wants light weight.

A standard Shimano Dura-Ace road caliper weighs about 135g and the Spyre is 140g, so you’re only really adding the weight of the rotor. We think that for simplicity and weight that might be really good, but I tend to prefer the power and modulation of hydraulic, and it feels really good in your hand. It feels like a well setup road caliper.

And whereas SRAM systems are super-expensive – they’ll be on $10,000 bikes – the HyRd can be positioned on an Ultegra-level bike at $1,500 and it’ll work with any current shift lever available.

 

What about rotor size?

Heat is not a big issue for us but we think you need a bigger rotor just for the extra leverage. We recommend a 160mm for the road. I think 140mm is fine for cyclocross.

 

Whenever we talk about disc brakes for road bikes, people on the road.cc forum always say that the limiting factor at the moment with existing caliper brakes isn’t the braking power, it’s getting the tyre to stop on the ground. What do you say to that?

I’d invite you to use the brake and make your own conclusion. It’s not a question of locking up the wheel all the time; what you want is power and control and that’s what you get here.

Normally, to pull up at a stop sign you’ll use about 3kg of lever force. It takes 6kg of lever force to clamp the brake tight so there’s a lot of room in there to feather the brake. It’s not like it’s on/off. There are armchair engineers who imagine what it’s like but they should use them and see.

 

Will discs eventually expand into every sector of cycling or are there areas where rim brakes will always remain dominant?

I don’t see why they shouldn’t go everywhere.

My first bike had a 5-speed freewheel and I made it into a 6-speed. People asked me what I wanted that for and thought it was stupid – but now we have 11-speed. I think it’ll be similar with disc brakes. Riding a disc brake bike on a descent gives you more control and is more fun than riding a caliper brake bike.

 

When it comes to developing disc brakes for the road, is it a question of developing existing mountain bike technology or starting with a clean sheet of paper?

It’s a little of both. We started with a basic mountain bike design but we’ve developed it for the road. The Hy/Rd’s composite pistons, weren’t used in mountain bike brakes, and we’ve had to think about the leverage ratios for road levers and things like that. Plus, a brake for the road has to look like a road product and not like a mountain bike product.

 

So, where do you see road bike braking heading next?

Well, we’re waiting for all this to shake out now. Then I think thru-axle designs [where the dropout is closed at the bottom as you’ll find on many mountain bikes] will come to the road. The danger with carbon dropouts is that you can remove a little material from the dropout with very heavy braking.

In road racing, you can’t file off the lawyer tabs [the tabs on the end of the fork dropouts that stop the wheel falling out even if you forget to tighten the quick release skewer] anymore, so to do a wheel change you have to unwind the skewer. It’s not that much more difficult to slide a thru-axle in and out to change a wheel.

 

For more info on TRP visit www.trpbrakes.com. The Tektro website is www.tektro.com. The UK distributor for both is www.upgradebikes.co.uk.

 

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

54 comments

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Roastie [27 posts] 3 years ago
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Interesting thought about thru-axles. It looks like quite a faff - perhaps someone might invent a new road QR/thru-axle type system that is more disc brake friendly?

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bikeandy61 [538 posts] 3 years ago
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I wonder if the people who talk about lack of grip with disc brakes on road bikes have ever tried them? I find and I'm pretty sure others do too that with a disc brake you just apply far less pressure at the lever to achieve a stop. IMHO I reckon if you just jam your brakes on even "big" mtb tyres will skid. There is an amount of recalibration but for me being able to stop (well) in the wet and having to use far less hand effort at all times means I can't wait to afford a disc braked road bike.

BTW one of the things I love about the BB7s on my mtb is that I can adjust the feel/bite point to exactly how I like. I didn't find that with the few hydro systems I used in the past. More recent units may be different.

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NeilXDavis [122 posts] 3 years ago
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Agreed..does sound like a faff...

Biggest problem is as the UCI say you cant have a peleton some with disks and some without...it has to be all or nothing..someone in the middle of a bunch with way more powerful brakes is going to cause a crash...how on earth do they get round that little one??

I take my time with tech and just wait and see...do like watching the developments though..like the electronic shifting I will give it another couple of years before I commit to it...its close...and discs will follow.

