UCI’s technical manager downplays risk of disc brakes

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Speaking after the UCI recently cleared the way for riders and teams to use disc brakes from January 1, the UCI’s technical manager Mark Barfield has said that he believes talk about risks is overstated.

“This is without a doubt a trial, we are in no way changing the rules until we get the results back from the this trial and that we are satisfied that there are no risks,” Barfield told .

“People feel very strongly about this and to be honest I can’t work out quite why,” he said, speaking to CyclingTips’ David Everett at the inaugural bike technology conference Cyclitech in Brussels, Belgium.

“I suspect it’s tradition, but it’s undoubtedly an emotional response. What I’ve found out over the years is it’s very difficult to argue and put over a rational answer to an emotional response.

“The other argument is the danger involved. I have had to put together a lot of information primarily for the discussion that are taking place in Barcelona at the moment. First of all, I was asked about mountain biking. The thing is that you don’t usually get big bunch crashes but when you do crash the injuries from discs are no more common or uncommon as that from a chain ring or spokes.

“If you take those three components out you do get some injuries from them but actually most of the injuries you get are from the impact with the ground. And so I think that’s worth bearing in mind.”

Barfield underlined that the green light to use discs was a trial, and that no firm long term decision would be made in terms of the brakes’ usage until the UCI was able to get a full picture of those possible risks.

Asked as to how the disc brake movement gathered momentum, he said that the industry group WFSGI first proposed it to the UCI.

He said that many within the industry echoed this call.

“The two really interested bodies were SRAM and Shimano. But as soon as you begin to scratch the surface every frame manufacturer wants this, every wheel manufacturer wants this,” he said.

“They’ll sell more stuff, obviously, but I don’t think we should be too dismissive of that. A healthy sport involves selling goods, manufacturers will then reinvest that money in the sport. If all of those manufacturers sell more stuff they’ll invest in the sport which means more people riding bikes and more bikes out there. This is not a bad thing.”

While such economic argument is a valid point, Barfield knows that the UCI’s introduction of such discs will backfire if it becomes clear that they present a high degree of danger. He says that much of the work necessary to evaluate this has already been done.

“The initial proposal came at a time when you have a president that says he wants to encourage innovation. The timing is right for it,” he said.

“But it’s also a very good well-structured proposal. Any of the objections that have been thrown up around neutral service, different braking capabilities, the dangers of a hot discs – they’d already tackled all of that.

“They had a huge amount of testing done. Also independent testing was presented with this proposal. We are very keen now to make sure that the equipment commission only makes a decision based on evidence.”


Also see: UCI says there is a ‘desire’ to change long-standing 6.8 kg weight limit

CyclingTips will publish a full interview with Barfield soon.

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