Moving slowly around the Cycle Show yesterday waiting for the Resolve to kick in our eyes snagged on this smart-looking prototype hydraulic disc brake converter from USE.
The UCI's decision to allow disc brakes on cross bikes has seen a flurry of developments from manufacturers keen to bring the full benefits of hyrdraulic disc brakes to cross… and even road bikes. At the moment that means using a cable to hydraulic converter we've already seen production prototypes from the likes of Hope and TRP, now USE have entered the fray with a very elegant looking set up.
Unlike the TRP and Hope converters which place the two hydraulic master cylinders under the stem in a single unit, the USE setup mounts an individual hydraulic converter on either side of the stem. That makes for a very neat looking set up, if we were judging these things purely on aesthetics we'd have to say USE are way out in front. Their system slots fairly unobtrusively under the bar tape whereas unobtrusive is not a word you'd feel comfortable in applying to either the Hope or TRP units… functional would be the kindest word there. On the other hand a braking system is the last bit of our bike you'd want to be judging purely on its looks.
That's not to say that the USE system is all about aesthetics, and if it works let's not underestimate the appeal of removing unsightly clutter from around your handlebar especiallly on a cyclocross bike that's got to cope with mud, branches, crashes and being carried.
What USE seem to have done here is simplify and streamline the existing concept - those two cylinders would appear to work in broadly the same way as the TRP and Hope set ups: the lever cable still plugs in to a master cylinder which squirts the required amount of hydraulic off to the brakes. Nice.
One observation we'd have to make on all these systems though is that they do have the feel of transitional technology, how long can it really be before Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo* bring out a road/cross lever that incorporates all the necesarry gubbins for a hyraulic brake? Those USE valves are moving back towards the levers both literally and figuratively. USE's prototype have to get much smaller to fit inside a lever, drop off the cable actuated master cylinder and it surely would… there's not much going on inside a Di2 lever for instance.
And why would you want hydraulic discs on your cyclocross, road, or touring bike? Stopping power is the answer - you can already run mechanical discs with drop bars, and while they are more powerful than conventional cantis or dual pivot brakes they don't have the outright stopping power, and lever modulation of hydraulic discs. Hydraulic systems are usually self-centring - so you don't need to adjust them - which is pretty useful too.
Word from the guys on the USE stand is that this was something that was very much at the prototype stage at the moment with a likely launch date of some time next year to hit the shops in 2013. For cross riders who can't wait that long for hydraulic brakes Hope's system will be available from November costing around £300 the TRP system should be available any day now too. Both TRP and Hope are brake manufacturers so their systems work with their brakes and indeed you buy them as a system –
If you'd like to see USE's hydraulic disc coverter for yourself pop along to the Cycle Show in the next couple of days… book in advance and tell them road.cc you sent you and you will get a discount on your ticket. There's a special ticket offer price for road.cc users of just £11.50 per ticket - that's £4 off the standard ticket price. You can buy tickets by going to www.cycleshow.co.uk/book or calling 0844 848 0132 and entering the discount code ‘RCC’. The offer price does not include a £1 booking fee.
*okay, on current form the UCI will have legalised hover bikes for cross before Campag get around to squirting any hydarulic fluid our way.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.