I’ll admit it, I was a NAYSAYER.
Why would I want disc brakes on my cross bike? My train of thought was if you are braking that hard you are going backwards anyway. I had (and still have) my cantis perfectly adjusted and throwing down a kid-like skid was no problem. So why? I kept saying. Why would I need the more complicated system of discs brakes? It would require me to sell off years of rim brake wheel builds and collecting to afford the jump to disc. I was there in Madison the year disc pads were eaten alive in half a lap in what was the perfect storm of liquid sandpaper being poured into caliper and pad interface. It was also the early days of the technology for cross. I’ve been there in the in-between times of rear axle spacing, hub availability and the conversation around (gulp) thru-axles! Taking such a simple machine and “complicating” it with hydraulic fluid, brake bleeds and sharp brake rotors. Plus, I travel with my bike and end up in strange places some days. What if I spring a leak? What if armageddon came and all the dot 5 fluid in the world was snatched up? What if I had to bleed brakes every time I rode the thing? Plus the looks of those hoods! Blasphemy! Then there was also the purist in me that has run a single ring for almost 20 seasons of cross racing coupled with my beloved cantilevers. I’ve had them all; Dia compe, XT, XTR, SPOOKY CARBON (hand carved by a gentleman in The Netherlands)….TRP Mag’s and TRP RevoX’s….I thought the cutting edge of braking technology was when Swiss Stop came out with the Yellow pads that gave slowing down on carbon tubulars a fighting chance!
Enve 12mm thru-axle, mated to Mavic Allroad wheel set, 6mm allen bolt head.
So here I am. I take it all back, you were right. (I’m talking to you Michael Robson) You see about 3 weeks ago I made the jump to hyperspace just like in STAR WARS. I flipped the control switch and it clicked and I fired off into the full-on-21st-century-stuff. Was I mad?! Since then I have logged a few hundred miles on the rig above, with one race in the mix as well. It’s our Psychlo X 2016 model built with thru-axles (front & rear) SRAM Force 1x and those beautiful things the rest of the cross world has been talking about for years……hydraulic DISC brakes!
I supposed you could say that I waited until all the right pieces of the puzzle were lined up to make the jump, but really it’s more dumb luck on my part. The SRAM 1x system I’ve been riding on my canti bike for the last year and a half has been great, so I knew I loved that.(single ringer for life) (Mark those words). It was the coming together of several companies with just the right items.
A move to 12mm thru-axle forks for cross and road “standards” and the now tried and true 142 x 12 rear axle that has (pardon the pun) “crossed” over from the mountain bike world. As well as those dead sexy Mavic Allroad wheels that can switch from 9mm quick release, to 15mm or 12mm thru-axle in the front and QR 135 in the rear to the 142 x 12, with just the change of end caps. Here’s the full break down of the build:
56cm Moots Psychlo X
Enve 2016 CX fork-12mm thru-axle
SRAM FORCE 1X drive train (40t x 11-28 gearing)
SRAM RED bb30 crank (I stole this from my road bike)
Chris King PFbb30 bottom bracket
Chris King 1.5 to 1.125 I7 head set
Mavic Allroad clinchers
142 x 12 rear thru-axle Syntace bolt on
Post mount rear disc mount
SRAM FORCE HYDRAULIC brakes (moto style of course)
SRAM Centerline 140mm rotors front & rear
Fizik c3 stem
Fizik c3 bar
Fizik Airone saddle
Truvativ carbon seat post
Clement MXP clinchers
Lizard Skins 1.8mm bar tape
My take on the difference of ride:
Yes, they brake better and more consistent than cantis across all types of weather; dry, wet, snow, mud, frozen…. You can go faster and deeper into corners before scrubbing speed. They take the brake arms away from the rim and allow more mud clearance up there…..but really the part and subtle twist I find to be better than some of those above are the fact that the hand pressure required to activate them is way less. Even with the cantis adjusted to be “feather light action”. To me this leaves my un-muscular arms to concentrate on driving the bike and focusing on trying to go fast vs. applying more hand pressure to the brakes and less on holding the bars.
And speaking of holding…those sexy SRAM hoods….I take all of that back as well. They are amazing…..they provide a perch that is near perfect for applying weight to the front wheel and driving it through corners without feeling like I’m going to come off of them. And time consuming brake bleeds? I take that back as well. It took me 5 minutes per wheel to bleed the entire system….way shorter than fiddling around with my cantis.
Then there is the line holding confidence of the thru-axles…..This ranks right up there with riding hand sewn tubulars inflated to 1.2bar by the breath of a baby. You don’t understand it until you try it….the way they hold a line when put under cornering pressure is truly astonishing. Solid, precise…pinpoint. I’m a believer.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have a canti bike, but it’s been giving me the “how-could-you?” look from its hook in the garage. I have seen the light and now I’m a believer.
It wouldn’t be Steamboat without some snow. The Fish Creek nordic ski trail.
Gotta practice in the conditions that could be at the next race.
Now, all of this technology and lingo is great, but does it make for a better rider experience? Yes, but especially if you have been through the dark ages of Cyclocross’ past “technology”.
All of these photos were taken on the same day, same ride and I invite you to come visit us at Moots. I’d love to take you on our “cross tour of town”….HUP!! HUP!! Thanks for reading.