SRAM’s hydraulic rim brakes are on sale as part of the Red 22 groupset launched last month, but pro teams will not be taking stock this year – or for the foreseeable future – as the company await UCI approval and a chance to train mechanics on the new technology.
Michael Zellmann, PR and media manager at SRAM, said UCI approval is still pending and that the logistics of swapping a squad over to the kit are a complex operation. “I don’t believe they’re approved yet. It’s in process. There’ve been some discussions and it’s been positive,” he said.
However, when BikeRadar spoke to UCI technological co-ordinator Matthieu Mottet last month he said hydraulic rim brakes – said to offer better modulation and more powerful, predictable stopping over traditional cable models – aren’t illegal as long as the brake hoods, which house the cylinder, aren’t elongated to act as de facto handlebar extensions.
“You can use hydraulic brakes on road, but only with rim brakes and not with disc brakes,” Mottet said. “They [manufacturers] are free to develop hydraulic rim brakes; the only limitation is that the brake doesn’t become an extension for the handlebar.”
Training up team mechanics
The second obstacle Zellmann said SRAM face is getting the brakes lined up with sponsored teams, such as Saxo-Tinkoff and Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and the mechanics trained to set them up properly.
“It’s very complicated,” Zellmann said. “Switching out a pro team, mid stream, is incredibly challenging and not something you can simply just do one night. All the product has to be in line, and it’s all the support and all the training that goes into bleeding hydraulic brakes.”
Asked if he hoped one or two of SRAM’s sponsored teams would be using the brakes in 2014, Zellmann refused to commit: “I can’t really answer that question. Would we hope…? You hope to have your best teams on your latest products but it’s only done in the smartest fashion – you don’t do it simply to do it.”
It means amateurs (aside from a select band of professionals testing the products) will be in the rare position of using the brakes before their full introduction to WorldTour teams – a case of the 'trickle up' effect.