by Josh Whitmore

Like it or not, disc brakes for the most part, have taken over the cyclocross category. Guess what? They are also on their way to your road bike soon. As brake manufacturers quickly develop the technology required to adapt disc brakes to road applications, wheel and frame manufacturers are scrambling to predict what standards will become ubiquitous. Will through-axles become the standard for front and rear? What rear spacing should be used? What size rotors should fit with no adapter on the frame? Even more nuanced is the where to locate the chainline of the rear cogset in relation to the dropout. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when purchasing aftermarket wheels for your disc brake equipped bike.

I made the swap to disc brakes this cyclocross season. A review of the pros/cons and performance of disc brakes are another topic. In any case, this swap required replacement of my entire wheel quiver. Obviously I needed to match the new wheels with the standards of the frame and brakes I am using this season. The S-Works Crux frame currently calls for standard quick release front and rear with a 135mm rear spacing. But what happens next year? Will the bike I have require thru-axles? The good news is that Boyd Cycling has you covered with their latest disc brake offerings. Are your wheels future proof?

The meat of the matter lies in the hubs. Boyd’s new disc brake specific hubs allow you to simply swap a few parts to convert from quick release to thru-axle front or rear. The front hub is the easier of the two and can easily be converted by the consumer with no tools. The rear hub requires a couple 5mm hex-wrenches but the process is just as straightforward. This convertibility allows me to have one standard now and make changes next year if I need to, without purchasing a whole new wheelset.

Boyd’s current disc hubs require 6-bolt rotors. The Shimano R785 hydro-disc brakes I am running work well with 140mm rotors. Shimano only makes their 140mm rotors in the center-lock design, so I had a couple options. One option was to move up to Shimano 160mm rotors (available in 6-bolt). This option added some weight in rotors and adapters for the calipers, so I went with the second option: Using different brand 140mm rotors. I chose the Formula rotors for their weight and heat dissipating capabilities. I have another brand wheelset that accepts the center-lock Shimano rotors and swap between the two brands often. I am pretty sensitive to such things and honestly can’t tell a difference.

One of the greatest advantages of disc brakes is that it frees up rim design to eliminate the shape of the braking surface. Boyd Cycling is coming along with disc specific rim options, introducing the Altamont Disc rim earlier this year. The Altamont Disc has no machined brake surface, which allows the weight to be a little less than their rim brake siblings.

Boyd also offers any of his other rims to be built with disc brake hubs. I’m running the 44mm carbon tubular for cyclocross. I’ve been really impressed with these wheels this season. They combine a perfect combination of feel, strength, and weight for cyclocross. The wider rim profile matches up well to wide cross tires and allows me to run lower pressure than more narrow rims.

You can also get any of the carbon clincher rims built with disc hubs. This has the advantage of eliminating any worry about heat build-up from rim braking, which has been a historical problem with carbon clinchers from any brand. Different manufactures have addressed this problem in different ways, but with no heat worries, look for the development of much lighter disc brake specific carbon clincher rims in the future. 

In this rapidly changing world of disc brake standards, it’s nice to know that the Boyd Cycling Wheels I have now will survive future changes. I’m also looking forward to the evolution of disc brake specific rim and hub design to further narrow the weight penalty of disc brakes. Rest assured, Boyd has some exciting things in the works but at least I won’t HAVE to buy new wheels and replace my entire wheel quiver if my next bikes are different.

Posted
AuthorJosh Whitmore

Our eyes are magnificent contraptions.  They take in enormous amounts of information that our minds can process in fractions of a second (faster with experience, slower when distracted).

At the center of our gaze, the image is clear and sharp (think: HD).  As an object moves farther into our peripheral vision, it becomes less and less distinct (think: very low-def).  That is not to say that there is a gradual decline in visibility; it is not a gradation from perfect clarity to blindness.  Rather, it is the difference between “in focus” and “out of focus,” like the lens of a camera.

Though shapes become blurry, the eyes/brain can detect motion, speed, and relative location equally across the full 180° range of vision. That means that if an object is approaching from the side – whether it’s a dog, a car, a ball, or whatever – even if you can’t tell exactly what it is, you’ll not only be able to see it, but you’ll be able to see about how fast it’s moving!


What to Look for in Traffic

I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “Hey, I drove past you while you were riding.  Didn’t you see me?”

My answer is almost always, “No.”

