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Bend cyclocross race leads to global bicycle brake recall

Posted by on December 17th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

The bike industry is abuzz with news of a global recall of 19,000 sets of high-end SRAM hydraulic road brakes; and it turns out a cyclocross race in Bend, Oregon on December 7th had a lot to do with it.

SRAM made the voluntary recall announcement on December 13th, citing, “last weekend’s Cyclocross racing in the US, in sub freezing temperatures,” as the main culprit. That event was a two race weekend that started with the UCI-sanctioned Deschutes Brewery Cup, which was followed the final stop in the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association’s Cross Crusade series.

Two days after SRAM’s official announcement, we noticed this post on race director Brad Ross’s Facebook page:

I’ve promoted many races in my career. But this is the first one that resulted in a major product recall. Bucket list, check.

Curious, we contacted Ross to find out more.

Ross said he first realized something was wrong when a friend of his, Giant Bicycles sales rep Paul LaCava, rolled up to him after his race. “He came up to me and showed me his brakes and they were completely gone,” Ross said, “They weren’t just fading, you could press the levers all the way to the handlebars.”

Ross added that he and his crew designed a “treacherous course” that was very technically demanding, so brakes were getting a good workout. But it turns out that it wasn’t the course or the riders that caused the handful of brake failures. It was the cold.

Here’s more from Ross:

“I went and talked to some of the guys in the pro tents and said, ‘Hey guys, these brakes are failing’ and they said, ‘That’s OK, we’ve got multiple bikes’ [pro and elite riders switch bikes during races to always have a clean rig]. Well, it turned out by the end of the race all the brakes had failed, even the pit bikes — before the rider would even get to the pit.”

Ross said temps were hovering between zero and five degrees throughout the weekend. “It was pushing it for racing a bicycle. We were talking about pulling the plug on the event.”

The event went ahead and has become an instant classic for those who were there. Ross said there were a few trips to the hospital for frostbite, but other than that the main casualty of the tough conditions appears to have been SRAM’s new brakes.

— SRAM has set up a website to answer questions and deal with the recall.

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Alan 1.0davemessBill Walters9wattsGlowBoy Recent comment authors
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spare_wheel
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spare_wheel

And Bike Snob pens another classic:

Upon reading this, retrogrouches around the world wove flowers into their beards and danced arm-in-arm around the lugged steel maypole, reveling in the irony that the very conditions in which hydrolic di*ck breaks are supposed to excel were instead their undoing.

nuovorecord
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nuovorecord

“Rim brakes RULE!”

Ian
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Ian

Their hydraulic caliper brakes are subject to the same recall for the same reasons, fwiw.

Jimmy
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Jimmy

This is why the bike industry sucks. Innovation just for the sake of innovating. Hydraulic brakes on a bike sound totally stupid when a simple cable has worked so well for so long. I guess there are big bonuses for the marketing wizard that can convince a bunch of spandex wearing dentists to swap out their ridiculously simple cable brakes with some new $500 state of the art hydraulic brakes. This and the radio controlled derailleurs are solutions in search of a problem.

BURR
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BURR

I heard it was something like O-ring seals, just like on the space shuttle…

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

I pretty sure Jan of Vintage Bicycle Quarterly is going to say, “this is why the French Constructeurs used races and timed endurance events to test and improve technology before it got this far into production.”

spencer
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spencer

my canti’s worked just fine. that said, discs work so much better. . . until they dont

AH
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AH
Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

Personally, I prefer to old mechanical rim brakes. I’m always replacing pads on my hydraulic brakes and I don’t ride that hard.

Brian E
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Brian E

I find it amazing that disc brake pads for my bike cost 2X more that they do for my car. And the pads on my car have a half dozen extra features to improve performance. Supply and demand, I guess.

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

Anybody have any details about the nature of the failures? It is hard to draw conclusions without knowing what the weak link was. I tend to agree with the simpler is better approach but I recognize that technology does sometimes advance.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

I’m a big fan of hub-based brakes (both disc and drum) and I really hate rim brakes. But ironically except for rim brakes, I’ve never seen the reason to go hydraulic other than to shave off a few grams if you happen to be an elite racer.

Good ole Avid mechanical discs have tons of stopping power, are super easy to maintain and don’t cost much in pads. BB7s FTW!

Brian K
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Brian K

My Shimano hydraulic disc brakes worked just fine for the Sunday Bend race.

My Magic Hat
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My Magic Hat

Yep. If we’ve learned anything about disc brakes, it’s that they just don’t work . . . Except on cars . . . And motorcycles. And every mountain bike being made today.

Calling disc brakes an “innovation” at this point is a lot like saying your CD player is next big thing. They’ve been standard equipment on mountainbikes for over a decade. We can safely expect them to be awesome on everything else very soon.

Look, if you just don’t want a new bike, don’t buy one. Rim brakes are fine. Got ’em on my bike. They’re fine in the same way that down-tube shifters were “fine”, solid tires were “fine”, halogen bulbs were “fine”, and hairnet helmets were “fine”. All that stuff worked. Fine.

If you live long enough, you’ll own a road bike with tubeless tires, electronic shifting, and hydraulic disc brakes. OR you can be that guy with the Peugot and the wool shorts who keeps talking about the superiority of Schwinn “back in the day”.

The story here is not that disc brakes are suddenly going to vanish, it’s that SRAM had a major oversight in the design process and now they’re paying for it.

Hydraulic disc brakes are happening for road and ‘cross with or without your approval, or Shimano wouldn’t bother. Five years. They’ll be totally standard equipment on road bikes within five years – along with tubeless tires and probably electronic shifting on anything over $2k.

Alan 1.0
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Alan 1.0

hydro tech question: Have you tried DOT 5 fluid in your bike’s brakes? How did that work for you?

(disclosure: I love DOT 5 in older car brake systems.)

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

In 45 years of riding in Florida I never wore out a rim, but I am not in Florida anymore and I’m not buying as many bikes or wheels. I suspect that I may want to switch to discs on my current bike so when I built it I made sure that the frame and fork have disc tabs.

Still haven’t seen an answer to my earlier question about what exactly was the failure mode for the SRAM brakes. Anyone know?

davemess
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davemess

Yes, what Bill said, gasket failures in the levers.