We've covered the rumors about SRAM's pending hydraulic road disc brake setup over the past few weeks but one long-time hydraulic brake company may have been taking advantage of the diversion for their own road development.
Magura have released a teaser video on their Facebook page– which you can view below – that reveals very little in terms of actual detail, but if you let your imagination run, there's enormous potential for not just a new brakeset but a whole new group.
Magura's press release is intentionally enigmatic, but also suggestive: "In January 2012, the hydraulics expert Magura will present a product that will revolutionize cycling. For one-and-a-half years, pioneering engineers have been hard at work on an innovative hydraulic braking system. And Magura has succeeded in keeping the entire project completely under wraps. Magura has also brought a co-operation partner on board to complement its own expertise. Who this is though, is also a secret."
Given the current state of technology, it makes no sense for Magura to release a road brakeset without some sort of integrated shifting system. Shimano are historically averse to openly co-operating on projects that aren't entirely housed within their walls – particularly with a direct competitor – but the release clearly states that Magura haven't developed their own transmission.
Magura's teaser video clearly points to a road-oriented product. A standalone set of brakes doesn't make sense but a fully hydraulic, complete road group does
Magura USA spokesperson Jeff Enlow declined to comment when asked by BikeRadar but our guess is that Magura are collaborating with German compatriot Acros on a fully hydraulic road group based on the latter's A-GE hydraulic mountain bike transmission.
The pieces certainly make sense. Magura have a deep knowledge base for hydraulic systems, they're currently a virtual non-player in the road market, and Acros already own the design for a hydraulic shifter and derailleur setup that could easily be adapted to the road. Add in the fact that Acros don't currently offer a brakeset of their own and you have the recipe for a perfect marriage.
Acros's hydraulic shifting could easily be adapted both in terms of function and aesthetic to work with a road setup
We're struggling to discern what the single red component is in Magura's teaser video but that's no matter at this point. What's far more intriguing is what we think the entire package will be. Tech-oriented roadies who haven't warmed to the idea of having motors and batteries on their bikes will likely be less averse to the idea of a hydraulic setup, which could potentially be lighter, offer legitimate lever feedback, and won't require recharging. Moreover, given a good design it could be just as maintenance-free as an electronic drivetrain, too.
TRP to offer their own Di2-compatible hydraulic road levers?
Also coming through the grapevine is word that TRP have their own hydraulic road disc brake setup in development. Just as in the Magura case, though, it makes little sense for TRP to release something without some sort of integrated shifting package – lest consumers decide that we should all revert to bar-end or down tube shifters.
According to BikeRadar's sources, TRP's solution is their own set of integrated Di2-compatible shift buttons but the company aren't openly collaborating with Shimano. Nevertheless, we expect TRP's setup – assuming it successfully navigates the patent minefield and makes it to market – to plug directly into Shimano's own wiring harness to control current Dura-Ace Di2 or Ultegra Di2 derailleurs.
TRP are already well versed in road brake levers and hydraulics. Fitting the latter into the former shouldn't present that much of a challenge, and adding their own set of Di2-compatible shift buttons would make the setup compatible with Shimano's current crop of electronic derailleurs
"In terms of how Shimano collaborates with companies, there's no official company policy or party line per se," Shimano USA road PR representative Eric Doyne told us. "I think it would be more common to see Shimano collaborate with a company that isn't a direct competitor in an arena like bicycle components, as was done through an innovative relationship with Fox Racing Shox for through-axle technology that ended up creating an important new industry standard with 15QR."
TRP USA's Lance Larrabee wouldn't disclose any knowledge regarding a possible integrated shifting setup but he did confirm that the company are testing a hydraulic road disc brake system. "We're trying," he told BikeRadar. "We've got some test samples and we're exploring our viability to sell a product around the Shimano patents right now. We do have a system in the works. We'll have a full hydraulic road lever with the reservoir in the lever and it should be compatible with some type of currently available shifting system as an option."
Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo may have generated the most buzz lately in the road tech world but from the looks of things, the field is about to get a little more crowded – and everyone is stepping up their game.
TRP's current solution for hydraulic road disc brakes is the Parabox – an add-on mechanical-to-hydraulic converter that allows the use of existing levers with hydraulic disc brakes. TRP's rumored release would be a far more elegant solution, though, and it should work better and be lighter, too