during the months of winter, it is not uncommon to view picture story after picture story of how the search for the last few milliseconds of aerodynamic advantage, hell bent on bringing that finish line closer than it was last season. the vagaries of weather, wind and other riders tend to mitigate against the simplicity of ironing out any minor kinks in the carbon fibre, but that seems not to stop many from issuing eagerly snapped up soundbites as to how the result of windtunnel testing makes their bike several seconds faster over your average tour stage. the flys in the ointment are both the guy sitting in the saddle and the fact that the organisers have had the temerity to feature corners in almost all the stages.
if only everything were as direct as the path to that enormous propeller.
this malady formerly only afflicted time-trial bicycles, where an accompanying churning of pelotonic air is particularly absent, but it's likely that the majority of gains that can be made in this discipline have already been realised. now it's the turn of the average road bike. that in itself is largely unsurprising, if we can take into consideration the increasingly more common necessity of getting the green jersey contender across the line in first place as often as possible.
while concealed brake calipers are nothing particularly new in the time-trial discipline, more recent standard road bicycles have started to adopt the same trend. though it is possible that these hidden calipers are not manufactured by the bicycle companies themselves, their positions on the front and rear forks are very much dictated by the latter. thus any subcontractor has to match aesthetics with mechanical efficiency, and i can't help thinking on occasion, it's the latter factor that suffers.
the dual-pivot system currently in vogue has served us well for a considerable number of years, and with reference my opening gambit regarding the endless quest for aerodynamic efficiency and thus increased speed, it seems almost humorously contradictory to make similar improvements in the means of stopping that happening. but taken as a logical series of events, the faster the bicycle is designed to travel, the more power needed to slow it down in timely fashion. most of us, i'm inclined to think, would like to think that the brakes fitted to our bicycles will do their job with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of efficiency. if that involves design without the need to blend into the bodywork, i can't see too many complaints from those spending their own money.
of course, we'd all like the brakes bolted front and rear to look nice, but if push comes to shove, for me looks will always be subservient to mechanical efficiency. at least in the braking department. thus i am happy that the majority have carte blanche to effectively ignore the shape of the frame they are attempting to bring to a halt. however, i am not averse to a modicum of justified bling, something visibly proffered by tektro's less than snappily monikered r970sl calipers. these can be acquired in white/red, matt black/silver and a blast from the past, jps gold and black. additionally, for a limited time, the 970sl calipers are also available in team geox neon yellow.
i'm not stunningly proud of my formula one racing addiction when i was a lot younger, but i do remember brazilian driver emerson fittipaldi racing a black and gold lotus 72 sponsored by cigarette company john player special. so far as i can ascertain, that was the inspiration behind this particular colour scheme. we live in interesting times when it is possible to purchase a brake system in four different colours. henry ford must be turning in his grave.
if one really has to have a reason/excuse to purchase brakes that replace the standard groupset offerings, one factor is likely to be weight. in this case, a pair of sram red calipers were being removed from the colnago to be temporarily replaced with the trps, relieving me from the need to carry an extra 300 grams (ten ounces in old money). though, as i have pointed out before, i could lose much more than this with a decent haircut, if the all-up weight of your bicycle is a serious consideration, 300g is not to be sneezed at. this featherweightness is achieved by using titanium hardware and cnc machined magnesium arms, of a most confidence inspiring chunkiness. the pads are by the all but ubiquitous swiss-stop. each caliper has a sliding quick release, but one i had little need of, given that campagnolo build a q/r mechanism into each brake lever.
the bulk of each caliper is finished in matt black, with the pad holders in shiny gold as well as the cable adjuster atop the caliper arm. the gold is continued through to the lettering applied letting you know what you've bought. fitting both front and rear was simplicity itself.
suggested uk retail price is £399.99. sharp intake of breath.
it is a scientifically proven fact that bling does not stop fast moving bicycles very well; there needs to be some substance behind the shine. if you're sitting there thinking that one set of brakes is pretty much like another, then i would have cheerfully have joined you on that couch only a few weeks ago. at the price being asked for these, unless you are particularly deep of pocket, there would really need to be a darned sight more than just a saving of weight, however considerable. my cynicism generally knows no bounds, and though an undoubtedly attractive pair of brakes, this was going to be a hard sell.
in much the same way as a pair of tyres, i am convinced that the majority of brakes currently on the market will make a reasonable job of stopping a rider on a bicycle in dry weather. yes, some will make a better job than others, but by and large we're all quite comfortable to ride out on whatever came on the bike when purchased. the real test, in my opinion, comes when precipitation is at its worst, and if possible, on a brand new set of unworn aluminium rims. what a coincidence. scottish summers are not renowned for their lengthy periods of blazing sunshine and unstinting temperatures, and the arrival of the recently reviewed cole c24 lites provided a confluence of serendipity. in the process of trying to upset the coles in the pouring rain over the worst roads i could find, braking was of primary concern yet secondary consideration. by this, i infer that i placed all my trust in a pair of calipers that had yet to prove their worth.
stunning is probably the one word that springs immediately to mind.
there was no hint of snatching at any point during the review period; quite the contrary. the modulation afforded was little short of impressive, providing confident feathering when it was only necessary to scrub off a modicum of speed, yet handfuls of stopping power when the cows on the carrabus road were undecided as to which was the better choice of roadside verge. the impressive part was that i didn't ever feel that the brakes had reached the extent of their power; no matter how hard i'd needed to squeeze the levers, it always felt as if there was more in reserve and flexing was conspicuous by its absence.
while i enjoy an incredible lightness of being just as much as the next guy, i'd be very loathe to spend my hard-earned to simply achieve improved weightlessness. however, in this case, it is necessary to consider lightness as a by-product; an added bonus if you will. this is precision stopping in a truly attractive package. whether you feel you can justify the not inconsiderable price ticket is between you and your bank manager, but from now on everything else is just going to feel like slowing down.
trp brakes are distributed in the uk by upgrade , at a suggested retail price of £399.95
posted wednesday 10 august 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................