The 2011 cyclocross season is in full swing and the most notable trend shaping equipment for the year is the options that racers have to choose from. Gone are the antiquated improvements of arcane technologies like cantilever brakes and tire treads held over from the sixties; the new season promises viable improvements in performance across the spectrum of brakes and tires.
One of the most notable changes for 2011 is the variety of brakes utilized by top-level athletes. Up until two years ago, it was uncommon to see anything other than wide profile cantilever brakes at the top of the sport. Already this year, the likes of Belgian champion Neils Albert and American Barry Wicks have fitted TRP’s CX9 V-brakes to their race rigs while Danish champion Joachim Parbo is running the company’s Parabox hydraulic disc brake set up. This surely represents a shift from tradition, trending towards improved performance. The faster a racer can slow down, the faster they can corner, making for increases in speed at every level. The legalization of disc brakes will certainly raise the bar in the cross peloton and it’s only a matter of time before hydraulic discs become the norm, much like they did with elite level mountain bike racing. All that’s left is for one of the three drivetrain manufacturers to produce a shift lever with an integrated master cylinder and discs will eclipse all other options.
Cyclocross tire technology has also been woefully stagnant, at least in tubular form, for far too long. Companies relied on decades old tread patterns and racers had very little to choose from. That has changed dramatically for this season with a veritable explosion of new options from a variety of companies. Venerable tubular manufacturer Dugast has introduced a new model with the Pipisquallo, a file tread tire that adds aggressive cornering knobs similar to the Rhino. Challenge finally has a legitimate mud tire in the Limus and there are whole new lines of tubulars from Clement and Specialized, each offering three separate models depending on riding conditions. Add these to the offerings introduced last season from Schwalbe and the tubular landscape is awash with options, rivaling the choices on the clincher market for variety.
With ‘cross more popular than ever, it seems that equipment manufacturers are finally catching up with the public’s demand for innovation. This is a trend that will surely continue as the sport grows, pushing the limits at the highest level with every innovation.