The Latest

Introducing November Nimbus Ti hubs, manufactured by White Industries. Industry leading performance, unprecedented value. Complete wheelsets starting at $585.

Site Search
Friday
Feb062015

Riding the Brakes Redux

So now that I have about 1000 miles on the disc brake bike (I spent 9 days riding my behind off in Tucson), in all sorts of weather (during the trip to Tucson, we got 2 of Tucson's average 12 rainy days per year), on all sorts of roads and grades, with groups large and small and alone, what's the report?First off, they stop well. Very well. While riding in a traffic light-rich environment, I noticed myself coming to a stop much sooner than others. I very much still think that mixed company riding is not a big deal. The argument that everyone will have to switch at once for a peloton to work is a straw man. The simple fact is that when you ride with a group, you have the ability choose how quickly you brake, and though it might take a little getting used to, the few hundred miles I'd done prior to the trip were much more than needed to acclimate me for riding disc brakes in a group. But when you want to, yeah, you can stop quickly. 

During the first ride or two, I actually skidded more than a few times while braking. I've tried to describe it a few times without a ton of success, but what I notice is that instead of thinking "how much pull do I need to get the job done," you think "how much less power than a full skid do I want here?" That's a very imperfect way of stating it, but it's the best I can do for now. 

Setting the bike up after a plane trip, I had to adjust the front brake mounting slightly. This takes all of 30 seconds but it does require a Torx screwdriver. My mini tool has the right one, and my mini tool is pretty basic. Yours probably has the right one. 

Until it rained, the brakes were silent. The closest I came to actual noise was on my second trip down Mt. Lemmon, which was done at absolute warp speed. I rode down with the gentleman who placed second in Ironman Hawaii last year, and we were HAULING. Approaching one sweeper bend, we caught up to three cars (went from 200 yards behind them to ON THEM in about .01 seconds) and I had to scrub a bunch of speed quickly. There was a bit of resonant hum at the very end of that, but not as much as the noise coming from my counterpart's carbon clinchers (which weren't very loud, either).

In rainy conditions, they're loud. Loud. A rainy trip down Kitt Peak (steeper, less regular, and more technical than the Lemmon descent) had them screaming a few times. It can be a bit disconcerting. There are those who will say "Shimano brakes wouldn't have made noise" and to them I say you are wrong - I've ridden with plenty of people on Shimano brakes and wet rotors and fouled pads are wet rotors and fouled pads, no matter who made them. On my CX bike, I use plate rotors (no holes at all) in muddy conditions, which ameliorates this to a huge degree. We are also talking about pretty nasty conditions here, with many deep puddles and an absolute metric ton of silt and sand and general yuck getting smashed into the pads. Lightly sanding the pads (remove wheel, fold piece of sandpaper and place between pads, lightly pull brake leer, rub sandpaper back and forth - takes two minutes and you'd want to do the same routine with rim brakes after a ride like this) after riding and cleaning the rotors with an alcohol swipe silenced the brakes, at least until the next deep puddle and general ingress of road skank. Two days of persistent rain, and Tucson is a wet wet wet place. Inadvertent rivers all up in the place. 

So, are disc brakes the next big thing?  Should you throw out your current bike to get some? 

Here's my take: for the road bike riding that I do, which general falls under the auspices of racing and training for racing, without a whole lot of "this isn't the right place for a road bike but let's do it anyway" type of stuff (I have a cx bike and a mtb for that, and I'm not being judgmental but I'm just not into that stuff as a regular part of my diet), and with the occasional gran fondo, but with most of my huge hilly rides either during races or with small to medium groups of well-ish matched riders, I'd just go for rim brakes. I'm fairly light (low 160s), and as a descender I would call myself highly skilled and confident, although I am a chicken and a half when descending in rain. 

The aftermath of torrential rain. This is a once in a lifetime event on Mt Lemmon. Lucky to have seen it.

If, on the other hand, I was super into the "adventure" stuff, or was 25 pounds heavier and had a calendar full of hilly gran fondos and centuries, or did a lot of touring, or did a lot of commuting in the Pacific Northwest, I would go for discs. To be honest, if that was my gig, I'd also just use a cx bike and not a road bike, but that's just me. Also, having experienced both mechanical and hydro discs, I can't wait to put hydros on the cx bike. There's absolutely no comparison. You might as well be talking about the difference between 1960's era rim brakes and the latest dual pivot caliper brakes. It's night and day. 

