Can’t Help But Be Intrigued…

…about how road bikes and hydraulic systems will develop through 2012.

There’s been lots of banding about of the word ‘hydraulic’ in road circles of late – something which I flatly refused to believe would happen, right up until the mention of the possibility that SRAM’s new Red group might feature hydraulic shifting. It doesn’t look like it will, although SRAM are openly touting their plans to introduce hydraulic road levers soon.

The immediate thought is that this disc brake development is based around the UCI’s decision to allow disc brakes on ‘cross bikes – true, and obvious. But if hydraulic brakes are available, why wouldn’t someone at least try them on a road bike? It’s a logical progression, no?

And what of the potential for hydraulic shifting? The reason this post was sparked in the first place was through finding this article on Bike Radar and having read this article on Bike Rumour. Again, when rumours began to surface of the potential for hydraulic shifting from SRAM my ears pricked up, but I couldn’t help thinking that for SRAM to challenge the new electronic groups from Campag and Shimano with a hydraulic setup was a recipe for disaster; a ‘do or die’ leap into the unknown – regardless of how much I might have wanted it to happen.

On the other hand, a company like Magura teaming up with the folks at Acros who have a hydraulic shift setup already designed and working actually makes sense – if they can combine the hydraulic braking nous of Magura with Acros’ hydraulic shift setup they could hit the road market with relatively little risk, given that both companies already have a firm grounding in the mountain bike market to fall back on should such a venture fail. Sure, the R&D costs they’ve already incurred might sting a bit if it doesn’t quite work out, but it’s gotta be worth a shot.

I’m still not convinced on disc brakes on road bikes and wasn’t even prepared to accept it would happen, but it is a concept which seems to be gathering pace despite the arguments against it. Some companies even have bike ranges already available (as per the Volagi pictured above). Whatever we say about whether disc brakes should or shouldn’t be used on road bikes I’m getting the feeling more and more that the marketing beasts will take over and this will become something that ‘just happens’.

As for hydraulic gears; they’re not necessary, and I doubt they’ll challenge the electronic groups. I’d be keen to see it in action though, and I won’t write it off as a valid alternative. Besides, can you imagine how excited the Weight Weenie crowds will get if it helps drop groupset weights?!

We didn’t ‘need’ 9-speed, but it happened and we accepted it. We didn’t ‘need’ 10-speed but it took hold, and is even gathering pace on MTBs. We don’t ‘need’ 11-speed but the Campag-philes have readily adopted it and it looks like Shimano are set to follow suit (yes, I know some of you are still staunchly running 7 / 8 / 9-speed, and good for you, you luddites!). The more this thing gathers pace the more it becomes an inevitability – like it or lump it.

Besides, give me an excuse for new toys and I’m all ears!

Rich [@RichTheRoadie]