Found: Kettle Cycles’ 40g SICCC Carbon Ceramic Disc Brake Rotors!

Kettle Cycles SICCC SFL Silicon Carbide Ceramic Carbon Fiber mountain bike disc brake rotors

Carbon ceramic disc brake rotors have been used in aerospace applications since the 1970s and in motorsports since the ’80s. Brembo provided them for the Ferrari Enzo in 2002, and now Lamborghini, Mercedes, Chevrolet (Corvette), Aston Martin and others use them in production cars and on the track.

The benefits are improved heat dissipation and increased longevity, not to mention less unsprung weight.

Now, finally, we’re about to get our hands on some for bicycles. Kettle Cycles just launched their Kickstarter campaign to bring their SICCC disc brake rotors to market.

SICCC stands for Silicon Carbide, Ceramic and Carbon. The Silicon Carbide provides the friction, Ceramic manages the heat and Carbon keeps the rotor strong, stiff and light. How light? Their SFL one-piece 140mm rotors are as light as 40 grams!

Video, tech and more pics below…

As the photo at top indicates, two models will be offered. The one-piece SFL version is the premium piece since it requires a bit more production time and more of the premium materials. SFL means Super Feather Light officially, but is more likely to result in you saying So F–kin’ Light.

Co-founder Josh Gore says the whole reason for the two piece rotor is to reduce the amount of SICCC material used, which is a more expensive material than using just carbon fiber for the spider.

“We started with a two-piece design, thinking the product would be too hard and too expensive to produce as a one-piece,” Gore told us. “It’s more complex to lay up the material using the thin cross sections needed, but during testing we discovered an alternate manufacturing process that let us do it more efficiently and with less wasted material. And, since we could make a lighter version, we thought we really should. It seemed a shame to have the ability to do it and not do it, even if it did cost a bit more.”

“Normally, with something like a SICCC material, you’d see people laying up a solid piece then machining away the excess. But that means there’s too much good material going to waste and we didn’t want to do that.”

For the two-piece rotors, the spider is a special carbon fiber that was developed just for this project. What’s different about it isn’t something they’re willing to divulge yet, but it’s tailor made for the application…and it’s something they’re already looking at using on other components in the future.

Target weights for the one-piece SFL rotors are 40g (140mm) and 55g (160mm). Two-piece rotor weights are 60g (160mm) and 75g (180mm). A 200mm rotor in both formats are planned, but weights are TBD.

The rotors will be made in Illinois, about an hour northwest of Chicago, from US-sourced raw materials. Josh and partner Aaron Stephens developed the manufacturing process and will, at least initially, oversee production in a very hands-on manner to ensure the rotors are made to their spec. They own the machinery and will personally train any future workers. The only process they outsource is the grinding of the rotor surface after finishing, which is done to ensure the braking surface is perfectly flat.

Kettle Cycles SICCC SFL Silicon Carbide Ceramic Carbon Fiber mountain bike disc brake rotors

PRODUCT BENEFITS

One of the challenges with producing brake pads like this is getting the mix of ingredients right.

Carbon-carbon rotors and even some carbon ceramic blends need to “warm up” to have proper friction. The manufacturing design used by Brembo uses carbon chunks, which wouldn’t have the necessary structural integrity. Kettle uses long fibers in a woven pattern, which gives them the strength they need to keep the rotor stiff – particularly important for a rotor with such a thin cross section compared to car rotors.

“It really was the perfect storm of components and chemistry to get this to work for the bicycle,” Stephens said. “That’s our strength, being able to solve problems and find the right partners. Our chemist is super excited about this project and really helped us make it work.”

The benefits seem worth the effort. The main boon to using a carbon-ceramic blend is heat management. With steel rotors, a lot of attention is given to channeling heat away from the pads and braking surface, but you’re still left with a material that holds heat and, during repeated or sustained braking, essentially becomes a heat source.

Ceramics, on the other hand, are very poor thermal conductors. Sure, they’ll heat up during braking, but then drop all the heat almost instantly.

Think of it this way: Imagine steel rotors as water in a microwave. As you heat the water, the molecules get hyperactive and the water remains hot for a long time. Conversely, imagine that as soon as you turn off the microwave the water molecules stopped moving and it immediately went back to room temperature. That would be ceramics. They’ll take their share of the heat away from the pads and pistons during braking, and then immediately release it into the air.

