Disc brakes, a consumer-first innovation that is now trickling up to the pro peloton. Racers and their teams weren’t eager for a technology that slows wheel changes, and major disc benefits like the ability to run larger tires don’t necessarily fall in line with racing’s goal of ultimate speed.
But for amateurs, those who ride for fun and for whom a few extra grams or a few extra seconds to swap a wheel are inconsequential, discs offer a better, safer and more enjoyable experience. Because they’ve become such a massive part of the industry, equipment sponsors — and a few pioneering pros — have pushed the UCI to relent a bit.
Four years ago, a coalition of cycling businesses — including Shimano, SRAM, and most major frame manufacturers — began working through the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) to lobby the UCI to legalize discs. Even if the sport’s governing body wouldn’t lead the way on discs, these brands knew it could further legitimize them for consumers who were on the fence.
Though progress came in fits and starts, WFSGI was ultimately successful. The UCI relented, first with cyclocross and, in late 2015, road cycling. But the response from professionals has been tepid, some vocally in favor of the technology, like Taylor Phinney and Tom Boonen, and others vocally opposed, like Philippe Gilbert and Alex Dowsett. The Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), the closest thing riders have to a union, complained in late 2015 that it had never been brought to the table as the UCI and WFSGI discussed the introduction of discs, and asked that the pro peloton test period be put on hold. So though the road disc revolution is consumer-led, there is absolutely no guarantee that pros will follow.
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In another article:
“We have asked to suspend the tests on the disc brakes to the UCI,” said CPA representative Laura Mora. “We have just had the support of the equipment commission for that. We have been talking about the risks of the use of the disc brakes since months, and we have sent letters in the past to the UCI and the organizers to avoid such risks. Now they are going to finally listen to our voice. We don’t want to stop the progress but we want to find common solutions for the introduction of new technologies without risks for the riders, and definitely with their involvement.”
In an article published on 17th December 2015,
There were the concerns raised by the pros and here’s Alex Dowsett’s take on disc brakes:
Dowsett challenged the notion that a lack braking power causes crashes.
“I’ve never been short of braking power on a road bike,” Dowsett said to Cyclingnews. “My belief is that on a road bike you lose traction between tyre and road before you lose braking power, so the wheels will lock up before you think you physically need to pull the brakes any harder.”
Vincenzo Nibali also gave his two cents worth:
Vincenzo Nibali suggested to Cyclingnews that some kind of disc guard is needed to stop riders being burnt in crashes.
Nibali also warned about different braking styles within a peloton and of riders locking up due to the power of disc brakes.
“Riders also have different braking styles. Some brake hard at the beginning, while other go hard later on. The risk with good brakes is that they can lock up up; there’s no ABS on bikes. So when you lock up, you skid and can crash. If the road surface is smooth, disc brakes could lock up more. So tyre compounds will be important,” he told Cyclingnews.
Well, disc brakes are in fact a proven piece of technology in the world of cycling. It helped me a lot when I was out on trails with my MTB as I don’t have to worry about the lack of braking under extreme conditions, it was guaranteed braking under less than appropriate conditions.
And with trail riding, you always have a safety distance between you and the other cyclist in front of you.
Whereas for road cycling, the riding dynamics differ entirely from that of mountain biking. Riding in a pack, drafting (having your front wheel less than 6 inches away from the wheel in front of you to achieve maximum benefits of drafting), rotating paceline, speed exceeding 40kph, etc.
Has traditional brakes been less than adequate for me? Well, not that I have experienced a need for Emergency braking under extreme conditions but I have had my go at emergency braking a few times. Wheels locked, skidding and just plain lucky that I didn’t get to following through on the tarmac.
Will disc brakes be prominent in road cycling?
Yes, I would say it would be the case. Consumers are more concerned on the braking distance between the two forms of braking and would appreciate better the shorter braking distance that disc brakes would provide, the ability to perform better in the wet and also zero wear and tear to the rims when disc brakes eliminates rim braking in all entirety.
However do note that there too has been a technological advancement in terms of carbon braking surfaces on carbon rims and also brake pads. And with the right brake pads, it does make a lot of difference. But then again, why go carbon when alloy rims can do the same and yet still provides you a better braking surface than carbon and also cheaper to replace? Food for thought…
Better not to have. For now (pun intended).
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