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.