Since the rotor, as a whole, is thermally inert, even under extremely aggressive braking, it theoretically provides consistent, fade-free braking…something we’re eager to test soon.

Gore says they’ll also handle much higher temperatures than steel rotors. And for durability, Gore says they’ve experienced negligible wear on the rotors during testing, even in sloppy, muddy, wet, dirty conditions.

“As an example, when the SICCC rotors are ground, they’re ground smooth with a diamond abrasive,” said Gore. “Actually, silicon carbide is generally used to grind other materials like metal, etc. Even on some of our high temperature test sessions, we didn’t see any measurable wear. It’s really quite impressive.”

Stephens added: “They’re going to last a really long time. They’re never going to glow red like in the video, we just wanted to test that, and after we pulled that rotor off, it had no measurable wear. Even so, it shouldn’t wear pads much faster than with steel rotors, but our rotors will definitely win. Oh, and during that test in the video, we used SLX brakes and still had the same stopping power at the highest test temp as we did when they were cool.”

The initial grab and overall feel of the brakes can tailored by pad selection. Stephens said they considered and tested proprietary pad compounds, but they wanted to “drop in solution”, meaning it’d work with OEM pads from whatever brake brand you’re using.

Stevens: “Basically, if you’re using good brakes, these rotors are going to make them work better.”

He also said modulation is really good, and they’re quiet. When they first get a little wet, they may make a bit of noise, but during normal braking they make a cool sound, almost like a knife on a sharpening stone at a whisper volume. They recommend bedding them in properly, same as you would with any steel rotor.

The rotors are intended for all applications – DH, XC, road, cyclocross, whatever. They also said they tried everything stupid they could to destroy them -drilled holes in them, ran ‘em with three bolts- and just couldn’t get them to fail.

Stephens: “We don’t really believe in weight limits and things like that. Either it’s a solution or it’s not.”

Kettle Cycles SICCC SFL Silicon Carbide Ceramic Carbon Fiber mountain bike disc brake rotors

PRICING

This might be the best part. The one-piece SICCC SFL rotors start at $99, and the two-piece models at just $79. Prices aren’t 100% set for the different sizes, but expect a modest increase as diameter grows. Gore said just because there’s some amazing tech here doesn’t mean they need to be outlandishly expensive. We like that thinking.

Interested in getting a set and helping them get the project off the ground? Check out the Kickstarter page here and their website. The Kickstarter campaign runs through December 3, and the target ship date is in January. The design is complete and they have all the machinery, the campaign is primarily to fund materials purchasing and finish up the final tooling.

BONUS MATERIAL

Just for fun, here’s a How It’s Made segment on Brembo’s carbon ceramic disc brake rotors:

Comments

Gentle - 11/14/12 - 2:39pm

Very interesting.

Quickie - 11/14/12 - 2:41pm

Awesome looking product. I don’t know if the marketing accomplished its goal though since it made me want to buy a Shadow Plus/Type 2 derailleur more than the rotors.

EpicThroatBeard - 11/14/12 - 2:41pm

i’m in. 2 180mm just ordered/kick starter’d

Dave - 11/14/12 - 2:48pm

Ha, I think I sent this in as a tip as the post was going live. Thanks for reading my mind, guys!

(And I’m in for 2 2pc rotors)

JR Z - 11/14/12 - 2:59pm

Wonder how they’ll hold up in Mechanicals (what, with the extra flexing of only one pad moving)? Carbon should flex no problem, but heat, rapid cooling, and flex are not (generally) a good combo. Will be looking forward to an independent testing…

ChrisC - 11/14/12 - 3:01pm

Cue someone complaining about how this doesn’t solve enough of the problems with road discs in 3…2…1…

Ben W - 11/14/12 - 3:03pm

Roadies….light and no heat.
I’m going to get in on this and test these things out in the Rocky Mountains!

Ben W - 11/14/12 - 3:03pm

ha, ChrisC. We posted at the same time. I’m waiting too…I’m sure there will be!

Evan - 11/14/12 - 3:28pm

I’m soooo getting some of these!! I was wondering when someone would offer some really cool rotors for my XC bike.

Gregg C - 11/14/12 - 4:03pm

Way too awesome! I’ve been waiting for someone to do something like this. I ordered the 180/160 2-piece setup. Now to be patient until March.

Champs - 11/14/12 - 4:11pm

And from there, all you need is special brake compounds/cork pads and profound deafness to get any performance or the ability to bear that nails-on-a-chalkboard sound.

