Crankworx Rotorua is the perfect place for proper race condition testing prior to the kickoff of the World Cup season. Racers are notoriously secretive about their off-season preparation, but this week's competitions should serve as a little hint as to who's been making the most of their hours at the gym. It's also a chance to get a glimpse of new and prototype parts as they make their first public appearance, including the Formula brakes on Loic Bruni's Specialized Demo.
In the days leading up to a race it's not uncommon to see Bruni taking laps aboard a bike that's bristling with wires and sensors, all part of the data acquisition program spearheaded by his mechanic, Jack Roure. The data is used to used to monitor everything from the rate of suspension compression to the temperature of a shock, and now it looks like Bruni's brakes have been added to the mix.
The brake's hydraulic line runs through a metal cylinder that's affixed to the seatstay, with a wire running away from the line and towards the front of the bike, which is where the main data acquisition unit typically sits. What exactly is being measured? When asked, Roure would only smile and shrug his shoulders.
More than likely, it's a brake fluid pressure sensor that's being used to gather data that could could provide valuable insights about what's happening during a downhill run. Combining the knowledge of when a bike's brakes are being applied with the information extracted from sensors on the fork and shock would make it possible to see exactly how the bike is performing during heavy braking. According to a source that's familiar with this system, it's also possible to overlay the braking data over a map of the race course, allowing the rider to see exactly where and how much they're on the brakes.
As far as the brakes themselves go, the shape of the polished lever is slightly different than the stock lever – it's a little straighter, without as much of a curve back towards the handlebars. Visually, the caliper doesn't appear any different than the current version, but that doesn't meant that different piston materials or pad compounds aren't being tested. The brake mount isn't what you'd expect to see either - it's much larger than the typical post mount adaptor. We'll have to wait until race day to see how all this data gathering and experimentation plays out, but no matter what the results sheet says, it's still fascinating to witness the Specialized Gravity team's testing methods.