Kettle Cycles SICCC Carbon Discs (Silicone Carbide-Ceramic-Carbon).
Aaron Stephens and Josh Gore are design consultants who’ve worked on a myriad of projects ranging from injection moulding to packaging solutions to high-pressure regulation. Both are keen cyclists but had no experience in the cycling industry. The pair tinkered with improving many parts on their own bikes, from improving dropper seat posts to building better lights for night riding. It was a serious mountain bike crash three years ago that urged the creation of Kettle Cycles and lead to the development of their first product: carbon disc rotors.
During a long descent, Stephens’ brakes overheated and failed.
“I was flat out enraged that I spent serious money on these brakes that performed very poorly,” said Stephens. “You’d think that, with the amount of money involved, most of these products would be pretty solid, but they’re not,” he added. “We have the ability to walk into a shop and make something. It’s hard to do that and not turn it into a product.”
Stephens and Gore are not the first people to attempt developing carbon rotors for bicycles. It’s been attempted lots of times since disc brakes were used on bicycles for the first time. There are three interconnected problems that have yet to be successfully addressed: rotor thickness, heat dissipation and consistent braking.
Kettle Cycles is producing two versions of the SiCCC rotors. The one-piece design, dubbed SFL (short for So Freaking Light), weighs a scant 55 grams for a 160mm rotor, the company claims. And the more economical, more customisable two-piece design uses a carbon spider riveted to the braking track and weighs 60 grams for a 160mm rotor. The 160mm one-piece version is expected to cost $99, while the 160mm two-piece model will retail for $79. The one-piece design is more expensive because it uses more of the costly brake track material. For comparison, a 160mm Shimano XTR rotor weighs 120g and costs $65.
One piece SiCCC SFL rotors:
The thickness, or lack thereof, of disc rotors is a significant hurdle. The materials used have to be quite stiff and, despite the fact the rotors are approximately 2-2.5mm thick, must do an adequate job of dissipating heat.
“If you jumped out to 4mm thick you could successfully use some of the materials that have been attempted, but then you would be creeping up to the weight of aluminum and steel rotors,” noted Stephens.
There’s also the matter of wet weather performance. This has been an issue for those riding road bikes with carbon rims for many years. The same issue has been a stumbling block for the development of carbon rotors. Moisture on the surface and in the carbon itself can significantly degrade braking power. A brief but unnerving “warm up” period is often needed before the pads take hold. Surface treatments are one possible solution, though they have a tendency to wear and degrade over time.
“Our goal from the start was to create a consistent, better-wearing, lighter-weight brake rotor,” said Gore.
Two Piece SiCCC Rotors
The two piece features a carbon fiber spider and a SiCCC braking outer ring.
The answers are as intertwined as the problems. Stephens and Gore claim to have developed a complex blend of materials, manufacturing and chemistry that make their rotors superior to everything else currently on the market.
It’s worth noting that there’s a lot more in Kettle Cycles’ SiCCC rotors than just carbon. The acronym used for the name of the rotors hints in a very general sense at the materials used: silicon carbide, ceramic and carbon. Silicone carbide is used to provide the bite. According to Stephens, this is the ingredient that has been missing from previous attempts. A ceramic compound is used to dissipate heat; the company claims that the SiCCC rotors can tolerate significantly more heat than steel rotors and do a better job of dissipating it, too. Finally, high-grade carbon fiber is used to form the rotor’s structure.
– Dial in the initial bite you want depending on pad selection.
– Wonderful modulation.
– Drilled holes or vents have no performance benefit.
– No glazing or material property changes under even the heaviest use.
SiCCC rotors can be used with standard sintered and organic pads. Stephens says the SiCCC rotors last significantly longer than steel rotors. “We haven’t worn one out yet,” he said.