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Spy Shot: Wireless MTB Brakes?

Spy shot of unidentified brake system
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Bicycle spy shots are kind of like photos of Bigfoot sometimes. It looks like something might be there, but the photo is blurry and dark making you question what you’re really seeing. But with some editing in Lightroom, sometimes more detail comes to light.

This photo was sent to us by a reader (thanks Ben!) who states, “I was out riding in the Forest of Dean [during the] weekend with my mates, and spotted a guy riding with some strange-ass brakes. I couldn’t see cables running up to the bar. I tried to get a quick photo, but this was all I could manage.”

Update Below

unknown brake system (possibly wireless) spotted
Ben’s photo, brightened in Lightroom

Is this a wireless mountain bike disc brake?

Due to the angle of the photograph, there’s no way of saying for sure, but Ben claims that he couldn’t see any hoses or wires from the brake to the bar. It’s possible the bike was running internal cables at the bar through the stem, but then we’d expect to see the front brake hose exit from the bottom of the crown.

That’s a pretty massive device mounted around the area of the front brake, which indicates it’s more than just a brake caliper.

If it’s not a wireless brake system, what is it?

From the photo, it appears that there is a light on the device indicating that it has some sort of electronics inside. Outside of a wireless brake system, this could be a few things: like an ABS brake system or a data acquisition system monitoring the performance of the brake. Both of these devices would still need a brake hose to the lever, so unless the hose is just hidden by the angle of the photo, it still seems possible that it is some sort of wireless system.

Could it happen?

We’ve heard rumors over the past few years that suggest wireless brakes aren’t completely out of the question. While our feelings on the matter are mixed, what we’re seeing in this photo leads us to believe they’re still a ways off. Here’s why:

The device is big and would require not just electronics and a pump, but also a battery, all of which add weight. Considering the brakes are always at the furthest end of the unsprung mass, that extra weight could negatively affect suspension performance as well. It also seems like it’s putting some critically important gear in a highly vulnerable spot.

Why Though?

Say this is a wireless MTB disc brake system – why would anyone want that? We can already hear the chants of a ‘solution in search of a problem,’ but there may be some real benefits to a wireless brake system. Without the need for a continuous hydraulic system from the lever to the caliper, brake levers would no longer need to be hydraulic themselves. Instead, you could simply have an electronic button at the lever or a similar brake lever shape that actuated a button. This seems like it could benefit the adaptive bike community for riders who can’t use a traditional brake lever.

In terms of ebike use, if there were small wires leading to the system that would eliminate the need for batteries at the brake calipers which should make the system lighter. That would also open the potential for integration of ABS systems as well.

There’s also the aesthetics of having a cable or hose-free setup at the handlebar. Currently, it seems like that would be a tradeoff between a much more cluttered area by the caliper, but it would mean the absence of cables and hoses without having to route anything through the headset.

Thanks to Ben for the tip!

Update: It is wireless!

That didn’t take long: thanks to the tip by Frederic in the comments, we see that this is a wireless brake system. The video from GMBN above was just released 10 hours ago, and features the work of Blake Samson!

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Tom Wenzel
2 months ago
Reply to  Frederic

Thank god for AI YouTube summarizers:
“In this YouTube video, the speaker discusses his process of creating wireless bike brakes. He starts by designing a cardboard template and then cutting it out of steel, mounting the servo, electronics, and battery underneath. He then creates two brackets for the servos and fits them onto the bosses for the brakes. He plans to make the brake cableless and tubeless and to use a lever and system from an old gusset brake to create something new. However, he faces challenges with finding the right brains to put in the new system and to avoid making it too ghetto. He demonstrates and tests his invention of wireless bike brakes, building the rear brake first and making improvements to create a front brake as well. During the test drive, he accidentally locks up the brakes, but plans to make adjustments to the system in a future version. Overall, the speaker expresses amazement that the bike functions with no cables at all and suggests that there is still room for improvement and research and development before this technology can become truly mainstream.”

