Aero brakes are evolving, giving you more choices than ever.
These have quickly become the semi-integrated brake of choice. Until last year, bike companies wanting a “hidden” brake without creating a proprietary system were left with cross-over calipers that were difficult to maintain, difficult to adjust, lacked power and forced the cable housing to jut out into the air—potentially negating any aerodynamic benefit saved by the caliper itself.
Bike brands such as BMC started using an alternative last year. V-style brakes, an old mountain bike design, were used as shielded brake calipers hidden behind the fork blades or under a bottom bracket. TRP created a V-brake called the TTV RC for aero applications. V-brakes of different variety are now used as a semi-integrated option by Cannondale, Argon-18, BH, Wilier and others to clean up the look of their tri bikes without sacrificing much usability or functionality. Through testing this past year, we found them to be an upgrade over the old TRP hidden brakes often jammed behind a fork, the T922-1, and many bikes will adopt them in 2013. They still, however, lack the stopping power or ease of use with a simple road caliper.
High-performance hydraulic road disc brakes aren’t here yet. We’re going to have to wait longer for those, but Hed Cycling already has a wheel prepped for their arrival. The Minnesota-based wheel company created a version of their standard road hub with a center-lock disc brake mount intended for cyclocross bikes. Already a great option for the mud racers, Hed is ready when road stoppers catch up.
BH’s new tri frame, the Aerolight, has a unique multi-compatible brake mount. Complete bikes are spec’d with TRP TTV RC V-brakes, but the frame can use many other options. It can accommodate standard road calipers and Magura’s hydraulic rim calipers in addition to the V-brakes, giving riders the option to choose the brake of their choice.
The front brake also comes with a TRP TTV brake but, like the rear, can mount a standard road caliper should a rider prefer unadulterated functionality to semi-integration. A couple unsightly open bolt holes are the only cost of the added flexibility this frame offers.
Aero brake pads
Put a pair of wide aero rims on a bike with integrated brakes and you’re likely to have trouble fitting them in. Many integrated brakes either butt up against the frame or can’t open wide enough for ultra-wide wheels, so Zipp created a set of brake pads specifically to solve this problem. They shaved the standard brake pad by 1mm, providing two total millimeters of relief between both pads. To compensate for removing this material, they made the contact surface a bit larger than normal so wear life doesn’t suffer.
Aero bikes, standard calipers
Integrated brakes are both a blessing and a curse. Blending the caliper into a triathlon frame can reduce aerodynamic drag over a standard brake (and look amazing), but they’re often difficult to maintain. When Orbea designed the all-new 2013 Ordu, they elected for a standard outboard front brake like Specialized did a year earlier for the Shiv.
It certainly doesn’t look the part on a modern aero tri bike and Orbea admits an integrated brake would be a little faster, but the Spanish company chose functionality over saving every possible watt. This may also be a concession to the impending arrival of road disc brakes. If you value ease of use over integration and don’t want to give up your precious Dura-Ace brake calipers, these bikes offer a good option.