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Tag Archive: shimano

Interbike 2013: Hydraulic brakes on the road

Three years ago when the UCI began to allow disc brakes for cyclocross racing, it opened a floodgate — a number of manufacturers rushed to adapt discs for road/cross disciplines. Quick advances in brake assemblies, frame fittings and forks, hubs and all the other attendant bits occured. Still, many people wondered if brakes were really needed for road bikes…and if mechanical (cable-actuated) brakes were up to the task. A couple boutique manufacturers developed mechanical-to-hydraulic adapters, such as the TRP Parabox, among others.

And that set the big manufacturers to putting their R&D muscle behind the idea of hydraulics for the road…but how to fit a master cylinder into the shifter body? It took a couple of years before it was ready, but things are finally starting to make it to market.

SRAM came through first with the “Hydro R” setup in two versions: RED for the well-heeled, and the S-700 for a somewhat more affordable option. The master cylinders are contained in the brake/shift lever bodies, and here’s the really interesting thing: they come in disc OR hydraulic rim brake options.

Forgive these somewhat awkward photos, but SRAM’s display made it difficult to get a good shot of the brake options. Check SRAM’s website for all the lurid details and better product images.

RED rim brake:
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RED disc:
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S-700 rim brake (left) and disc (right):
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Over at Shimano, things are not quite ready for release. They had prototype Dura Ace Di2 hydraulic brakes/shift levers on display, and they felt good in the hand. They’re not scheduled for release until spring 2014, according to one of the Shimano techs I spoke to. Visit Shimano’s site for more details on the brake systems they will offer for the road.

Here are the shift levers with master cylinder hidden within:
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And the brake bodies/discs as installed on a road bike:
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The brake bodies and discs borrow technology from Shimano’s mountain groups, namely the ICE heat management system. Road discs can get extremely hot during prolonged descents, and that is the Achilles Heel of hydros, according to a number of sources. Shimano’s ICE system should help alleviate heat-induced brake fade.

I asked the Shimano tech if this hydraulic wizardry would trickle down to more affordable options for “regular folks” who can’t afford Dura Ace/Ultegra. Alas, Shimano plans only to offer hydraulic discs on their two upper-end Di2 groupsets…not even mechanical Dura Ace will be graced with a master cylinder setup. The reason for this is that they wanted to maintain the existing Di2 lever shape without a “unicorn bulge”, according to the tech I spoke to. SRAM’s shifting assembly and the master cylinder together take up a lot more room and necessitated a lever redesign on their end.

Finally, for those of you who use other components, or dig your current brake/shifter setup, there’s hope for you. TRP has unveiled their HY-RD system, which is cable-actuated and has the master cylinder mounted to the brake body itself. TRP claims this HY-RD system will work with any current mechanical shifting system.

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TRP also still offers their Parabox adapter system.

We’re curious — are road disc brakes in your future? Any thoughts on mechanical vs. hydraulic? We’d love to hear your thoughts/gripes/concerns/WTFs. The technology still has a bit of refinement to go, but it is great to see the big component makers getting behind this new application for hydraulics.


Interbike 2013 Coverage Proudly Sponsored by Black Tiger Jerky
Black Tiger Jerky

From Single to Nine

A lot of us like to ‘simplify’ our drivetrains by either converting a multi-speed bike to a single speed/fixie or by building them from a bare frame. I built this Ibex X-ray Single Speed back in October of ’05 for commuting purposes.

I’ve been wanting to convert this bike into a 1X9 for a while — this set up is more versatile and allows for my friends to borrow this bike and go ride with me.

Here are the details of my conversion:

First, I began by removing the single speed kit using my trusty Ice Toolz Cassette remover, then I installed the 9 speed cassette on the freehub.

Next was removing the chain by using a chain breaker:

then I installed the rear derailleur, yep, a Dura-ace derailleur that I scored for cheap on Ebay.

I then installed a Soulchain 9 speed chain using a method to size the chain described here.

