Sea Otter: Prototype Avid brake spotted.

April 23, 2012

There’s often a lot of secret stuff at Sea Otter. Some of it is concealed out the back in a locked case, only to be shown to those in the know. Other times, it’s kept under wraps and only let out when the team racer is on course (like Ibis’ Ripley 29er which made an appearance in the XC race, but which wasn’t shown at the booth) and then there’s the stuff that’s hidden in plain sight… You need to know what the existing stuff looks like in order to spot something new or out of place. Or you might get a tip off from a fellow journo or team mechanic…

You’d virtually need a written invitation to spot the new bit on Emily Batty’s team Trek bike, but it wasn’t particularly hidden. In fact her bike spent most of the weekend front and centre on Trek’s team booth, with people admiring it, but seemingly not noticing that her SRAM XX equipped bike appeared to have a sticker-less brake calliper. Although the cockpit controls all looked normal, with standard, carbon levered XX Avid brake levers, the callipers were very different…


Emily’s bike, with the always smartly turned out Emily in the background. It took quite a while to spot some of the oddities to this bike… ¬†And we’re not even talking about the slammed stem, sat right on the headset bearing, or the reversed seat post to bring the saddle forward. No, we’re looking at the brakes.

Actually, that’s a lie. A quick tweak on the Blackbox XX rear mech suggested that it had SRAM’s Type2 clutch inside it, though without the CageLock button. Or it could just have had a strong spring… Anyway, we’re looking closer.

We did spot that Emily's frame has a 142mm thru-axle, unlike the regular team frames.
Here's a regular XX rear calliper. Centre-bolt brake pads, silver banjo and the usual Avid stuff.


Now here's Emily's team bike calliper. It doesn't have a banjo (so is lighter) and the pads are mighty different.


Sleek shape and a very low profile look. Could this be new XX?


Brake pads are still top-load, but don't have a central location bolt.

That a new XX is in the works is probably an easy guess. It’s been a couple of years since the very successful top flight racing group was released and it’s probably time for a facelift. Given that this is an Olympic year, it’ll also be logical to assume that SRAM is hoping to get its latest groupset on the Olympic riders. So, we know it’s working on the brakes, but we’ve also heard a manufacturer saying that it’ll be offering a SRAM 1×11 setup later in the year. Could SRAM be going 11 speed? Perhaps with a 1×11 setup? That would certainly work for the Olympic course – it doesn’t have big long big-ring sections and a 1×11 setup would offer enough range.

With the developments of SRAM’s Type2 rear mechs, with the inbuilt clutch to them, that would also offer a ‘one-by’ setup a pretty secure platform that’s unlikely to lose a chain on the course’s many rock gardens. So that’s what we’re going to put our necks out on. A 1×11 (or 1×10, but why not go big?) single ring setup designed with the Olympics in mind, but hugely useable by XC racers in the majority of short-course XC races. There’ll doubtless too be a 2×11, but not a 3x… The brakes look good so far – wonder what Avid has in mind for the levers?

On an Olympic champion near you in August. At least that’s what we think SRAM is going for… What do you reckon?

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