Video: Hands-on with the new Focus RAT (Rapid Axle Technology) thru-axle

Check out how easy the new Focus thru-axle tech is in this video

by David Arthur   August 31, 2014  

The big trend at Eurobike - and it's a really big one - is disc brakes on road bikes. This has created several debates around disc rotor size and axle technology. On the latter topic, most manufacturers are either sticking with conventional quick releases or borrowing thru-axle standards from the mountain bike world, but German manufacturer Focus have developed a new and really smart thru-axle technology.

It's called Rapid Axle Technology, or RAT for short. We had a hands-on demonstration at the show, to see how easy it is to use. It's really easy. So easy that we could fit it into this six second video:

Unlike a regular thru-axle on a mountain bike which has to be threaded into the dropout and then clamped shut, the RAT thru-axle uses a design that only requires a 90 degree rotation of the axle in the dropout before the lever is closed.

One of the arguments some people trot out about thru-axles is that they’re slower to operate, and wheel changes are therefore slower than regular quick releases. This clever and very simple design completely eliminates that argument and is, as you can plainly see, even quicker than a regular quick release.

Focus are using this new RAT axle on their equally new Cayo Disc bike and their Mares cyclo-cross models. They use a 15mm axle in the fork and the main reason for this is that they can actually manufacture the fork with a single weave of carbon fibre running the entire length of the fork and wrapping around the closed dropout.

The demonstration on the Focus stand was getting a lot of attention. The buzz is that a few manufacturers have shown an interest, so there is the potential that we could see this axle technology appearing on a few bikes other than those in the Focus range in the future. Of course some people argue that there is no need for thru-axles on road bikes  - if your fork is stiff enough it won't twist anyway goes the argument - but Focus clearly feel the benefits are worthwhile enough to have developed their own thru-axle solution.

Focus also repeated to road.cc what they told us at the launch of the Cayo Disc, that in their testing they found 160mm rotors a preferable size option over the more common 140mm rotor size, and handled the buildup of heat generated by the discs far more effectively. This goes against the clear trend at the show for the smaller rotors, which is largely the case because Shimano recommend 140mm rotor sizes for all but the largest cyclists.

Colnago have been working with suspension fork manufacturer Manitou on HexLock which is a very similar thru-axle technology. It’ll be used on the new V1-r aero road bike but it’s not quite ready yet. We’ll have a closer look at that along with a video chat with Colnago’s chief engineer in a future article..

Click here to read all of our stories from Eurobike 2014 - the world's biggest bike show.

20 user comments

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Lets see a video of back wheel removal and refit please.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [955 posts]
31st August 2014 - 20:19

22 Likes

Had a good look at the updated Manitou Hexlock @ Eurobike Dave. It was looking pretty polished...

http://www.pinkbike.com/news/answer-knolly-nicolai-eurobike-2014.html

posted by Alb [81 posts]
31st August 2014 - 21:36

10 Likes

how transferrable are these? Is buying the bike going to lock you in to just this axle/vice versa?

posted by nuclear coffee [159 posts]
31st August 2014 - 22:52

9 Likes

The next thing I want from a bike, in the future when I buy a new bike to add to my stable, is disc brakes on the road and because of that I have been paying them quite a bit of attention with the conclusion that normal quick releases can work, but if you take the wheel out there is little chance it will go back into the same position, but bolt through like systems can be made to work and the wheel always seems to go back to the same place and because of that you don't get the disc rubbing the QR system is prone to.

Even so I think for race bikes in the peleton a bolt through system is going to be hard to make work because it takes time to pull the release out - this though is a game changer - I already own a Focus, but they just went right to the front of my list when I get that new bike

posted by leqin [105 posts]
1st September 2014 - 7:27

6 Likes

This is a very interesting approach. I'd be interested in how many manufacturers license RAT, or develop similar approaches like Colnago.