It is far more important to see the direction and relative speed of a vehicle than who is at the wheel.  It isn’t necessary to peer through a reflective windshield and focus attention on a driver.  I rarely look inside of passing cars – doing so usually means I’m not looking at the pothole I’m about to run into.

On group rides, I take a few more mental notes about traffic:

  • relative size/shape of vehicle: car, truck, 18-wheeler
  • general color of vehicle:  blue, white, light, dark
  • number of vehicles: one, two, or more than two (no need to count three or more)

This is only for communicating with the group. As in: “Two, passing!”  or “Change lanes after the blue truck!” or “Car back – coming up fast!”

Additional information is superfluous, even distracting. Utilizing peripheral vision, virtually all of this can be gleaned from a glance.

Don’t Use Your Head

Use your eyes!  Pivot those little balls in their sockets – they’re round for a reason!

All too often, I see an inexperienced or uncoordinated rider turning his head all the way around to look back.  Invariably, the bike swerves as he attempts to see clearly everything behind him.  In order to focus the center of his vision toward the rear (to “see in HD”, so to speak), he must turn his head more than ~80º left or right (the normal maximum range of motion).  This translates through his neck to his shoulders, twisting his upper-body and pulling his bike askew.

This is likely because the general assumption is that objects to the rear need to be clear and distinct.

They do not.

Believe it or not, if you turn your head and eyes as far left or right as they will go without twisting your shoulders/back, your peripheral vision will extend to 180º behind you.  Thus, you can actually cover 360º (it just won’t all be “in focus”).

Turning fully around makes sense for Ride Leaders who need specifics like: Who is off the back? How many riders are behind? (or even) Is that our SAG vehicle or just a car riding uncomfortably close to the group? But not everyone needs these details.

Everyone should be aware of a “gap”, a “car back”, or whatever – whether through glances or communication from those toward the back.  In fact, those in the rear should look behind them frequently and those in the middle should only glance behind occasionally.  Only a few – like those on the back and the Ride Leaders – need the specifics (and even then – not all the time).

How the Pros Do It

Take a look at these two pictures of Lance Armstrong*.  First is “The Look”, an infamous moment from the 2001 Tour de France.  Here, Lance is attempting to determine specifics like: Who is on my wheel? Who is on Jan’s wheel? Are they cracking, or are they marking me?

The second is from the 2009 TdF.  Note that even though they are all watching the guy behind them -  Andy Schleck – not one rider has turned his head more than 80°.  They are all using a combination of peripheral vision and eye pivoting to see that the young man in white is accelerating.


Execute

It takes practice to glance back without swerving.  Generally, the causes are locked-elbows or failure to redistribute weight on the handlebars.  In the TdF pictures above, note Armstrong’s elbows in both pictures.  Notice that, as he looks over his left shoulder, his right elbow is bent significantly more than his other.  In the second image, Contador’s elbows aren’t as different.  This is due to the fact that he is not turning his head nearly as much.

If you’re not steady when looking back – whether from inexperience or you’re just plain “rusty” – work it into your normal routine on solo rides. Example: on a road with a wide shoulder, line up on the white line and glance back every 30-45 seconds (not more – could make you dizzy). When you refocus to the front, your tires should still be on that white line. Practice until it is.

Note: swerving may also be caused, or made worse, by poor bike-fit. Make sure you have a proper bike-fit!

Transfixed Gears

At no point should a rider’s focus become fixed on any one thing.

Whether mesmerized by a spinning cog or working so hard your head drops and all you see are the lines on the road, staring at a point just ahead of your front wheel will inevitably lead to injury (if not for you, then the hapless, trusting soul who’s drafting you).

Believe it or not, conversations can be held without eye contact, without looking at the other person repeatedly. If you’re riding next to someone and having a nice chat about… whatever… for the sake of everyone else, please maintain the pace, don’t open gaps, and hold your line.

Shifty Eyed Cyclists

When on a bicycle, focus should be forward and constantly changing.

I generally scan the road from about 10 meters to about 100 meters ahead, back and forth, a little left and a little right, assessing potential hazards in advance. Dogs usually chase from the sides, and vehicles can pull out in front of the peloton from intersecting roads or driveways. My peripheral vision warns me of approaching objects from off-center, and because I’m always scanning, I’m quick to see what’s going on around me/us, so I can avoid surprises.

Posted
AuthorJosh Whitmore