TheStansMonster
TheStansMonster
2 months ago

What a fun and exciting new way to die for stupid reasons.

Peter
Peter
2 months ago

Hmm, Why would you die? If the communication would get lost, the design would just need the system to be a failed close system. When the signal get lost, the bike brakes.

Toni
Toni
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter

What a fun and exciting new way to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, without beeing able to even push your bike anymore. Still, better than dying of course…
Oh wait – hope the front brake doesn’t decide to go in closed mode in the wrong moment, let’s say coming down from air.

geemy
geemy
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter

that could mean getting seriously injured or worst case dying

James
James
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter

I think you answered your own question? Front brake locks up whilst descending seem okay?

Oliver
Oliver
2 months ago

Bosch have unreleased wireless e-bike brakes in pretty advanced stages. I guess Magura had prototypes years ago when they were in their wireless experimentation phase. I’d be surprised if SRAM isn’t designing stuff. Not sure about Shimano, they’re so conservative. It’s a matter of time before we see it on e-bikes. Push bikes it’ll probably be on road / gravel rear brakes first.

WhateverBikes
2 months ago
Reply to  Oliver

What’s a ‘push bike’?

Robin
Robin
2 months ago

Please, no.

BEERANDSPOKES
BEERANDSPOKES
2 months ago

Is it Just me, or does it look like a little demon from Jim Hensons world?

syborg
syborg
2 months ago

How do you get home if your brake battery dies?

blahblahblah
blahblahblah
2 months ago
Reply to  syborg

the ambulance will take you

paquo
paquo
2 months ago
Reply to  syborg

quickly

tim
tim
2 months ago
Reply to  paquo

GREAT reply to Syborg.

geemy
geemy
2 months ago
Reply to  syborg

you die too
or you could do like with any brake failure, use the other brake, go slower downhill. Don’t take super steep stuff.

geemy
geemy
2 months ago

it doesn’t need a pump. hydraulics is used to transfer pressure, you don’t need with brake by wire ( or wireless), you would use directly electric motor(s), to actuate the calipers. with gear reduction, this means probably stronger braking power with identical disc and pads

Enough already
Enough already
2 months ago

When we said we hate internal cables we didn’t mean for anyone do this.

Bodhi
Bodhi
2 months ago

On todays episode of “problems that didn’t need to be solved”….

Ben
Ben
2 months ago

I think the bicycle industry should be more carefull with the fewer and fewer people actually willing to pay for new bike tech…

Tom Wenzel
2 months ago

The bike industry can’t decide on a screw standard for a bike (SRAM changes from hex to Torx on a weekly basis), and I’m going to entrust them with this?

FritzP
FritzP
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Wenzel

for sure! Someone at SRAM has a fastener fetish!

Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benedict
2 months ago

Fun engineering exercise. But a horrible idea. Bikes don’t need to be more complicated.

Exodux
2 months ago

I’m not sure I’d ever want to go wireless/ hosingless/ cableless when it come to braking. Braking is the most important aspect of anything that moves.

I heard that if the system failed or the battery died, the brakes would activate, a good point #Syborg made…how would you? possibly by ambulance as #blahblahblah?

Workonsunday
Workonsunday
2 months ago

I first heard of wireless brakes that sram was exploring back in 2018, someone i know was on the consulting team but not heard anything else since.

Mark Howlett
Mark Howlett
2 months ago
Reply to  Workonsunday

yes, I’ve seen article on a working system from 2011, and a patent application from 2019.

Hamjam
Hamjam
2 months ago

Yawn…wake me when they make those BOA shoe strings wireless and then connect them to my cell phone. Then take my frikken money!!!

bimjeam
bimjeam
2 months ago

I can see a bypass for bushings lubrication

Jeremy C
Jeremy C
2 months ago

April 1st already?

Mark Howlett
Mark Howlett
2 months ago

Don’t forget the Germans already did it in 2011, I don’t know if it went anywhere.

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