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by Dave Rome
September 8, 2020
Photography by No.22 Bicycle Company
Travelling with a bike can be pain. Once it’s packed up, you often have to choose the transport that fits your bike, wait in oversized baggage queues, sometimes pay oversized fees, and hire larger cars. For these reasons, splittable travel bikes have found a successful niche. The goal of a travel bike is to ride just like a regular bike, but fit into a wheel-sized case for easy travel.
Travel bikes require a way to decouple the frame, and there are a number of approaches for this. Ritchey’s Break-Away system combines a coupler at the down tube along with joining at the seat tube. Most custom bike builders use the S&S couplers, which feature a splined design with a threaded lockring that hold them in place. And then there’s Santana’s Z-Coupler approach which creates an almost seamless finish.
Add to that list No.22’s new titanium couplers. At first glance these seem similar to Satana’s Z-Couplers, but there are some key differences.
“The Z-couplers are a great system, but they’re built with tandems in mind and so use substantially more material than ours (which are not appropriate for a tandem),” said Mike Smith, co-founder of New York-based No.22. “Ours also play nicer with our tube dimensions, and critically for our hydraulic coupler our internal cable channels are far larger.”
This looks very satisfying to use.
Now available as an optional extra on any of No.22’s titanium frames, the new couplers are hidden in plain sight at the top tube and down tube. It’s a noticeably cleaner look than something like S&S’ couplers, and according to No.22, they’re approximately 150 grams lighter than those offered by S&S or Santana. A pair of No.22’s new couplers add approximately 140 g to a standard frame.
The couplers feature a machined interface that’s said to “lock together in all axes” and be “creak-free”. And while S&S’ system requires you to carry a unique locking wrench, No.22’s couplers simply undo with a 6 mm hex key.
Another feature of No.22’s couplers is the large ports intended for internally routed cables, and No.22 has even designed its own hydraulic brake hose coupler to hide within. This is a key difference to most other disc-equipped travel bikes out there where the common options are to either use a mechanical (or hybrid) disc brake which allows a steel cable coupler to be used, or alternatively, to externally route the brake hose so that the caliper can be unclipped when the bike is packed.
Called the “Brake Break”, No.22 has its own hidden hose coupler that’s taken inspiration from those used in the motorbike world. According to No.22, “the design allows for a perfect seal when disconnecting and no rebleeding of the brakes is required even after multiple uses.” This is sized to fit through No.22’s new couplers and to remain hidden from view when in use.
The Brake Break is what a number of travel bike owners have been waiting for. No.22 isn’t offering it for aftermarket sale, at least for now.
“We haven’t experienced any rattling of the Brake Break in our testing, but just like when we run internal Di2 junction boxes we like to put a small piece of foam on the Brake Break to make sure things stay silent,” said Smith when I asked him whether the large brake coupler rattles.
No doubt this system looks great and solves a number of existing issues with dedicated travel bikes. According to Smith, “We’re keeping the couplers and Brake Break limited to our bikes for the time being to make sure we can cover our own demand, but we’ll keep a conversation open with other builders for sure.”
Expect to pay an upgrade cost of US$1,250 over No.22’s regular titanium frame prices to have the new couplers and Brake Break added.