Riding The Brakes

It seems I've developed a bit of a specialty as the reluctant "early" adopter of disc brakes. A few years ago, I took the bullet when we first tested the HOT BUNS. More recently, I've been seen on the Timoneria Disc. While a lot of people out there in the wide, wide world of sports have their own HOT BUNS, and a handful will very soon have their own Timoneria (which, I assert, is the plural of Timoneria), I have the as-yet only disc version of each. Check me out.

Brief aside here, many of you are probably asking just what the hell is a Timoneria, and have Mike and I completely lost it and gone into that ersatz cycling "homeland" naming convention that we used to hate so bad? No, and we still hate that crap just as bad. The Timoneria, in name, concept, and execution, is the Italian version of the Wheelhouse. "Timoneria" is the Italian word for the cabin aboard a sailing ship or yacht from which the craft is steered - quite literally, the Wheelhouse. Again, check me out.

Oh HAI! Check me out.So now I've got about 250 miles on the beast, and I've developed a few impressions. At first, to someone who's spent his last, what, 25,000 road miles on a Wheelhouse, it's familiar. It's got some palpable differences, all to the good, but I'd like to focus on the brakes for a start. 

Escuse me, my discs are down HERE, you pig

While I've ridden disc brakes probably a great deal more than most in general, that has been primarily on mountain and cross bikes. I love my mtb's hydro brakes dearly, but my relationship with the mechanicals on my cx bike hasn't been as wunderbar. Whether road disc gave an experience more like the mtb or the cx bike would tell the tale.


The whole thing adds just shy of a pound against an equivalently spec'd rim brake bike, and we've previously explored the aerodynamic ramifications for the deal. How those affect the general mood in your household is for you to determine, we just give you the honest dope on what the numbers say.

To the riding... well, they certainly work very, very well. I've not ridden them among a group, but to me the whole prospect of danger in mixed company is a non-story. When you ride with a group, you ride as part of the group, and there's nothing to discs that would prevent that. In riding alone, it took a couple of rides before I did start to notice my braking habits starting to change. The ability to brake in excess of your traction is right there. If you think rim brakes are easy to skid, you ain't seen nothing yet. The net of this is that you brake not with what your brakes can do in mind, but what your tires can do. Yes, you can brake later, for sure. And sometimes, that means you get to the point where you thought you were going to need to, and instead you see that you really didn't need to brake after all and so you don't. That's the most striking thing to me so far - I actually half expect to get better through turns just by learning that I was actually braking too much before.

Operationally, they're tight. Rotor rub was easy to get rid of and hasn't been in an issue since about minute six of my life with road discs. There's an interesting issue where I actually think an overly-stiff front wheel will turn bad, but that's a story for another day. There's been no noise, despite a couple of rides being in damp conditions, and in general noise is super easy to manage. I'll send you the link that explains it.

One thing I was concerned about was shifting performance on a 135mm dropout spread with a 405mm chain stay. Shimano straight ahead says 415 should be the minimum chain stay length. Good thing I used Force for this build, because you can cross chain your face off on my setup. It shifts perfectly. 

These are preliminary thoughts. Later in the month I'll be in Tucson (haha!) and will get to do some big ass descents and put some more stress on things but for now I'll say that it's far from a life changing thing that I could never again be without, but they're certainly nice and work quite well. And, I almost forgot, those big honking shifters are actually super comfortable. 


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Hans – The long and the short of it is that there are no more Wheelhouse-like prices. We last sold the Wheelhouse in early 2012, the pricing for which was established earlier in 2011. The pricing for this was established predicated on a large pre-order volume, the supplier prices that were then in effect, and the minimum order quantities that were then in effect. Our margins weren't great, we were left with more inventory to sell from stock than we wanted to, and it tied up a lot of cash for a long time which narrowed options for what we could do to run and grow the business. We aren't chasing super huge growth, we never want to be a big company, but our ideal size is bigger than we were then or even than we are now. Supplier prices went up by a lot, lead times went up by a lot, minimum order quantities went up by a lot. The closest we could get in a Taiwanese mass production version of this bike would still cost north of $2000, and leave us with unacceptable capital requirements to make the initial order, and an unacceptable cash flow and inventory risk situation. So the price is kind of negligible/unrealistic as a component because we're talking about straight margins in a situation where other elements don't work at all. There are companies out there who do similar stuff to that at around the $2000 frame price point, but that whole ball of wax doesn't work for us. The dojo situation reinforced that with emphasis. People assume that this is an either/or situation – that the Timoneria comes at the expense of a lower-priced Wheelhouse 2, which isn't the case at all. If there had been a tenable Wheelhouse 2, we wouldn't have been on the sidelines of the frame biz for nearly 3 years. This is not an either/or.So we were presented with an opportunity to do a "frame of a lifetime" frame, and offer it for what we are, rather than the call if $4300+ that others are doing similar frames for. Don't be fooled, this IS that nice of a frame, absolutely. That was WAY more answer than your question asked, but your question was a good foil for some explanation that it seemed was necessary. So thanks!

Dave Kirkpatrick

Sorry, I feel like an idiot for missing that link! Yikes, I guess that is Italian pricing! I suppose I was the expecting/hoping for more Wheelhouse-like prices. :-)


Hans – More info and a link to the geometry is at http://www.novemberbicycles.com/timoneria/ We'll do a full APB when we do the pre-order. – Dave

Dave K

Dave, awesome — I look forward to hearing (on blog?) about the availability of the disc frames. I'd love to learn more about geometry etc. too if that is already known/available.


Jack, Jeremy – Thanks both. Hans – We have rim brake frames in stock ready to go. The disc brake version will be available by pre-order soon (can't tell you exact dates yet, but aim is for delivery early in Q2) and then in-stock on a very limited basis. We want to make one very small change to this frame so to increase tire clearance, which will be implemented on the next frames. Limiting stock is important to our ability to sell these for not less than 25% less than very comparable frames sell for elsewhere. Mike – Thanks. I'm pretty die hard about blue hubs but don't tell that to my rim brake 34s that have silver CK hubs (but blue nipples). The lacing on these is 24/24, which works just great for most disc brake rears. The wider flange spacing makes a 135OLD disc rear a bit better than an equivalently built 130OLD rear wheel. We've got 28hRail 34 rims, but 24 goes a long way up the rider weight scale. We've gone with 140mm rotors, which I think is the correct move at this point. There's so much stopping power. Tests to failure (by others) have shown some liability in the Shimano IceTech™ rotors but full steel rotors show higher yield temp. The test to failure I saw was a very extreme use case.

Dave K

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