It's about time someone made a modern, aero, centerpull brake. I've been waiting for that product to come out for a long time. Many people have said they've thought about making one. Or that they were going to. But no one ever did. And since no one has taken up the challenge, I have. Coming soon: the TriRig Omega front brake. (Editor's note: the Omega is now a front OR REAR brake. See this article for info on the production brakes.) I'm really excited to announce this project, because I think it will be the perfect finishing touch on everything from a superbike like the Triad SL to an old Cervelo P2 aluminum, and everything in between. But let me back up.
To understand why I think this brake is such a big deal, let's look at the aero landscape a little bit. For the past few years, we've seen two competing trends in tri bike manufacture. One has been to integrate everything - the Trek Speed Concept is probably the archetype of this theme, and it does a fantastic job. The entire front end is all unique to the bike, and can't be swapped out. This trend can lead to very clean, very aerodynamic bikes (but doesn't always do so). The big drawback to pursuing this method of bike design is that it makes bikes increasingly more difficult to build and maintain. The first time I cabled up my Speed Concept, it took me about six hours. And there was a lot of cursing involved.
The other trend is to refine as many features of the bike as possible while keeping a weather eye on the ease of serviceability. I think the Triad, mentioned above, is an excellent example. So are the latest offerings from Cervelo. These bikes still compare very favorably in wind tunnel test results, and while they don't always claim the lowest drag values, they aren't as much of a drag to build (bad pun intended).
And for me, this latter trend seems to be winning, with good reason. Specialized has ditched the ultra-sleek features of their original Shiv design for the new version that's MUCH easier to service, and can be run with any bars you want, etc. This is a big deal for triathletes who want to travel to races. Breaking down your bike to put in a carrier shouldn't require a degree in mechanical engineering.
The Forgotten Front Brake
All you can find currently is the Tektro/TRP brake, which doesn't exactly work well with a wide rim wheel.
In this double-sided race, manufacturers aren't paying the attention to the front brake that I think it deserves. A couple times, the bike's frontal profile is beautiful (original Shiv, Speed Concept). Most of the time, it's marred either by a nasty sidepull Tektro brake (Felt DA, new Shiv), or the manufacturer just left a standard brake boss on there so that the user could put on whatever front brake they desired. This latter technique is the one used far more often, and is where I saw the potential for major improvement.
The front brake is hit by almost completely clean air - nothing sits directly in front of the brake, so the flow is nearly laminar, even if some of it disturbed a bit by your hands or the front wheel. So why on earth would you put a gigantic standard brake and a huge loop of cable that's going to add drag? Well, you'd do it because you had no other options.
The only centerpull on the market today is the TRP/Tektro that was used on the Specialized Transition, the Kestrel 4000, and a couple others. It's a decent brake, but it has its limitations. It requires you to rig up a cable stop somewhere on your bike (this isn't easy on bikes with an integrated bar like the Triad SL). It was designed for narrow rims, so when you open it up for a wide rim like a Zipp Firecrest, its width exceeds the fork blades. Now it isn't so aero any more. And to make things worse, it is an OEM-only brake. It's not sold in shops. So that makes it very difficult to find.
There were some very sleek-looking centerpull brakes made many years ago, like the Modolo Kronos, the Campagnolo Delta brakes, and others. But they have even bigger problems. Most notably, these brakes earned the nickname of "Speed Modulators" because their mechanical leverage was weak, and they didn't stop your bike! One of these brakes, the Hooker SL, had a reputation for being reasonably good at working, and is definitely quite small. But it has availability problems, it's not compatible with wide rims, and it requires you to chop your brake pads to use it.
So that's where we are. There's currently nothing being produced for standard brake bosses that is both functional, aero, and available. Until now.