An interesting article in VeloNews noted that the UCI has approved disc brakes for use in the pro peloton in 2016 – but questions whether all (or any) riders will elect to ride disc-equipped bikes by season’s end.
In the article, despite there being no argument that discs offer superior braking performance and stopping power in many conditions, Trek road product manager Ben Coates expects adoption to fall somewhere in the middle, for a variety of reasons.
First, and foremost, is the slight weight penalty that comes with riding disc brakes. Even Trek still can’t get the weight of its Domane pro model below 7 kg, though Coates expects it to eventually reach the pro weight limit of 6.8 kg.
Climbers, especially, are expected to be extremely intolerant of any weight disadvantage. Even a few ounces in the pro ranks can potentially be a difference-maker, and certainly would be psychological baggage.
“There’s no argument discs work better,” said Coates in the article, “but they’re not better in all scenarios. Regardless of the brake performance, the weight up a hill will sit in a rider’s mind… you’re going to have a hard time convincing somebody to get on a disc bike.”
It’s a paradox, to be sure, considering that mountain descents (especially wet ones) would be among disc brakes’ biggest benefits.
However, Coates expects another of disc’s big benefits – tire clearance – to lead to their use on flatter (and bumpier) courses like the fabled spring classics. Wider rims and tires on cobbles offer a significant advantage, and pro teams are already regularly running 28mm and even wider tires. It wouldn’t be surprising to see pro teams test the limits with rubber as wide as 34 mm, according to Coates.
Finally, the articles points out that some pros might question the safety of discs in terms of braking power and modulation. If too much, too quickly, on a screaming descent, or not enough at exactly the right time entering a curve or hairpin turn, a crash or even death could result. Some may prefer the old tried and true technology they’ve always used.
“I think there’s an interesting future coming with discs,” Coates said. “There’s no argument discs work better. But they’re not better in all scenarios. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes down in the pro peloton.”
I’d say we all are.