[Updated with pictures] The end of caliper brakes?

I seldom write about technological nuance. Like the topic of doping, I figure that I can usually add very little to the discourse, since all four of my readers may very well know more about the subject than me. Furthermore, writing about De Vlaemick's hair restoration procedures is way more fun. Having said that, I picked up a bit of information during my travels in Belgium that I thought might be of interest to all four of you. Even though it's not the type of thing I normally write about, I thought it was worth mentioning, if only because it makes me feel important, and almost as though I'm part of the bike biz.

As the title of this post states, the humble caliper brake is under attack. Well, not really, but two developments currently underway may mean less caliper brakes on road bikes. The end of them? Maybe not. But less of them? Yes, and I'm not just talking about disc brakes. But since I mentioned disc brakes, the well publicized decision by the UCI to allow them in cyclocross has prompted some to ask—not if but when—road bikes will also have disc brakes. But that's not what this post is about.

Disc brakes aside, during my travels I picked up information regarding a new development (new to me at least) that could further marginalize the humble caliper brake. It's an integrated brake system, set to be released next month or so in preparation for the Tour.

How does it work? Well, it has no metal parts (aside from the pad holders), and no bolts, and no springs. It's not simply brake levers inside the fork, like the Scapula fork. The easiest way to explain it is this: A v-brake that uses the carbon fork blades and seat stays as the arms (and springs) of the brake, flexing inward (think Keo Blade spring) to apply pressure from standard pads onto the wheel's brake surface. How does the brake cable come into this makeshift v-brake? Through a noodle on the side of the fork and seat say. If a diagram of a v-brake will help you picture it, you can see one here. If you've pictured what I just told you, you're now probably wondering how on earth this could work since the seat stays and fork blades are structural, and thus not ideally suited for bending inward at a time when you're looking to safely stop the bike?

Ahhh, well...you'd be right. But imagine I told you that a certain bike maker already has fork blades and seat stays that are split into two for aerodynamic reasons. Say I told you that one of these halves could be structural, while the other could flex inward for the purpose of braking. Crazy? Perhaps. I myself am usually not wild about new standards, proprietary systems and the like (the long list of failed Mavic inventions is enough to convince anyone of this). Having said that, perhaps this is a true advancement for high end bikes. It's certainly a gutsy one. It simplifies the system, has less parts (not more) and apparently works better at stopping the bike. But as I stated at the beginning of this post, you (the reader) probably knows the answer to that better than me. Still, advancements that lessen the number of parts, and create no new standards to deal with (while using existing parts like pads and pad holders), sound like a generally good idea...even if I'll never be able to afford a bike with said technology. So like much of the technological advancement in the world of bikes, I merely watch from afar....much in the same way that I watched the boy-girl parties that I wasn't invited to in the 7th grade. Either way, it's certainly interesting, and for those deeply invested in aerodynamics this could be a big deal.

Oh, and how do you easily free you wheel from the brakes without a quick release, since there's no calipers? There's a quick release button integrated into the cable housing at the handlebar. Press, and release. That part does add new stuff into the mix, but could be used with other brake systems.

One thing comes to mind when thinking about all this. When (not "if") this brake system is used in some cyclocross bikes, we could be looking at 'cross bikes with (count along with me) three brake systems. Cantilever, disc, and this new integrated system. Can this system be used in cyclcross bikes, with mud clearance being an issue? Yes, and it will be. I was told. "Just a simple matter of adjusting the angles".

You read it, and saw it here first folks. Or maybe not, because you'd already read about it elsewhere, and its old news to everyone but me (wouldn't be the first time). So maybe you read it here third. Or sixth.

Is this the end of caliper brakes, as the title of the post so boldly stated? No. But typing it made me feel smart, authoritative, and decisive...three things I seldom feel in life. So let me be. Soon, this post will seem (and be) worthless. Many say most of my posts are worthless anyway...but let the record show that today, if only for a moment, I was ahead of the curve. For once.

That concludes this announcement. I will now open the floor to questions from the press.