Quote:
some people argue that there is no need for thru-axles on road bikes - if your fork is stiff enough it won't twist anyway goes the argument

I thought the bigger concern was disc/pad alignment. There you go!

posted by truffy [308 posts]
1st September 2014 - 8:27

4 Likes

leqin wrote:
....but if you take the wheel out there is little chance it will go back into the same position, but bolt through like systems can be made to work and the wheel always seems to go back to the same place and because of that you don't get the disc rubbing the QR system is prone to.

As long as you take the same care to sit the axle properly into the dropouts as you would with any wheel then it shouldn't be misaligned.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [814 posts]
1st September 2014 - 9:26

3 Likes

another benefit from not using traditional QR mounts with disc-braked wheels is that the wheel cannot pop out of the dropouts or become misaligned, under heavy braking.

posted by the infamous grouse [13 posts]
1st September 2014 - 9:58

3 Likes

joemmo wrote:
leqin wrote:
....but if you take the wheel out there is little chance it will go back into the same position, but bolt through like systems can be made to work and the wheel always seems to go back to the same place and because of that you don't get the disc rubbing the QR system is prone to.

As long as you take the same care to sit the axle properly into the dropouts as you would with any wheel then it shouldn't be misaligned.

don't you know anybody who wants to swap out a wheel and put another one in asfastaspossible in fact so fast that , when they fumble around with the quick release, it could mean the difference between winning or loosing a stage of a race... or even be the time they are behind the person winning the yellow, pink or red jersey.

At the side of the road on my commute to and from work I have plenty of time and at the weekend, when I go further afield, it also doesn't really matter to me how fast or how slow that wheel comes out. In race conditions - if bikes with disc brakes are going to made so that they can work and flat tyres on a disc equipped bike are not going to be a issue that leads to lost time, then it is ideas and innovations like this from Focus that will make it possible.

posted by leqin [105 posts]
1st September 2014 - 10:56

1 Like

Alb wrote:
Had a good look at the updated Manitou Hexlock @ Eurobike Dave. It was looking pretty polished...

http://www.pinkbike.com/news/answer-knolly-nicolai-eurobike-2014.html

So did we Alb, got an article + video coming on that soon. Looks pretty smart, good to see that sort of development going on

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1540 posts]
1st September 2014 - 11:28

1 Like

Looks like were looking at a Betamax vs. VHS or Bluray vs. HD-DVD competition about to break out here with thru axles, think I'd be putting off any purchase until a winner is declared.

The cycling industry is a nightmare for standards, just look at bottom brackets, which translates to cost of ownership for the rider.

posted by usedtobefaster [92 posts]
1st September 2014 - 11:33

1 Like

I've had a disc brake commuter bike for ~4 years now, and whilst I love it (the odd occasions when I ride other bikes in the wet scare me!) the one recurring issue I have is that the front QR needs done up VERY tightly to hold the front wheel securely under heavy braking- if I don't get it right I get a bit of movement and subsequent misalignment.

So, I'd love a through-axle. The added security and perfect alignment would be well worth it in my opinion. It would certainly be something I'd look for/insist upon if/when I come to buy another disk braked bike.

There you go, some opinion from someone with actual relevant experience.

posted by Al__S [545 posts]
1st September 2014 - 11:34

3 Likes

Al__S wrote:
I've had a disc brake commuter bike for ~4 years now, and whilst I love it (the odd occasions when I ride other bikes in the wet scare me!) the one recurring issue I have is that the front QR needs done up VERY tightly to hold the front wheel securely under heavy braking- if I don't get it right I get a bit of movement and subsequent misalignment.

So, I'd love a through-axle. The added security and perfect alignment would be well worth it in my opinion. It would certainly be something I'd look for/insist upon if/when I come to buy another disk braked bike.

There you go, some opinion from someone with actual relevant experience.

Can I ask what QR type you have on the front? My own experience is of disc brakes with QR on my MTB for over 10 years and on my road bike for about 6 months and have not had issues with wheel movement on either. However I have seen this on a colleague's bike and it was down to the fact he had rubbish external cam QRs that were impossible to tighten enough. If that is the type you have then you might find that an internal cam (like Shimano) will improve things.

