TriRig Omega, pt 2: Prototyping
Jan 1, 2012
article & images by Nick Salazar
As I prepare to launch the Omega, I thought I'd take a look a brief survey of other centerpull options that have come down the pipe for triathletes. The list isn't very long, which was part of the impetus for the Omega in the first place.
Let's start with a brief history. In the 1980's, aero componentry came into fashion. Manufacturers across the board sought to make their products act, or at least look, more aerodynamic. Perhaps the seminal example of this line of thought was Shimano's 1981 Dura Ace AX groupset. The 7300-series components had some very interesting features, including an aero rear derailleur loop, aero pedals, and of course, an aero brake. That group featured the centerpull brake that Lance Armstrong made famous twenty years later, when he revived it for use on his 2000 Tour de France time trial bike. But even Lance eventually abandoned it. Despite its aero advantages, the brake is simply too weak. It's a safety hazard. So are the similar brakes that came out around the same time from the likes of MRC, Modolo, and even Campagnolo with their slick-looking Delta series. These all got the well-deserved nickname of "speed modulators" as they don't really stop the bike when needed. And so, I don't think they're really worth any more attention. But there's one brake that actually did work reasonably well, and attained a cult status among the triathlon tinkerati. I'm talking, of course, about the Hooker Aero SL. I'll discuss that brake, the currently-available Tektro T-726R, and what they mean vis-a-vis the TriRig Omega.
Hooker SL Aero
Despite being out of production for many years, the Hooker Aero SL has heretofore been the reigning Sultan of Slick. To this day, it's the only brake that's both very aero, and will actually stop your bike. Complete brakes often sell for upwards of $500. Each. And yet, even if you were able to find one, these guys come with some pretty heavy limitations. First of all, they aren't equipped to use standard brake pads, but instead require you to cut pads down, and thus still compromise some braking power. Moreover, they have no tilt adjustment, so they'll be a very poor fit on many bikes.
And their real Achilles heel, they don't work on rims wider than about 21mm. So that means it's impossible to use any of the latest offerings from Zipp, HED, Enve, Bontrager, FLO, or any other next-gen manufacturer. It's a brake that was born in the past, and is doomed to live there.
This is the one you've seen around town. It works well, it's not nearly as hard to source as the Hooker (although still not particularly easy to find), and it'll accept wide rims. And the funny thing is, despite this brake never being sold or marketed as a front brake, it seems to be the most popular choice among aero tinkerers. But that makes sense, since it's basically the only (safe) option available.
I'd like to thank the folks at Cycle2Infinity for providing one for me to test. They are one of the only importers of the brake I know of who will ship to the USA. Now that Campagnolo is adopting the brake and selling it under their own name, it may become easier to find.
The TRP version of the brake (TRP and Tektro are co-owned) has been included as original equipment on Specialized and Kestrel bikes, but otherwise, it is typically marketed as a rear brake, and that includes its current distribution under Campagnolo.
But really, the Tektro's primary advantage is that it's currently the only option out there. But it's kindof ugly. And it requires you do install some kind of cable stop on your bike (not included with the brake). And its design isn't exactly streamlined. If you use it with a wide rim like Zipp's Firecrest series, the brake will greatly exceed the width of most any fork blade, sticking out into the wind.
This brings us, of course, to what I think is the best of all worlds: the TriRig Omega. The goal is to create something that's aerodynamic, aesthetically pleasing, highly functional, highly versatile, readily available, and light weight. No problem, right?
In quick hits, the Omega is:
- Very small - slightly bigger than the Hooker, but still hides completely within the fork.
- Fully faired design, from the rounded front plate, all the way to the back plate
- Highly adjustable - works with virtually any rim on the market.
- Easy to use - has optional integrated cable hanger, no need to rig a custom setup.
- Strong - rollercam design provides ample power with a constant power curve.
- Light - I'm hesitant to discuss specific numbers, since the design is still being refined. But the full aero version as pictured here should weigh about the same as the top-range calipers from SRAM, Shimano, or Campagnolo. That's somewhere around 143g for the complete setup, including the optional cable hanger. Not exactly weight weenie territory, but it's certainly not heavy. Compare that to the Tektro, which came in at 170g on my scale WITHOUT a cable hanger. And of course, the SL version could shave off another 10-15g. So I'm happy with the weight at this point.
Obviously, I'm a bit biased, but I think the Omega is going to be amazing. The first aluminum prototypes should arrive soon, and I'll get to start testing. You can bookmark this link for all Omega-related news.