Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Hydrolic Dick Breaks"

Yeah, the title is misspelled, I stole the term from BikesnobNYC. So sue me. (unless Snobby is actually reading this, in which case, please don't sue me.)

There have been some interesting deveolpments as of late in the "technology" sector so it felt like a good time to re visit the discussion about disc brakes. 
If you recall from a previous post, "it's a love hate relationship," I discussed the merits and pitfalls of disc brakes for mountain bike applications. Overall, I believe the idea behind them is sound. Where I take issue is when the industry decided to adapt the technology and apply it to road use. 

To me, the idea was ludicrous to begin with. But the industry ate that shit up! 
(Most of them had this to say.) All sorts of bikes are being spec'd with Hydraulic rim and disc brakes for the 2014 model year. 
This provides a whole host of problems that they address by simply selling you new shit.
To whit; road frames do not have disc brake mounts, so now you need a new frame. 
Unless of course you get hydraulic rim brakes, in which case, you don't need to change the frame or wheels. Then, you only need to get rid of your current rim brakes that work well, and replace them with more expensive ones as well as the shift/brake levers that go with them. 

                                                      ...Seems like a fair trade-off. 

In my opinion, SRAM had the most anticipated product,
(Which appear to have failed) but Shimano was not without fault either. They had been using cable actuated disc brakes which provided the same logistical nightmares, i.e, frame compatibility and the always prevalent brake rub and high pitch squealing...
Then, just like Apple and the cluster-fuck that is iOS7, problems began immediately. 
With a mass roll out, a lot of products quickly saturated the market, and did not even make it to our showroom floor before the product was recalled
Upon further inspection, the recall expanded into other markets. 
At least Shimano had the decency to go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and issued a voluntary recall. Sighting, for the most part, why the product was unsafe. This got the word out almost immediately to both IBD's and consumers. 
SRAM, on the other hand, issued what they are calling a "stop sale"
News broke yesterday on bikeradar.com as a "recall" and the post was quickly removed. It appeared hours later as a "stop sale" with speculation among industry professionals that SRAM asked that it be corrected. 
Regardless of why no one mentioned this to the CPSC, the information was not widely available until later in the day and no further information was given as to why the product was deemed "a safety issue."
Seems a bit sketchy to me. 

It was under the guise of "stopping power" and "heat build up" that the brakes were introduced to the road market anyway. The theory being, carbon and alloy brake tracks heat up under braking forces outside of the realm of normal use, i.e; mountain road descents at higher than normal speeds. 
Heat in a brake track is bad because it can cause the bead of the tire (which holds it on the rim) to deform, then fail. That can cause serious injury, even death. 
Disc brakes do not solve this problem for two reasons;
As most of companies making the components can attest, brake heat is still a real problem on hydraulic disc and rim brakes, 
And, clearly, the "safety issues" they have found after the fact, are the same that plagued them before the introduction of the concept. 
As heat builds up in a brake rotor, it can glaze the surfaces of both the pads and rotor, making it impossible to stop. 
As Hydraulic fluid heats up, it "boils" bringing air to the surface and reducing the fluid's ability to work properly, resulting in failure. 
The manufacturers maintain that "we use this fluid because it doesn't boil." Or "we use this type of pad and rotor because they reduce heat to begin with making it safer." 

Case in point: Racers have been battling steep mountains of France for 100 years, 
From the time Tulio Campagnolo invented the quick release skewer to the advent of electronic shifting, most innovations have been met with gratitude and acceptance as a true improvement to the quality of racing in those types of environments.
There never was, nor is there now, a need for disc brakes on road bikes. 
The UCI (the same sanctioning body that told Lance Armstrong to take a hike) has not, and will not approve the use of disc brakes in competition until further testing is done. 

...because clearly it is needed.