Through-axles are undoubtedly a better option long term but QRs work as well provided you use them properly.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [814 posts]
1st September 2014 - 12:42

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Al__S wrote:
However I have seen this on a colleague's bike and it was down to the fact he had rubbish external cam QRs that were impossible to tighten enough. If that is the type you have then you might find that an internal cam (like Shimano) will improve things.

Through-axles are undoubtedly a better option long term but QRs work as well provided you use them properly.

This is one reason why on 2 of my MTB's, both of which have front forks with 20mm bolt thru's, the only quick release I allow on the rear is a Shimano - external cam QR's are a backward step imho.

posted by leqin [105 posts]
1st September 2014 - 14:11

1 Like

This looks pretty great. I really like the idea of through-axle bolts, just because it'll be easier/less fuss to get the wheel properly seated while the bike's up on the stand (not that it's really an issue, but you know what it's like), though only if somebody makes a decent chain keeper that works with the new system, along the lines of the Morgan Blue thing Smile

posted by adrianoconnor [46 posts]
1st September 2014 - 14:37

0 Likes

It is external cam ones- hadn't thought to try anything else. May well give it a go.

posted by Al__S [545 posts]
1st September 2014 - 14:54

0 Likes

More standards eh... Angry

I think here is where perhaps the UCI could help. Quick releases on road bikes are well established, so before everyone goes off and does what they think is best, UCI could get all the interested manufacturers together and decide on a standard approach that meets a certain set of criteria.
Wheels, hubs, QR's, frames, disc brakes - all will be affected.

World peace would be next on the agenda Smile

posted by ronin [140 posts]
1st September 2014 - 17:33

0 Likes

Al__S wrote:
It is external cam ones- hadn't thought to try anything else. May well give it a go.

I remember having a squeak/noise from my frame when pedalling out of the saddle. Couldn't work out where it was coming from. In the end the front QR wasn't tightened enough. I would imagine that disc brakes could be even more of an issue if the QR is not tightened properly.
I like the Campagnolo/Fulcrum or Shimano internal cam QR's. Solid, and one less thing to worry about.

posted by ronin [140 posts]
1st September 2014 - 17:49

0 Likes

leqin wrote:
Al__S wrote:
However I have seen this on a colleague's bike and it was down to the fact he had rubbish external cam QRs that were impossible to tighten enough. If that is the type you have then you might find that an internal cam (like Shimano) will improve things.

Through-axles are undoubtedly a better option long term but QRs work as well provided you use them properly.

This is one reason why on 2 of my MTB's, both of which have front forks with 20mm bolt thru's, the only quick release I allow on the rear is a Shimano - external cam QR's are a backward step imho.

+1 to this.
I had a brief flirtation with some lovely bling external cam QRs on my MTB. While they looked ace, I quickly found I had to check them quite frequently and would often find them loose. On top of that they got to be quite creaky. Back to Shimano with lesson learned!

Current MTB forks are bolt-thru and I don't see a downside really. I'd hesitate to buy a disc road bike without bolt-thru forks, although I'm not that fussed about the rear.

posted by Chuck [381 posts]
1st September 2014 - 18:35

0 Likes

I've seen this argument against external cam QRs on other sites but I have to say I don't get it. The only QR I've ever had a problem with was a Shimano internal cam one that kept coming undone so I swapped back to my externals. Off road, on road, road bike, mountain bike, commuter, disc, v-brake, caliper - never a problem with externals.

Likewise the concerns of a disc wheel popping out of a non-through axle. Mountain bikes used discs and standard qrs for years and I've never heard this reported as a problem. The only reason that mtbs have gone to through axles is to stiffen up the fork.

posted by blinddrew [20 posts]
2nd September 2014 - 22:03

0 Likes

leqin wrote:
......... but if you take the wheel out there is little chance it will go back into the same position .......

I've been using discs on my cross/commuting road bikes for ten years and have never once had the slightest trouble refitting a wheel. Not even in the dark, on a freezing morning with my fingers way beyond numb. You are worrying unnecessarily.

Mike

mike the bike's picture

posted by mike the bike [132 posts]
3rd September 2014 - 18:42

1 Like