Although I have a pair of STI Dura-ace shifters, I didn’t want to change my current setup, so I opted to go ‘old school’ by installing a Suntour Friction bar end shifter given to me by our good friend Ghost Rider.

I then had to go to my LBS to purchase the shifter cable, housing, the BB guide and a new bar tape.

Here’s how I guided the cabling:



After removing the old bar tape, I installed the new bar tape so I can conceal the shifter cable. I chose yellow bar tape so it can match the color scheme of the bike and to be more visible to motorists.

I rode the bike around the block, after a few adjustments the bike shifts very smooth and it is ready to ride to work!

Just Ask Jack — Modern Shifting on a Classic Bike?

Bernard sent in the following question:

“I have a steel touring bike from 1984. I love the bike because of the all-day comfort these old frames offer, but the 6-speed freewheel/Suntour XC “elliptical” chainrings and prototype index/friction downtube shifters combination don’t work that well, as it tends to want to slip out of gear. Is it a practical alternative to swap in a modern indexed shifting system?”

The bike in question — on tour in France:

Bernard's tourer in France

Good news, Bernard…this is an entirely feasible process. Luckily, just about anything is possible in converting an old bike into something more modern — there are quite a few companies out there who make specialized adapters and such to resurrect an old friend and to teach him new tricks!

To set up modern indexing shift systems on an older bike, there are a couple things to consider: dropout spacing and how many speeds you want in the finished bike (deciding now can really simplify the conversion process, as we will see).

After speaking with Bernard, I learned that he is willing to do the full upgrade — shifters, new rear wheel, derailleurs and new chainrings. The chainring part is easy. Merely swap the old Suntour OvalTech chainrings for modern 8- or 9-speed specific rings…no crank replacement required!

Dropout spacing is really the only tricky consideration. On one- through 5-speed bikes, the rear dropout spacing was typically 120mm. With six speed systems and early “ultra 7” systems, the dropout spacing jumped up to 126mm. Modern 9- and 10-speed drivetrains have 130mm spacing. Since Bernard indicated that he currently has a 6-speed freewheel, the frame’s spacing need to be pushed out an additional 4mm. I’ve covered doing this in another article, but if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, any competent bike shop should be able to help. Again, luck is on Bernard’s side, as the frame in question is steel. Don’t try this on an aluminum or carbon frame!

The only specialized equipment needed to modernize the shifting system on this bike (aside from the new components themselves) are downtube-mounted cable stops such as these:

downtube cable stops

These cable stops simply bolt to the downtube shifter bosses and provide the anchor (and adjustment) for the shifter cables. If you don’t have brazed-on shifter bosses, there are band-on models available as well.

I won’t go step-by-step into the conversion itself, but after the rear dropouts are spaced correctly, simply bolt on the new components, slip the new wheel in, string your shifter cables and adjust everything so it shifts cleanly.

Here’s a handy trick if you’re strapped for cash or don’t want to do the full-tilt conversion…and the reason I suggested deciding on the number of gears needed before you run headlong into this conversion project: if you have a seven-speed freewheel (Shimano still makes Hyperglide-compatible 6 and 7 speed freewheels in limited quantities!), you can make it work as a modern indexed system with 8-speed indexed shifters (readily available on the secondhand market, such as Ebay). No new rear wheel or rear derailleur required! You’ll just have an extra “ghost click” on the shifter. The only kink is that sometimes there’s not quite enough clearance between chainstay and smallest cog, but that is easily rectified by slipping a couple spacers under the drive-side hub locknut (2 or 3mm is all it takes). Sometimes simple is best…

Finally, the last consideration is not to mix brands. There are adapters to make Shimano components play nice with Campagnolo or SRAM, but it’s better to “keep things in the family” for precision’s sake.

It is really fun and rewarding to breathe new life into an old friend — you CAN teach an old dog new tricks with a little tinkering. Bernard, be sure to tell us how it all works out, and happy riding!

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.