Not so long ago I got into a conversation about Sram’s hydraulic brakes (the HydroR on road bikes) and their recall; this is one of the nice things in having a good rapport with the LBS.
I was asking what was new for 2014. What the buzz is around on new bikes, group sets, clothing etc? All pretty wide ranging. The thing the LBS are expecting to grow is the use of disc brakes on road bikes; they’ve already been accepted in the MTB and cyclocross world and also appear on some touring bikes but these are mostly niche markets. Seems that many are hoping for disc systems to be developed by the likes of Shimano and Sram but these will only happen if the bicycle manufacturers want to use them. The bicycle manufacturers will only go ahead if they’re confident shops will buy stocks for people cyclists to take the plunge and buy them.
It appears that just as they are starting to appear there’s a problem. Sram have developed their HydroR system – a hydraulic system for road bikes and costing around £900. In spite of the usual R&D work, these have proved problematic with sudden hydraulic leaks occurring in cooler weather. This has prompted Sram to organise an emergency recall of these systems. I mentioned I’d be annoyed if this had happened to me but there’s an interim solution with a cable alternative kit being sent to bike shops etc to install as a “stop gap” while a solution is found.
It could be that the miniaturisation of the system if the issue. After all, to have a handlebar lever which operates the gears and a hydraulic brake system is a tall order. – it’s an incredibly intricate piece of kit. Shimano’s solution if of course to get rid of the gear changing control to save some physical space and turn to electronic technology with the electronic gear change appearing on Dura Ace and Ultegra D-12 systems. From a quick glance and feel the controls look almost the same as the cable versions but closer up you can see and feel the micro clicking switch, replacing the normal cable paddles.
In terms of what they’re like in use, I’m told they’re very powerful and still provide a good “feel” for the road and control. Naturally the advantages which saw their acceptance in the MTB world will also apply to the road bike world. Wet weather braking is not compromised and there’s less concern for rims which aren’t true. This combined with the newness of the concept, will cause Sram to press ahead in continuous development of the market. Naturally it is hoped these upmarket systems will be perfected so they can trickle down to more mass market versions. Of course, Sram tend to be seen as the progressive experimenter and Shimano are the more conservative, risk adverse steady-eddies.
So there y’go. The price for innovation can be heavy – not just the consumer but also the likes of Sram. There’s talk of this costing the millions of dollars and I imagine they’ll ride it out without too many problems. I remember having a VW Golf which got recalled when it was 10 years old: I was so impressed I bought another. Maybe that will help Sram in the longer run? Innovation, risk taking or be conservative and cautious? For the answer, look no further at the Sturmey Acher profile.