Do I think road racing needs discs? Absolutely not. They're nice, but like anything else in the world they have their plusses and minuses, and they're no magic bullet.  And I ran this one really long. Sorry.

Friday
Jan232015

2015 Rail Enhancements and Pre-Order

It doesn't yet feel like two years ago that we launched the Rail 52, but here we are - and a year into the 34 to boot. In that time, they've starred in VeloNews, done even more time in the wind tunnel, undergone an extensive real world brake performance test program, and of course been used to win a pantload of races and done too many miles to possibly count. We're proud parents. Of course, plus ça change... we're constantly working to improve everything we do, so we're introducing a few small changes. 

First, and most significantly, we're eliminating the clear coat on the brake track. The clear coat makes them look insanely hot out of the box, but it wears relatively quickly. We've gotten more than one "oh my God my wheels are a week old and the brake track is scratched up!" email. Soon enough that wear normalizes and everything is hunky dory. We've also learned that the wheels brake better and more quietly as the clear coat wears away. So, since form follows function, new Rails will be sans clearcoat from the get go, instead of getting that way over time. The new rims look great, too. 

 

Rails shipped with disc hubs (becoming a bigger thing all the time) will continue to have the clearcoated brake track. This makes them look their best, and the clearcoat provides a modicum of protection against scrapes and scratches. 

I guess that photo lets the cat out of the bag on the second change - graphics. More and more, people requested all white or all black graphics. While we're huge fans of color ourselves, we swim against enough tide and we're just going with the flow on this one. So new Rails will also have new great look! The updated graphics will come in white, as shown above and below, or in a super dark charcoal (but not black) color that, once we picked it, we immediately named "bleached black." In the coming few days, we'll post copious photos of both (non)colorways. Warning - these photos will feature cacti and stunning scenery. Just be ready for that. 

As Rails become better and better known, the Rail branding has actually caused a bunch of confusion. The link between Rail and November often gets missed. We also really really like the new November branding that Casey dreamed up for us last year, so we're going with it. The bleached black version is much more subtle, but if you want a little zing in your swing, the white's where it's at. There is always a rainbow of colored hub and nipple choices at your command, as ever. 

The other change you'll notice at the moment is that we're going back to the future and, for the first time since who knows when, we're having a pre-order on Rail 52, Rail 34 and Custom Rails. Starting now, all Rail orders are on pre-order for $100 off the regular price (which is unchanged for 2015). Delivery is slated for mid-ish February, dependent of course on volume and our capacity to hand assemble, build and ship each wheel.  

Saturday
Jan032015

Riding The Brakes

It seems I've developed a bit of a specialty as the reluctant "early" adopter of disc brakes. A few years ago, I took the bullet when we first tested the HOT BUNS. More recently, I've been seen on the Timoneria Disc. While a lot of people out there in the wide, wide world of sports have their own HOT BUNS, and a handful will very soon have their own Timoneria (which, I assert, is the plural of Timoneria), I have the as-yet only disc version of each. Check me out.

Brief aside here, many of you are probably asking just what the hell is a Timoneria, and have Mike and I completely lost it and gone into that ersatz cycling "homeland" naming convention that we used to hate so bad? No, and we still hate that crap just as bad. The Timoneria, in name, concept, and execution, is the Italian version of the Wheelhouse. "Timoneria" is the Italian word for the cabin aboard a sailing ship or yacht from which the craft is steered - quite literally, the Wheelhouse. Again, check me out.

Oh HAI! Check me out.So now I've got about 250 miles on the beast, and I've developed a few impressions. At first, to someone who's spent his last, what, 25,000 road miles on a Wheelhouse, it's familiar. It's got some palpable differences, all to the good, but I'd like to focus on the brakes for a start. 

Escuse me, my discs are down HERE, you pig

While I've ridden disc brakes probably a great deal more than most in general, that has been primarily on mountain and cross bikes. I love my mtb's hydro brakes dearly, but my relationship with the mechanicals on my cx bike hasn't been as wunderbar. Whether road disc gave an experience more like the mtb or the cx bike would tell the tale.

 

The whole thing adds just shy of a pound against an equivalently spec'd rim brake bike, and we've previously explored the aerodynamic ramifications for the deal. How those affect the general mood in your household is for you to determine, we just give you the honest dope on what the numbers say.

