Now that the NW cyclocross season is reaching its conclusion, I have time to revisit some of the more interesting trends for 2012 product. Aero road bikes is a big theme this time around, with a number of road racing frame sets incorporating features previously only seen on full-on time trial bikes. Back at Interbike I took the opportunity to visit a number of manufacturers’ booths and photograph some of the details.
The Ridley Noah FB (“FB” for “Fast Brake”) is a daring entry into the market. Evolving from the previous Noah’s “Split-Fork” technology (a slot in the fork blades separates them into 2 air foils), the FB incorporates the brake into the aft foil surface of the fork and seat stays. The Split-Fork design is meant to reduce air pressure in the path of the spinning wheel, thereby reducing drag. Also, since the slot interrupts the surface of the stays and fork blades, the structures effectively sidestep the UCI-mandated 3:1 aspect ratio. The Fast Brake is essentially a linear pull cantilever brake, not too unlike some of the TRP designs, though the TRP designs are meant to blend into the slip stream of airfoil-shaped frame structures rather than act as the second half of a slotted airfoil. Though lacking visual impact compared to the slots and brakes, the “F-surface” paint treatment also contributes to the aero design. In itself, the F-surface paint isn’t low drag, per se. Instead, the treatment at strategic points of the frame surface, introduces surface drag into the laminar flow to smoothen it out before larger turbulence can form. Again, the net effect is reduced drag overall.
Someday at Bike Hugger, I’m going to build a wind tunnel so that I can test all these aero doodads….right after I have my personal 160m velodrome and skate rink built…..it’s gonna be so cool and the sound system will be booming……but until then I have no way of quantifying these designs in a meaningful way. However, I know mechanics pretty well. I wonder how well the FB will work with Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo levers, since Shimano pulls more cable than the other 2. Also, the FB does not appear to incorporate a QR lever. Pro Tour riders often open up their brake at the QR on long climbs so that the rim won’t hit the pads during hard efforts, then flip the QR close on the descents. For this exact reason, TRP developed an EQ version (as in “equipe”, the French for team) of their R970 and R979 brakes. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that the Noah FB rider would need to open the brake up to remove a wheel, since it’s not the kind of bike to run fatty tires and the latest aero rims are all about the same width as a 21mm tubular or wider anyways.
Other than the fork, seat stays, and brakes, the Noah FB has an ISP (integrated seatpost), internal routing, and the mandatory aero down tube. The geometry numbers are pretty normal, though Ridley doesn’t really go out of their way to accommodate short riders if their “XS” size is meant for someone 5’6” (169cm). Ultimately, I’m curious as to if this bike will be a trendsetter for integrated brakes on regular road bikes, or at least common equipment among pro or elite amateur riders.
More pix after the jump.