Paul Curley, the American link © Cyclocross Magazine

Paul Curley, 55+ National Champ, explains how disc wheels in 'cross are "just wicked pissa!"© Cyclocross Magazine

by Julie Popper

After Paul Curley handily won the Masters 55+ National Championship, both riders and manufacturers alike were left scratching their heads. What was with that disc wheel, and how can we get one?  Leave it to the bicycle industry to come up with a quick solution to this question—one that will lighten your wheels, and your wallet.

Disc wheels are certainly no stranger to the cycling world, but they never seemed to make their way onto the ‘cross course. Long thought to be too expensive and too delicate for our discipline, most riders bypassed them for aero carbon wheels instead. Yet as manufacturers find the technology to make them work, it seems the disc wheel’s time in ‘cross has come. Add to that a guarantee that you’ll keep your competitor’s pedals and bars out of your spokes, and you have a great product.

“This is a huge, untapped market,” said Oliver Dineros, bicycle industry analyst. “I expect to see the big players rolling out their cyclocross disc models in time for Interbike 2010.”

When asked what they had in the works, no major manufacturer would spill the beans, but calls to Zipp, Revolution, Easton, Fast Forward and others seemed to indicate an all-at-once rush into the cyclocross disc market. “Yeah, we’ve got something, but we can’t say just yet,” remarked an employee who preferred to remain anonymous.

Fast Forward 4C rear wheel just wants to roll © Josh Liberles

Deep carbon wheels just aint gonna cut it any more. © Josh Liberles

What can we expect from these wheels? For one, durability. Manufacturers are expected to increase the resin and plastic content in the wheels in order to make them more able to deal with blows from trees, rocks, or competitors. “We’ve been looking into the possibility of recycled 6-pack holders as a way to improve durability and add elasticity to the disc,” said one anonymous worker from his desk in Indiana. “The contents of those 6-pack holders have actually been driving the creativity on this breakthrough project.” This will increase the weight, but only marginally. Our source says the material can also be easily recycled once rendered useless from a crash.

What about the cross-winds that we often fight on our windier days? “Wind was a problem, until we put our best minds on this project.” said one company spokesperson. “New spacecraft-grade materials and paper-airplane-inspired engineering we’re using in these wheels make them able to use cross-winds to propel the wheel forward in a method entirely legal under UCI regulations.”

We’re all waiting to see what these look like, and whether we can afford them. Expected retail on a set of ‘cross discs will start around $1900 for the front and $2400 for the rear.

Just as we did for deep-section rims in sand in Issue 8, you can be sure CXM Labs will test the benefits of the new wheels in different conditions.