Nigel - 11/14/12 - 4:28pm

Will these just be 6 bolt ??

Kyle Ireton - 11/14/12 - 4:30pm

Pledged for the 160mm/180mm SFL rotors. If you want to get some pledge to get it going and be the first to get some.

Eric - 11/14/12 - 4:32pm

Great idea! I wonder how they’ll hold up to the dirt in the more desert like climates.

John L - 11/14/12 - 4:39pm

I can see another benefit they never mentioned: No need to “true” the rotor. Considering it will always be the same, hopefully straight, structure without the ability to hold material memory, it will always be true.

Matt - 11/14/12 - 4:45pm

I upgraded to Shimano XT BR-785s fairly recently after incessant pad glazing on Formula Oro K18s. The Shimanos have the ice-tech steel-ally-steel rotors and finned pads and it solved the problem completely.

You (Tyler) say “Ceramics [rotors], on the other hand, are very poor thermal conductors. Sure, they’ll heat up during braking, but then drop all the heat almost instantly.” That sounds like it might reintroduce the problem. Did SICC comment at all on pad glazing issues?

Cam - 11/14/12 - 4:49pm

I could be wrong here but I think your thermal conductivity explanation is a bit bogus. As far as I understand the rate it which rotors cool is largely dependant on the air flow over them. If your explanation for these rotors was true then Shimano’s Icetech rotors would work worse, not better than normal rotors due to the more conductive aluminium in the core. I think the more correct explanation is that ceramic have a much higher heat capacity so you can dump a lot more energy into them without them actually getting hot.

Midwest Biker - 11/14/12 - 5:30pm

Awesome. I’m tired of replacing rotors every season, and these do look Super Freaking Light indeed. And they will look great on my carbon Mojo! Just backed them on Kickstarter for a set of SFL rotors.

Canucklehead - 11/14/12 - 5:42pm

@Nigel: No centerlock? :(

Rai - 11/14/12 - 5:56pm

I asked kettle cycles about centerlock and this is the response I got, “ISO 6 bolt only, for the foreseeable future. Center-lock adaptors work well, that is how the rear on the white mojo has been setup.”

Simon - 11/14/12 - 6:14pm

These are a very interesting product, and while they are pricey, it’s not outlandishly expensive. I’m cautiously optimistic about these and am excited to see where the technology goes in the future in terms of bikes!

Will - 11/14/12 - 7:16pm

Very hard to believe these will work well on a bike. Cars will colds carbon ceramics stop worse than the cheapest cars out there, plus their is no feel.

Also make sure you cover the rotors if your going to wash your bike with soap or any cleaning product.

Nick - 11/15/12 - 12:03am

While I understand that the explanation of heat transfer was intended for general consumption, it is pretty much completely, entirely incorrect. If the rotors conduct heat less, the temperature at the braking surface will be higher, meaning more heat will be transfered to the calipers. While the whole “fade-free braking” idea would be great, but you’ve got to get rid of the heat somehow. Seems like you’d need a caliper specifically designed to dissipate heat, and possibly pads too…

Kark - 11/15/12 - 9:05am

@ Will. r/e cleaning. I’ve designed robot end effector parts from CF that gets used in food processing. They get washed weekly with some very harsh cleaning products. ..like not available for consumer purchase harsh. Over two years in service and no issues. none.

as far as I’m concerned you can wash that sh!t with whatever you’d like and you’ve nothing to worry about.

Call in the lawyers - 11/15/12 - 9:26am

BrakeTech Axis/Cmc (m/c) rotors patented the non-load bearing floating rotor design (US Patent. 6,957,726) which they are using on their 2-piece design…hope they are aware of the potential infringement & are going to pay royalties.

NotAMachinist - 11/15/12 - 11:01am

Depending on the SiC-Carbon-Other mix the heat capacity can be 2 or more times greater than steel, but since these rotors are less than half the mass of steel rotors that’s probably a wash. I was surprised to find the thermal conductivity of SiC-Carbon composites range from roughly double to 10 times greater than steel, again depending on the exact mix.

So these should be at least as good as a steel rotor at absorbing heat and conducting it away from the braking surface, but they still need to radiate that energy into the air and not the brake fluid.

Slow Joe Crow - 11/15/12 - 12:10pm

The look awesome and the price is surprisingly reasonable, but I’m really worried about an impact making them explode like a Spinergy wheel. Carbon-Carbon’s warmup time would also be a concern in some cases, although DH and FR riders could probably just do a few stop and goes before each run.

