When we were at Eurobike last year we kept bumping into Hydraulic converters that allowed you to run cable road levers with hydraulic discs by converting cable pull into hydraulic push. They were, for the most part, proofs of concept by smaller manufacturers but the news from Taipei is that this particular bandwagon is one that brake giants Tektro are keen to be on.
TRP, Tektro's racing arm, are showing their Parabox hydraulic converter at Taipei Cycle, and thanks to the iPhone of Dom Mason from Kinesis we've got a sneak peek.
TRP's Parabox converter fits undeneath the stem (via a special spacer by the look of it) and is a relatively slimline affair, with two brake noodles feeding the wires in to the back and the hydraulic lines exiting stage front. It's not quite as neat a system as the Ashima one we saw that was all hidden in the stem, but that was admittedly a mockup made from plastic, not an essentially finished product like the Parabox here.
Clearly the brake manufacturers think this is the way that cyclocross is going to go, although the technology also has applications for touring and urban bikes. But what does our resident cyclocross racer and professional luddite, Jo Burt, think of all this? We asked him...
Do we 'need' them? a lot of people i know (both racers and 'recreational' cross riders) deliberately enjoy the Idiosyncrasies of cross bikes and riding inappropriate terrain on them. Go to the continent and watch riders with a professional level of skill and you'll see that they barely use their brakes, so the technological progression could probably be meaningless to them. But then they said that about disc-brakes and MTB racing as well.
the hydro/cable disparity has always been an issue, and cable discs are pretty terrible. Well, not terrible, just fiddly and variable, so converters like this are going to be a solution. However, with disc brakes getting smaller and smaller a hydro road-brake lever shouldn't be far away.
i think the cyclo-cross genre might split into two over the next few years, those that want to ride a 'proper' cross bike – whether that's for lightweight racing or just mucking about on – and those that use their bikes for more rough-stuff (XCX anyone?) or commuting and want the hassle-free and predictable braking of discs. And there's those that weigh too much for cantilevers to slow them down, or want technology to compensate for their skill set.
It's odd: none of the people I know that race CX, or simply ride them for what they are, are demanding disc-brakes. A lot of the clamour for discs on cyclo-cross bikes seems to be coming from mountainbikers, the ones that buy a cross bike because it's different and light and fun to ride compared to their heavy over-suspended mountainbike, and then complain that it's not enough like their mountainbike and want to slow it down with baggy steering and overblown brakes...
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.