Taipei sneak peek: TRP Parabox hydraulic junction - drop bar levers meet hydraulic discs

Tektro's racing arm thinks that hydraulic discs are the future of 'cross, our resident luddite isn't so sure...

by Dave Atkinson   March 15, 2011  

TRP Parabox hydraulic junction

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When we were at Eurobike last year we kept bumping into Hydraulic converters that allowed you to run cable road levers with hydraulic discs by converting cable pull into hydraulic push. They were, for the most part, proofs of concept by smaller manufacturers but the news from Taipei is that this particular bandwagon is one that brake giants Tektro are keen to be on.

TRP, Tektro's racing arm, are showing their Parabox hydraulic converter at Taipei Cycle, and thanks to the iPhone of Dom Mason from Kinesis we've got a sneak peek.

TRP's Parabox converter fits undeneath the stem (via a special spacer by the look of it) and is a relatively slimline affair, with two brake noodles feeding the wires in to the back and the hydraulic lines exiting stage front. It's not quite as neat a system as the Ashima one we saw that was all hidden in the stem, but that was admittedly a mockup made from plastic, not an essentially finished product like the Parabox here.

Clearly the brake manufacturers think this is the way that cyclocross is going to go, although the technology also has applications for touring and urban bikes. But what does our resident cyclocross racer and professional luddite, Jo Burt, think of all this? We asked him...

Do we 'need' them? a lot of people i know (both racers and 'recreational' cross riders) deliberately enjoy the Idiosyncrasies of cross bikes and riding inappropriate terrain on them. Go to the continent and watch riders with a professional level of skill and you'll see that they barely use their brakes, so the technological progression could probably be meaningless to them. But then they said that about disc-brakes and MTB racing as well.

the hydro/cable disparity has always been an issue, and cable discs are pretty terrible. Well, not terrible, just fiddly and variable, so converters like this are going to be a solution. However, with disc brakes getting smaller and smaller a hydro road-brake lever shouldn't be far away.

i think the cyclo-cross genre might split into two over the next few years, those that want to ride a 'proper' cross bike – whether that's for lightweight racing or just mucking about on – and those that use their bikes for more rough-stuff (XCX anyone?) or commuting and want the hassle-free and predictable braking of discs. And there's those that weigh too much for cantilevers to slow them down, or want technology to compensate for their skill set.

It's odd: none of the people I know that race CX, or simply ride them for what they are, are demanding disc-brakes. A lot of the clamour for discs on cyclo-cross bikes seems to be coming from mountainbikers, the ones that buy a cross bike because it's different and light and fun to ride compared to their heavy over-suspended mountainbike, and then  complain that it's not enough like their mountainbike and want to slow it down with baggy steering and overblown brakes...

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Good old Jo is always good for a bit of ludism. While I agree with his comments on what CX racers want the world is more complex than that. (I remember an interview in Cycling Weekly in the early 90's talking to David Baker or possibly Nick Craig about why they didn't use the then current Shimano type canti brakes which had better stopping power than the low profile "Old Skool" cati's they were using. The answer was that in a CX race one didn't actually want to stop, just scrub off speed and the older style provided a more controllable feel). Is the UCI decision coming about because MTB racers who have crossed to CX prefer the feel of the disks on their MTBs? Whereas the more traditional Roadie/Cx racer is probably more than happy with cantis.

For the rest of us though drop bar bikes with disks are surely a step forward?

I disagree to an extent that cable disks can be a little fiddly. I totally disagree that they are rubbish. There is a lot about my BB7s that I prefer to the Juicy 5's I've used before. Really like how tuneable the bite point/feel is with the mechanicals.

For my money I would be happy for Shimano/SRAM/whoever to do a high end cable disk for drop bars. Sort of Ultegra level. The main problem I have with the BB7s is the adjuster for the fixed pad is a pain to get to with the wheel in situ. Plus neither of the adjuster dials are very finger friendly. Change them for Allen/Torx dials and placed to be easy access with the wheel in and I am happy. Surely got to be less weight and faff than these cable/hydro converters.