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fluided [6 posts] 3 years ago
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Can you imagine how painful if in the peleton a big crash at speed with nice big disc brakes the lacerations you may get, that would'nt be to pretty.  20

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Al'76 [110 posts] 3 years ago
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I just like the idea of riding through the winter without killing a set of rims...

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monty dog [459 posts] 3 years ago
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fluided wrote:

Can you imagine how painful if in the peleton a big crash at speed with nice big disc brakes the lacerations you may get, that would'nt be to pretty.  20

Ever seen the lovely mess a chainring makes when it meets flesh - should we ban those too?

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Cycle_Jim [264 posts] 3 years ago
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@Al'76 YES!!!! My brakes and rims wear so quickly! Esp as I live in a hilly area! Personally sounds all good to me, I'm guessing that hydraulic brake surface and pads will be a helluva lot cheaper than new rims! Thru axel wouldn't bother me either and seeing that I'm in no need of super quick wheel changes I wouldn't be bothered.

I'm not going to be jumping at Di2 unless someone gives it me, but I think the hydraulics would be something I'd want.

As for the peloton having or not having it would it be riders personal choice? Ie like electronic shifting and some riders opting out (and pissing sponsers off I imagine).

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Yennings [237 posts] 3 years ago
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Ultimately I suspect it will have nothing to do with stopping power. Disc brakes are bound to proliferate because they'll enable Shimano to sell a whole new generation of groupsets, Specialized to sell a whole new generation of frames and Mavic to sell a whole new generation of wheelsets. The combined marketing might of the cycle sector will overcome such petty considerations as whether discs work any better (which personally I think they do anyway).

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hairybiker [12 posts] 3 years ago
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That'll be the end of radial spokes then  20

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mrmo [2088 posts] 3 years ago
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disc brakes will happen, the same way 29ers 27.5ers are now happening, performance is only part of the reason. Money is the other.

To be honest i am not sure which is actually driving this!

Do i want disc brakes, to be honest i am not fussed, will my next bike have disc brakes? almost certainly as that will be the only option.

I use disc brakes on the mtb, and they work, are they better than the Maguras i used before? or the v brakes, or the lo pro canti's or the XT2's i started with? no not really, they are different, they have pluses and they have minuses. The real plus is mud clearance, which isn't really an issue on the average road bike.

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dave atkinson [6247 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm testing those Hy/Rd discs pictured at the top at the moment. the big win isn't the (mainly theoretical) increase in absolute power. it's the amount of force needed to do normal braking, on a normal ride. it's *so* easy.

setting them up is easy, and adjsuting them is easy too because you don't really have to.

can you cook them on a descent? you can make them fade, a bit, by dragging them on a long descent. but you can't boil them, the master cylinder is barely warm even when you could fry an egg on the rotors.

are they better than dual pivots? yes.

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Municipal Waste [240 posts] 3 years ago
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Al'76 wrote:

I just like the idea of riding through the winter without killing a set of rims...

Ride a fixed gear?

Am I the only person who thinks that TRP just isn't special enough? It doesn't matter how good they are or aren't.

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Welsh boy [300 posts] 3 years ago
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"This press, for example, applies 400 tonnes of pressure". The tonne is NOT the unit of pressure, when are these lazy/ignorant journalists going to learn?

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Jerm [39 posts] 3 years ago
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It may not be the unit of pressure but is far easier to comprehend than psi or bar.

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fukawitribe [1817 posts] 3 years ago
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Municipal Waste wrote:

Am I the only person who thinks that TRP just isn't special enough? It doesn't matter how good they are or aren't.

Eh ?

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dunnoh [199 posts] 3 years ago
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I would really love a set. My bike is great but as a heavy rider coming down hills in the wet is quite an experience. I've replaced the cables and put Swiss Greens on but it still a struggle stopping. I'm sure better control would give me more confidence to go quicker downhill

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BBB [416 posts] 3 years ago
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As a long term user and fan of disc brakes (road and MTB) I believe that majority of road cyclists... don't need them.