To the riding... well, they certainly work very, very well. I've not ridden them among a group, but to me the whole prospect of danger in mixed company is a non-story. When you ride with a group, you ride as part of the group, and there's nothing to discs that would prevent that. In riding alone, it took a couple of rides before I did start to notice my braking habits starting to change. The ability to brake in excess of your traction is right there. If you think rim brakes are easy to skid, you ain't seen nothing yet. The net of this is that you brake not with what your brakes can do in mind, but what your tires can do. Yes, you can brake later, for sure. And sometimes, that means you get to the point where you thought you were going to need to, and instead you see that you really didn't need to brake after all and so you don't. That's the most striking thing to me so far - I actually half expect to get better through turns just by learning that I was actually braking too much before.

Operationally, they're tight. Rotor rub was easy to get rid of and hasn't been in an issue since about minute six of my life with road discs. There's an interesting issue where I actually think an overly-stiff front wheel will turn bad, but that's a story for another day. There's been no noise, despite a couple of rides being in damp conditions, and in general noise is super easy to manage. I'll send you the link that explains it.

One thing I was concerned about was shifting performance on a 135mm dropout spread with a 405mm chain stay. Shimano straight ahead says 415 should be the minimum chain stay length. Good thing I used Force for this build, because you can cross chain your face off on my setup. It shifts perfectly. 

These are preliminary thoughts. Later in the month I'll be in Tucson (haha!) and will get to do some big ass descents and put some more stress on things but for now I'll say that it's far from a life changing thing that I could never again be without, but they're certainly nice and work quite well. And, I almost forgot, those big honking shifters are actually super comfortable. 

 

Wednesday
Dec172014

Disc Brakes in The Mythical 40k TT

Now that Velonews.com has posted the complete data for the wind tunnel test of disc brakes versus rim brakes, it's time to take a look at the time gaps you could expect to see across the mythical 40k TT.

As you see in the Velonews graph, the speed difference between the disc bike and the rim bike is greatest when the wind is blowing from the drive side of the bike. The drive side of the bike is normally the faster side of a bike with rim brakes. The dynamic that causes this is also nearly certainly responsible for this difference - to put it in the simplest terms we can, you're adding sail area to the disc side. This helps to overcome some of the drag added by the disc setup, and makes the disc side of the disc bike relatively faster than the drive side of the disc bike. 

However, this difference is most profound at greater wind angles - wind angles that don't commonly come into play. There have been a bunch of studies that show that even in fairly windy locations, at the speeds we typically ride, we are most often riding with an apparent wind angle of 10* or less. This study that Trek did while developing their SpeedConcept bike is a great read on this (section 3.2 has what you're looking for). Our convention has been to use the weighting that Tour Magazine uses for their tests, which places a similar emphasis on wind angles of 10* or less, but logically brings wider angles into play at slower bike speeds. The slower you go, the more likely you are to experience wider wind angles, although wind angles of greater than 12* or so are still quite rare. 

Between -10 degrees (the drive side is the negative side) and +10 degrees, the extra watts of drag that the disc bike incurs are fairly symmetrical. As you get out to the wider angles, the drive side becomes relatively slower, while the non-drive side becomes very equal to the rim-braked counterpart. 

Thanks to this distribution, the delta between the disc and rim bikes in the mythical 40k TT are similar no matter which side the wind is from. Imagining a flat, out-and-back 40k TT course where the wind is blowing from the left on the way out and the right on the way in, the time costs for the disc brake bike are:

@30mph - 3.6 seconds out, 4.7 seconds in - 8.3 seconds total

@25mph - 4.5 seconds out, 4.5 seconds in - 9 seconds total

@20mph - 3.5 seconds out, 4.5 seconds in - 8 seconds total

My New Years resolution (I haven't made one in about a dozen years) is to use subjective language as infrequently as possible, so we will simply let those numbers speak to themselves. We're sure that the forums will host fierce battles for all perspectives. Our objective (see what I did there?) in doing this exercise was merely to quantify the difference between the two setups in order to give people the information that allows them to make the decision that best suits their purpose.