The alternative is for full hydro drop bar levers. Surely Di2 has freed up a lot of room inside the lever that a master cylinder could be fitted in to. The question is what is the motivation for such a beast? The UCI allowing disk brakes on road races would be the answer to that.

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [361 posts]
15th March 2011 - 14:44

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I want hydraulic dics on a roadbike because I have little faith in caliper brakes stopping me as quickly as I need to stop sometimes. Last year in the Alps, descending down the Tourmalet and other large hills, I didnt let go as much as I dare due to having caliper brakes. It must be said that at 130kgs, I am no feather weight!

posted by broomwagonblog [14 posts]
15th March 2011 - 16:27

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In my opinion broom I think you'd find cable disks to be fine, a 180mm/185mm on the front should be fine for you. I'm 103kg and my BB7s work fine and stop me well. I know what you mean about caliper brakes. I'm quite happy with them for sporty riding on my RB but for touring and winter riding I'd like an all rounder road bike with disks and I'd be happy with cable activated.

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posted by bikeandy61 [361 posts]
15th March 2011 - 17:54

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This is great news indeed and has been a subject close to my heart since I bought my disk kinesis crosslight in 2003, just before the last time they were banned by the UCI!

been running the kinesis since 2005, with BB7 disks. I originally set it up for the three peaks but has been used as winter trainer, tourer (with bob jak trailer on the back) raced it cross, MTB and in triathlons. Also makes a great commuter with no dreaded brake gunge.. only used two sets of pads ...yes two in six years..and needs v little tweaking.

I am sure purists will stick with cantis, as brant notes the MTB fraternity did until 2005, when xtr became lighter in the disk variety.
In the dirt, who complains about too much braking power, control is king! mud clearance and components will last forever, even carbon rims.

weight may be an issue however not much choice...... unless sram and shimano start outdoing each other with high end mtb / road combos.

let the ludites frown...

ride it like you stole it.

posted by kingotheshire [6 posts]
15th March 2011 - 19:39

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I'm a big fan of discs on cross bikes, having been using them for 5 years. Whilst Avid BB7s are heavy, they are easier to set-up than any canti IME - even better is that the latest model has a Torx head on the inboard fixed pad adjuster. Whilst the TRP950 cantis on my cross-race bike are pretty awesome, the fact that you don't get rim wear and all-condition effectiveness on discs is a big plus - just gimme something lighter and I'll be really happy.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [345 posts]
15th March 2011 - 23:08

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I think my concern with hydraulic disks on road bikes would be having TOO MUCH power and the risk of not being able to modulate the power enough to stop the back end locking up and sliding. that's certainly happened to me on my MTB on a road surface although knobbly tyres didn't help there either. one armco barrier, smashed rear wheel, road rash to die for, later........ Crying

experienced riders know how to modulate the power on the brakes and steer out of danger but I'm not sure less experienced do, and hydraulics might be a step too far for the less experienced but they are likely to be the buyers - new sparkly tech and all that!

no issue on cross bikes as hydraulics come into play in the dirt but on road is a different thing

and broomwagon - "Last year in the Alps, descending down the Tourmalet and other large hills" really?? in the Alps??? Big Grin

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posted by fat buddha [14 posts]
16th March 2011 - 16:08

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I'm right with JB on this one. Moving from good-stopping Campag cantis to scary "speed modulating" froglegs raised my cross handling no end - no front wheel washouts, and far more fluid riding. Where these will win is on road going tandems, but IIRC a version of these have been available for these via Santan fro some years IIRC

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posted by woodrz [4 posts]
18th March 2011 - 16:40

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Hmm, good points indeed about possible lack of modulation.

Would not want to lock up the front on the road either!

Sure the idea really appeals to me - a CX-ish bike with hydraulic brakes. Commuter, bridleways etc. That would be pretty cool, but indeed modulation may become quite high on the list as I don't think that locking up fronts on the road for example is a good idea. It could be plausible with hydraulic brakes too... maybe... dono....

Now thne, let's make a really clever anti lock mechanism for bikes. Not too much extra complexity yet high effectiveness.

Oh that would be good! Tongue

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posted by koko56 [298 posts]
20th March 2011 - 21:44

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