Katie Compton turned in another dominant performance on Sunday to claim her tenth consecutive US national cyclocross championship. While some of her competitors turned to disc brakes for more stopping power, Compton instead pulled one of her old rim brake tricks out of the bag: a special coating with more bite for the technically demanding course.
Dubbed "Extreme Conditions Coating" by her wheel sponsor, Bontrager, ECC consists of a metallic coating that's applied to the surface of a standard carbon rim. In addition to providing a more positive bite due to the material itself, ECC also imparts a distinct texture that enhances braking power.
"The Extreme Conditions Coating was originally developed by our Bontrager wheel team for better braking during wet alpine stages," said Trek team liaison Matt Shriver. "But we quickly found that it was also an awesome solution for improved braking on cyclcocross wheels. It adds some weight – about 125g per wheelset – but it is a lighter solution than a disc brake system and provides great braking in the wet muddy conditions. Katie prefers them in most courses that have steep drops and any mud."
"The wheel itself is a standard Aeolus D3 tubular that we've had treated with what is essentially a liquefied metal," added Bontrager marketing director Michael Browne. "The process is extremely time consuming and expensive, and is deemed what we refer to as virtually not commercially viable. We do not actively promote this product."
Browne is hardly exaggerating — although it's not listed on the company website, Bontrager does offer ECC as an optional add-on for its carbon wheels – at an insane US$5,000 per wheel.
Nevertheless, for riders that yearn for carbon fiber wheel weight but with disc brake-like all-weather braking performance, ECC may be a viable – albeit exorbitantly expensive – alternative.