I've had lots of articles published in mags, but never a pic. It's cool

Wednesday
Dec102014

Wind Tunnel Test of Discs v Rim Brakes, pt 1

On June 24th, we had a good idea. We had a trip to test a bunch of stuff at A2 planned out, the results of much of which we've published previously. Since we'd seen a rise in road disc wheel activity, we thought the time was right to include Rails with discs. It's such a small step from ignorant guessing to knowing, all it takes is a test.

Well said, sir!

The good idea was when we thought "you know, no one's really published anything remotely definitive about the aerodynamics of disc versus rim brake wheels - maybe some bigger media outlet wants to work with us on the story?" Before lunch, we were hooked up with Velo, with the proviso that the story would be about the whole package - wheels in the bike. 

 

Since we didn't have "except for brake format" race-oriented rim and disc brake frames of our own at the time (we do now), Caley Fretz at Velo offered to arrange getting two frames to A2, and off we go. 

For those keeping track at home, June 24th is a challenging date on the cycling calendar. Life is in FULL swing. Caley was off to France to cover a bike race, we're going like mad trying to keep on top of orders, but we were behind ourselves getting to the tunnel and didn't want to delay it anymore.  We scheduled the tunnel for July 28th (which is already a lot less hectic for us than June), which would give everything plenty of time to happen even in light of the TdF and everything else. 

The only thing more expensive than paying for testing in a wind tunnel is paying for not testing in a wind tunnel. Despite confirmation that frames had shipped, frames hadn't shown up and there was no good info on where they were or when they might arrive at A2. Since I was driving down and had made a bunch of arrangements to do other stuff in concert with the trip, plus our desire not to delay the trip anymore, we kept the schedule even as the frame component started to look a little questionable. We rearranged schedules by a day to give the frames an extra day to arrive, and kept on. Fortunately we were able to be super productive during the day and a half that we were there when the frames were supposed to hit, because the frames never showed. We never doubted the Velo component, but it won't be a surprise when I say it felt like not everyone involved was playing it straight up. What are you going to do? We did our testing, made our contingencies, and when the frames never actually showed up, we went home without that piece accomplished. 

Thanks to Caley's persistence, the frames eventually showed up at A2. Plan A was just to have A2 run the tests on our tab, with me "present" by remote connection- basically Facetime. Plan A never works. When A2 unpacked the bikes, there was a lot of work to do in order to net out differences in the frames. The disc bike was Di2, the rim brake was mechanical. Seats were different. Bars were wrapped differently. Too much noise. Another high and hard fastball, the degree to which this was within the pitcher's control is up for debate. So I saddled up a jumbo jet and flew back down to A2 to equalize the bikes as much as possible. When the bikes went into the tunnel, they were as equal as they possibly could have been - the only differences were the differences elemental to disc versus rim brake bikes. A2 sent the data files directly to Velo, and I shipped a bunch of photos off.

As alike as they can be made

With this accomplished, the only difficult part was keeping mum about what we had done and learned. You spend that kind of dosh to make that kind of a leap in your understanding of things, and your instinct is to start shouting about it post-haste pronto. Nope. Gag order until the December issue dropped, which was scheduled to happen in early to mid November. Tough, but worth the eventual exposure. Patience is not my strong suit, this was agonizing. 

Then the December issue came out, and it was the awards issue, no sign of our test. After my coronary event subsided, I learned that there had been a shuffle in the editorial calendar and it would be in the January issue. Not ideal, but okay, just a couple of weeks tacked on. And then, Monday, this beauty landed in my inbox. 

Of course nothing is ever even that straightforward, right? Of course not. Flipping through Twitter last night, I see a "how much do discs really slow you down?" tweet.

 

 

Hmm, we didn't take a video so what's with the YouTube link? Oh. Specialized decided to publish their own test, from their tunnel. Coincidentally, one day after Velo drops the issue with our story. That sure is one heck of a coincidence, huh? They've got the resources do it, and we're certainly in favor of more info being out there for consumers. The problem is that their test sucks - they left sloppy differences in place between the two bikes, and they only tested with wind from one side. If you guessed that the differences from one side to the other are absolutely nothing alike - congratulations, you win! 

Those of you who get Velo will have seen or will soon see the data for yourselves, and we'll be able to talk a heck of a lot more about it soon. At this point, we're glad that objectivity is starting to displace conjecture, and happy to be at the forefront of the discussion.

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 71 Next 5 Entries »