Let's be realistic here. A typical rider doesn't live in the mountains, doesn't cycle in the rain (regularly) and doesn't cycle often enough for the rim wear to be a problem. There are lots of weekend warriors who can't handle their bikes well on descents and during group rides and disc brakes could make things worse for them and for the others.

Yes, disc brakes are technically superior but there's really not much wrong with modern rim brakes. They're cheaper (to buy and service), very effective (especially with good after market pads) and easy to adjust.

Oh.. and it's not "revolution". More of a slow evolution at best.
They've been plenty of people using discs on road/CX/commuter bikes for ages without waiting for official permission from the marketers and jurnos  3

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fukawitribe [1817 posts] 3 years ago
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BBB wrote:

As a long term user and fan of disc brakes (road and MTB) I believe that majority of road cyclists... don't need them.

They don't need them - but it might be an improvement in some ways...

BBB wrote:

Let's be realistic here. A typical rider doesn't live in the mountains, doesn't cycle in the rain (regularly) and doesn't cycle often enough for the rim wear to be a problem. There are lots of weekend warriors who can't handle their bikes well on descents and during group rides and disc brakes could make things worse for them and for the others.

It *could* I guess - but i'm really not sure it would. One of the benefits of hydraulic calipers, disc or rim, is the (typically) big increase in modulation.. I can only see that helping those with less handling skills or experience.

BBB wrote:

Yes, disc brakes are technically superior but there's really not much wrong with modern rim brakes. They're cheaper (to buy and service), very effective (especially with good after market pads) and easy to adjust.

The price difference will decrease, but you're right - it is an issue and can't see that completely disappearing. As for effective... well yes they can be, especially when you start throwing money at them.. can't say i'm that taken with then and never have been even over a few decades - the response curves are often poor, the feed-back and feel worse and wet weather behaviour (not a minor consideration in the UK) often worrying even with after-market pads and the maintenance/adjustment a pain to keep them really sweet. I'd swap mine for reasonably priced and light hydraulics in a head-beat, but obviously it's a highly personal thing so I don't expect everyone to agree.

BBB wrote:

Oh.. and it's not "revolution". More of a slow evolution at best.
They've been plenty of people using discs on road/CX/commuter bikes for ages without waiting for official permission from the marketers and jurnos  3

Absolutely agree - but i'm not sure that's entirely the issue... the big problem I see has been getting the manufacturers to offer something decent in the first place. Hopefully things are moving in that direction now !

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Al__S [1051 posts] 3 years ago
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I commute using discs (BB7s) on a heavyish drop bar Kona and try to avoid taking the lightweight bike out when the roads are even a bit damp- Sunday best and all that. Had a mechanical issue the other week that required parts, so the sunday best was pressed into commuting service. On a rainy day. A really rainy day.

Cambridge obviously lacks hills, but I was almost caught out when stopping at junctions by the poor braking I had from rim brakes- I'd genuinely have expected to stop much more quickly, my rim brakes when soaked just didn't bite as quickly as I wanted them to!

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mrmo [2088 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

I'd genuinely have expected to stop much more quickly, my rim brakes when soaked just didn't bite as quickly as I wanted them to! I'd genuinely have expected to stop much more quickly, my rim brakes when soaked just didn't bite as quickly as I wanted them to!

to balance, went out on the MTB a few weeks back and it was very wet to say the least, the disc brakes, XTR on aligator rotors were shockingly bad!!! just nothing at all!!!!!

apply brakes, nothing, no slowing, eventually they started to bite but it took seconds, far worse than the calipers on the road bike.

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Critchio [181 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm the proud owner of a Lynskey Sportive Disc and I love it. The discs are only mechanical BB7's (the lightweight ones)at the moment but the bike is ready for hydro's when I am ready to take the plunge an they are a bit more mainstream. Now I've sampled disc brakes on a road bike I will never go back to rims. The braking is soooo much better in every way and my hand built wheels will last longer from zero rim wear.

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Paul J [901 posts] 3 years ago
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The Nibali argument is daft. A rider can only make up time because of superior disc braking *IF* they are the only ones with disc brakes. Of course, if Nibali has them, so can other riders, so there's no advantage. With better brakes, they might go faster, but they'll pretty much *all* go faster - the relative differences shouldn't make a difference.

