Sea Otter tech: Disc Brakes Invade Cyclocross

Disc brake technology hits the mud circuit in a big way for 2012-13

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MONTEREY, California (VN) — This year’s Sea Otter Classic has proven that the tidal wave of drop-bar disc brakes is building. It seemed everywhere we turned in the expo yet another manufacturer was showing off a disc-ready road or cyclocross creation.

Perhaps the most groundbreaking of the lot is the Colnago C59 road bike with Formula Di2 hydraulic levers. The discs themselves weren’t the only innovation; more importantly, Formula showed that anyone with a little electronic know-how can make an electronic drivetrain shifter. That realization opens the floodgates to hydraulic brake manufacturers entering the road lever game.

High-end disc frames were abundant and all with 135mm rear ends. French manufacturer Look was on-site with its X-85 cyclocross frame, a bike aimed at the “boutique racer, who wants something fast and unique,” according to Look’s marketing manager Justin Lubecki. The frame, fork, and headset will be the only American-sold option, with an MSRP of $3,000 — a large price tag in a sport where many “boutique racers” will insist on owning two identical bikes. The X-85 features a straight, 1 1/8inch head tube and a 68mm English threaded bottom bracket. A fairly straightforward frame without any frills, the Look X-85 will certainly suit the die-hard French bike lover.

Fuji upped the ante on its already fast Altamira CX 1.0 with the Altamira Disc. Based closely on the existing Altamira, the disc model has a new fork produced in-house by Fuji. While not in the final production phase, the demo rode like a finished product with no chatter or wiggle. The Altamira will come equipped with Fuji-owned component brand Oval’s first foray into the carbon wheel market.

We spent some time on the Altamira Disc, and it was notable for its stability and excellent brake performance. The model we rode was equipped with new SRAM Red and BB7 calipers. The disc brakes increased confidence considerably, even when compared to stiff V-brake options.

Raleigh launched its RXC Pro disc bike this weekend as well. The pre-production model we shot was equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and will be on showroom floors with Shimano’s new cable-actuated CX75 disc brakes. The bike will also come equipped with a tapered Enve fork and a carbon Enve cockpit to finish off the build. Raleigh went with a PF30 bottom bracket, claiming the plastic cups holding the bearings paired with the BB30 cranks to be the perfect hybrid to keep a stiff and quiet bottom bracket. The RXC Pro comes equipped with Cole wheels made especially for Raleigh, and Raleigh employees expect the wheels to be offered to aftermarket buyers later this year.

Felt is another manufacturer that will offer a carbon disc brake bike in 2013, but did not have a model on-site.

Though UCI rules allowing disc brakes in cyclocross racing changed less than a calendar year ago, we have anxiously waited for ’cross disc technology reach the point where bikes rolling off the production line were top-shelf race bikes. It would appear that 2013 will be the year that occurs. The sheer quantity of quality disc bikes available this fall will make even the most traditional cyclocrosser take notice.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.