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December 17, 2013 / WPAdmin

The Hubris of SRAM

Unlike some other bicycle companies, I have no ill will towards SRAM, most likely because I have nothing to do with them, and the more competition for Shimano the better! But the new recall on their hydraulic brake systems (RED 22 and S-700 Hydraulic Road Brakes) and the stern warning to NOT RIDE YOUR BIKES as the brake system may fail completely, has caused many industry professional to watch the situation critically to see how SRAM handles the situation. It seems they are expecting the worst. Perhaps they have reason.

Hydraulic SRAM-22 Lever System Failure

But as an outside-est outsider, my observations are different.

Why wouldn’t they handle this correctly? Other than it perhaps may bankrupt them (which I doubt, as they are very rich and sell very expensive bicycle components!), they have everything to gain from doing the right thing and everything to lose if they do not.

Where Specialized can spit on people, and Shimano I suppose could ninja assassinate their competition, SRAM is hardly the bully in the room. If SRAM effs up, folks will simply abandon them. Poof. SRAM only mattered because folks were tired of being bullied by Shimano and could not afford Campagnolo. (Now, WHY there are so few manufactures in bicycle parts is another conversation and mystery)

What I find interesting is the overwhelming hubris here, akin to NASA’s Challenger disaster (very apropos, as it involved an o-ring) but also NASA’s Columbia disaster as well.

“In a risk-management scenario similar to the Challenger disaster, NASA management failed to recognize the relevance of engineering concerns for safety for imaging to inspect possible damage, and failed to respond to engineer requests about the status of astronaut inspection of the left wing.” (

Frank Zappa – It Can’t Happen Here

I wonder to myself, Why would a comparatively young manufacturer cavalierly believe themselves capable of reinventing the bicycle brake? A system that is vital to the life and safely of the rider? With none of the fail-safes and redundancy of an automobile brake system?

The failure of these brake systems is being reported by SRAM itself to be seal failure. And while the seal failed catastrophically, multiple times at a sub-zero racing event in December (NASA Challenger!) it is reported that there were reports of the seals failing earlier in less extreme conditions, and now being reported by SRAM that the seals may fail in any condition, over time.


And I can only think to myself – dumb-asses. What were they thinking? They made a decision, based on their own self-appointed genius and engineering prowess, that they understand everything, could manufacture the perfect seal and that it would never fail.

It is perhaps a sign of the times that history and experience is dismissed as irrelevant, that our modern ego and hubris blinds us to lessons form the past, or perhaps this is just the same old same old that adages and greeting cards thrive on. “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”

I hear NASA is hiring.

further reading:

Enjoy this:

“Why Hydraulic?
Road braking has remained in the dark ages. Sure, they’re shinier and lighter, but rudimentary. While frame and drive train development has been the stuff of modern space exploration, road braking has languished with the likes of horse shoes and buggy whips. Until now.

SRAM, long a leader in hydraulic braking technology with our Avid brand, has reset the vision for road bike braking for the coming decade. Not unlike every other high speed conveyance, SRAM brings hydraulic technology to road cycling for multiple applications. Disc or rim brake, SRAM will stop what you’ve propelled, faster and with better modulation.

SRAM Hydraulic Road Rim Brakes

Hydraulic Road Rim (HRR) brakes still face many of these challenges because we are relying on the same braking surface and friction materials (pads). We can produce more braking force with less hand effort using hydraulics along with a sealed system that doesn’t suffer from cable drag if installed on a frame with tight radii.

SRAM Hydraulic Road Disc Brakes

Hydraulic Road Disc (HRD) brakes take this the next level. We can create more braking power and control by braking onto a steel rotor than we can achieve on any carbon or aluminium rim given the weight constraints of a wheel. No heat is transferred into the tire or tube improving safety. Wheel designs are free from the constraints of accommodating a braking surface.”


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