Imagine cable-operated dual-pivot calipers or v-brakes with the modulation & power of hydraulic discs. Imagine the most reliable gear housing on the planet outlasting everything else attached to your bike, including the frame. Have I got your attention? Good. Then read on…
The first time I installed these on my bike and did a brief test ride was one of the most ecstatic moments in my life. Because after a lot of time prototyping and a lot of investment I knew that my invention had worked. It didn’t just “work”, it exceeded all my expectations.
From the very beginning, it was clear to me that the gear housing provided extremely crisp gear shifting. After just a few short test rides I was already convinced that my ceramic gear housing was far superior to older steel bowden casings and newer segmented metallic housing (nokon konkavex, alligator iLink & aztec powerlines).
On the other hand, I knew the ceramic brake lines needed a lot further refinement & modifications before they could surpass the competition. There were several reported failures of carbon nokons used as brake housing, so naturally I was very cautious (if not overly so, hence the production delay).
Obviously it’s much more difficult -but not impossible- for me to offer an objective, unbiased review.
There are over 780 precision-made ceramic pieces contained in just one complete set of brakes / gear lines (~3 metres of housing). Hence, I prefer to custom manufacture these to the exact length that the customer requires. So it’s simply a matter of inserting the housing into the cable stops and threading the cable through the liner and they’re ready to go.
Give your brakes a break:
With traditional bowden housing, as you continue to increase the force at the brake lever, there comes a point where you can squeeze the brakes as hard as you want and the force applied at the wheel does not increase to the same degree. Part of the reason for this is that as the brake actuates, the brake housing compresses while the cable itself stretches.
Vertebrae ceramic brake lines significantly increase braking force by reducing longitudinal compression in the outer housings themselves. If you increase the lever force gradually, the brakes will stop you by a proportional amount. They provide a more linear brake response, a bit like braided steel lines do for hydraulic disc brakes. The harder you apply the brakes, the more noticeable this becomes. Install these on any pair of brakes and their braking power & feel will instantly improve.
In the real world, with vertebrae ceramic housing you can brake down 20% steeply inclined gradients with only two fingers, from the hood position. That might not mean much to people living in flat areas so I’ll explain it another way – from the drops, one finger provides enough power in a front dual-pivot caliper to lift the rear wheel and send you over the bars. Further, you can easily reach the full capacity of the rear brake, enabling you to lock the rear wheel with suprisingly little force applied at the brake lever.
The ultimate gear housing?
With the introduction of a greater number of cassette cogs over the years, the spacing between them has narrowed from 5.3mm for an original 5 speed cluster to only 3.8 mm for the latest 11 speed campagnolo one. To maintain precise, accurate shifting, the cable actuation tolerances now become a very critical factor in the whole setup.
However, in order to save weight, campagnolo now specifies a new “ultrashift” housing with a 4.1mm outer diameter, even less than before. One quarter turn of the barrel adjuster is now usually sufficient to fine tune your rear derailleur; one whole turn will easily send it completely out of whack!
In this respect, Vertebrae ceramic gear housing is very impressive indeed. By eliminating housing compression from the equation, they provides a slightly wider range of adjustment that is more tolerant of cable tension. I never have to stop and adjust the tension in my vertebrÃ¦ gear cables, even after months of use or disuse. Even so, each and every gear change is incredibly effortless and swift.
An integral feature is that they come complete with an outer protective casing which I call “spinal wrap”. In reality, it’s nothing more than heat shrink tubing. This prevents dirt from contaminating the spaces between the ceramic pieces. It also provides some support to the lines, so they don’t flop down like nokon and alligator iLinks do.
Personally, I think vertebrÃ¦ ceramic housing is the ultimate upgrade for cable-operated brake and gear systems. The brake lines are able to give you the performance level of hydraulic discs with the simplicity and lower weight of cable operated calipers (think along the lines of using you rrims as 26″ or 27″ disc rotors). The gear lines combine the reliability of traditional cable-pull derailleurs and the precision of electronic shifting. I hope one day that these will be as highly regarded as chris king headsets, phil wood bottom brackets and king titanium bottle cages. And there’s only one drawback: like them, these don’t come cheap.