Back in June of 2010 I wrote about the big changes the UCI had in store for the 2011 cyclocross season… In particular, disc brakes.

Since then, any technological progress has been pretty quiet, but now the first prototypes are starting to appear! Whilst browsing VeloNews’ coverage of the 2011 Sea Otter Classic I ran across an article detailing TRP’s hydraulic prototype disc brakes, dubbed “Parabox.”

Many of the initial rumours surrounding cyclocross disc brakes circled around the hypothesis that they were bound to be mechanical – the integration of the hydraulic cylinders into the brake/shifter levers was going to be too difficult (or take a significant amount of time). Sadness had originally filled my heart, since having felt how great a nicely modulated pair of hydraulic disc brakes can be, I had little interest in ever running mechanical discs.

TRP’s near-term work around for the lack of integrated cylinder into the lever is to combine a mechanical disc lever with a remotely mounted master cylinder. The mechanical lever actuates the master cylinder (located under the headset in the Parabox) which in turn compresses the hydraulic fluid. I can’t see this having quite the same feel as true hydraulic discs, but I’d imagine it’s a good first step. I’m sure we’ll see a handful of pro’s testing various disc set ups this upcoming season and possibly ‘street legal’ goods by 2012. Definitely a long time to wait for early adopters ;-)

I must admit, however, a part of me is definitely torn… While I’m interested/excited to see what hydraulic cyclocross groupos companies like Shimano and SRAM start to flaunt, I’m also sad to see the beautiful simplicity inherent in cyclocross quickly eroding. I suppose technology marches on, regardless of it’s roots.

Interest aside through, from a strictly racing perspective I’m not really as keen on hydraulic discs in cyclocross as I may appear…

Especially here in Alberta the races don’t seem to be that muddy and you’re rarely braking really hard, you mainly tend to be judiciously scrubbing speed… For this, canti’s are more than capable. My interest in disc brakes revolves more around the fact that I use my cyclocross bike for pretty much everything (as do many others)… Racing, commuting, early/late season training etc. During these adventures the only constant is that both the weather and the conditions will vary from one end of the spectrum to the other. Combined with the fact that I live on a moderately substantial hill and that I may not wash my bike as routinely as I should results in the replacement of many brake pads… And as any one who fiddles with cantilever brakes can tell you, there is a dark art to mastering their adjustment… Disc brakes might almost worth it just to get rid of that brake chatter ;-)

Ultimately, I’m excited to see what types of set-ups hit the market. Not everyone is stoked, to be sure, but for a guy like me, it will give me a slightly easier, low maintenance evolution to the cross rig I’ve got now… When I’ve got the cash and the need to take the plunge, that is.

CX Magazine got their hands on for a test ride if you’re interested in learning a little bit more.