Surly Shawn - 11/15/12 - 1:17pm

Those are siccc indeed! I hope I get paid again before the kickstarte campaign ends.

NotAMachinist - 11/15/12 - 2:39pm

@Kyle
It would be interesting to see how the SiCCC rotors do in that test.

These are really interesting and these guys should be applauded for doing something new and innovative.

Androo - 11/15/12 - 3:03pm

Agree with Nick and NotAMachinist – the explanation in the article is basically entirely bogus. For a good performing rotor, you want the specific heat capacity to be as high as possible, and the conductivity to also be as high as possible. If the conductivity is low, it’s just going to hold that heat and instead of rejecting it to the air, it’s going to end up heat-soaking your brake fluid…

I’m sure the technology works as claimed, just pretty sure the explanation of why it works is totally incorrect here.

wallymann - 11/15/12 - 4:25pm

interesting, i think they’ve solved the problem with road discs being unable to provide the braking power and heat-dissipation needed for extended high-speed braking while still providing light weight.

wonder how well they work in the rain?

also interesting in that they seem to have used BrakeTech’s “direct-link” design to transfer braking loads directly from the rotor to the carrier (i.e., not using the rivets to transfer the loads). http://www.braketech.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=96

Loki - 11/15/12 - 8:39pm

I’ll be kicking in for a set, even if they just end up on a wall! All we now need is the 3D ti printer to print ultralight calipers …

In all this debate regarding heating up the oil in the system it amazes me that no-one mentions changing the the fluid. DOT12 is available (although a little more expensive) and has a higher rating due to it’s ability to not change state at much higher temps than DOT 4. This would add a little cost, but that hasn’t proven to be a hindrance to the niche market yet!

cx_monkey - 11/16/12 - 12:44pm

I pledged for some of the 2 part rotors – now wondering how well they’ll hold up in our lovely British grinding paste conditions….

I just couldn’t help myself though – they look amazing!

doccoraje - 11/18/12 - 6:34pm

I’ve been reading about these rotors for a while, is there any mention about thickness?
I can`t decide which one looks better, love the slick look and weight of the SFL, but also two-piece looks classy and only 5 gr “heavier”.

T.S. - 11/21/12 - 12:15pm

Maybe Im the only one to note this because i love cars as much as bikes, but on cars(and this is coming from reviews in mags and online) carbon ceramic rotors tend to have an On/Off nature, your either breaking full bore or not. great for Motorsports and Aerospace. I think possibly not so great for biking.

I will be waiting eagerly for a proper review.

It is exiting that some one finally had the guts to go ahead and try it out though!

In the Know - 12/13/12 - 4:54pm

@Call in the Lawyers and wallymann: BrakeTech is aware of the issue and looking into it. So far, from what is visible from the pictures and video, it looks like a complete knock off of BrakeTech’s patented design.

Mr.Trek - 01/20/13 - 8:11am

They would look nice on my New Trek Superfly Pro SL !

HuckingKitty - 04/08/13 - 9:30am

Our resident carbon expert has been testing various brake pad substances against the Kettle rotors. He’s found that custom Carbenix pads provide “brutal power, super modulation, pretty much anything I have on my own carbon brake [rotors].”

http://www.huckingkitty.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=211

bk - 04/30/13 - 11:34am

I really want to like these rotors, but I don’t.
I’ve put on 113 miles experimenting use of both metallic and resin pads in my M985 XTR’s. Modulation is great however the power is not. Fortunately I have the luxury of working in a Bike Shop and have talented brake mechanics on-hand. I’ve experimented with pad compounds, adjusting the fluid pressure and even my lever position (I’ve raced them at SOC, too) but alas, it was money and time wasted.
At the end of every ride my fingers hurt like hell from needing to squeeze so hard to slow down my 2012 21.4 lbs S-works Epic FSR. When they get wet, it’s not like what is mentioned in the above article (quote: When they first get a little wet, they may make a bit of noise)….they actually squeal like a stuck pig and when I raced them at SOC they were squealing like mad on every decent! I think it was due to the dust/sand conditions there. I remember doing the downhill switchbacks (XC race) and actually feeling embarrassed at how loud they must have been for the riders in front of me. Not what I should be focusing on while racing.
You’ll find mine on ebay at the end of the day if you’re interested?

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