Let's be honest, it's the riders that make the sport - not the equipment. Would the sport be much different if we put them all back on steel frames and friction shifters? Not really...

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footsore tramp [6 posts] 3 years ago
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Not something for the peleton but I recently put a sturmey archer drum/dynamo combo on my comuter. Brilliant stuff. Very little maintenance, very bright lighting and sealed off from the elements. A few years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of using drum brakes but now I can't imagine this bike without them. Braking is definitely a horses for courses subject.

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Colin Peyresourde [1749 posts] 3 years ago
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Dan Lloyd rode some of his Giro previews on a road bike with disc brakes. All in all I think if he is impressed and it worked for him descending those climbs then I'm on board for disc brakes.

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imaca [75 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm not convinced road disks actually solve any problems for me and I still haven't seen potential problems (eg dragging rotors) addressed. In this interview the market speak starts almost immediately "We know from motorsports that disc brakes are faster" faster than what exactly?.
"with those carbon fibre rotors, the drivers can leave their braking until later and reduce their lap times" thats nice, are you planning to fit carbon rotors to bicycles?
"Imagine if Nibali can dive into a corner and brake later on a descent, if he can get away by 30secs" Have you done testing to confirm this?
I'm not saying disk brakes are neccessarily a bad thing, but this knid of market speak does nothing to convince of anything other than this is just a marketing exercise to make more money. Please, feel free to prove me wrong with some actual relevant facts.

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fluided [6 posts] 3 years ago
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Bloody hell someone's not getting any.  4

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Ghedebrav [1100 posts] 3 years ago
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Yennings wrote:

Ultimately I suspect it will have nothing to do with stopping power. Disc brakes are bound to proliferate because they'll enable Shimano to sell a whole new generation of groupsets, Specialized to sell a whole new generation of frames and Mavic to sell a whole new generation of wheelsets. The combined marketing might of the cycle sector will overcome such petty considerations as whether discs work any better (which personally I think they do anyway).

^^^

This is the only real reason. Aren't you (royal 'you') already starting to feel anxious that your road bike set-up won't mirror that of the pros?

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Fipzee [5 posts] 3 years ago
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I have mixed views on this one. My MTB has Hope hydro brakes and I much prefer the feel and confidence I have in their stopping ability over the tradition road set-up. But how much "innovations" like this and electronic shifting are about genuine improvements v manufacturers just getting us to buy more bikes remains to be seen. I think we should all laugh at ourselves a bit on this front - be honest before electronic shifting how many of you were so frustrated by the huge effort of gear changing that you longed for a solution to stop your fingers aching! This ends up being more about have the latest and greatest rather than tranforming our riding experience. And you know what I'm cool with that.

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Colin Peyresourde [1749 posts] 3 years ago
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Fipzee wrote:

I have mixed views on this one. My MTB has Hope hydro brakes and I much prefer the feel and confidence I have in their stopping ability over the tradition road set-up. But how much "innovations" like this and electronic shifting are about genuine improvements v manufacturers just getting us to buy more bikes remains to be seen. I think we should all laugh at ourselves a bit on this front - be honest before electronic shifting how many of you were so frustrated by the huge effort of gear changing that you longed for a solution to stop your fingers aching! This ends up being more about have the latest and greatest rather than tranforming our riding experience. And you know what I'm cool with that.

You don't have to buy them if you don't want to. I would think the main considerations would be sorted when they release these to the pros, but just remember, you current calliper breaks work perfectly well, it is not going anywhere you are not!

Jeez, you'd think it was getting the latest update/patch for a piece of software.

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Lifer [20 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

to balance, went out on the MTB a few weeks back and it was very wet to say the least, the disc brakes, XTR on aligator rotors were shockingly bad!!! just nothing at all!!!!!

apply brakes, nothing, no slowing, eventually they started to bite but it took seconds, far worse than the calipers on the road bike.

If your hydro disc brakes are 'far worse' than the calipers on the road bike then there is a serious problem with the disc brakes.

Been riding mountain bikes from cantis through v-brake to disc brakes and all have been a significant step up in performance. To say otherwise is absolute nonsense IMO.

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