Results from a recent survey conducted by the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés) to its members revealed an overwhelming sentiment — professional road racers do not want disc brakes.
Part of the reason for the negative response is perhaps due to an inability of the UCI and CPA to agree on the testing conditions. Whereas the UCI feels that merely rounding the edges off of the rotors is sufficient to ensure rider safety in a crash, the CPA wants rotor covers to prevent contact burns, and a rule that disc brakes only be permitted if all riders are using them.
Of the nearly 550 respondents who have answered the survey thus far, less than 16% want to resume disc brake testing given the proposed UCI conditions. Almost 44% will only support testing if all of the CPA’s conditions are met, and the remaining 40% don’t want disc brakes at all, period.
This is a battle the UCI — and more importantly, the cycling industry that is pushing for the technology to be included in the sport — has been waging for years, with little progress to show for it.
Many of the issues can be traced to how the testing has been conducted: haphazardly at best, with seemingly no contingency plans based on how well the testing went or rider feedback. After initially approving the use of disc brakes for the 2016 season, for example, the UCI abruptly halted the trial after a rider claimed to have been allegedly injured by a disc-brake rotor in a crash. That account was ultimately debunked with no witnesses or other supporting evidence, but the effects of the UCI’s knee-jerk reaction were wide-reaching and profound.
Some skepticism on behalf of the riders is to be expected. After all, the bikes they ride are not only a pivotal component to their performance, but also their safety — a piece of equipment related to their livelihoods, not something they ride for fun or as a hobby. There’s also an element of familiarity that can’t be ignored. Whereas many of the technological improvements over the past few years can be viewed as incremental in nature, disc brakes are a sea change in comparison to rim brakes, with technology that is largely unfamiliar to the riders and also requires a wholesale rethink of the support infrastructure built around them.
The equipment used by pro riders has already been straying further away from what best suits everyday riders: stiffer in terms of ride quality than what most people want, twitchier in terms of handling, more of a hyper-specific tool focused on a singular task that has little bearing in the real world. Nevertheless, the industry wants pro riders on disc brakes to help push the technology on the mainstream — to justify its existence, to help drive its development, to sell more bikes to aspirational amateurs who want to use the same equipment as their idols.
That’s all well and good, but disc brakes are already available to the amateurs that want them, and in almost no other equipment-intensive sport do top-tier professionals and amateurs use identical gear.
It’s understandable that bicycle companies would like to streamline their research and development processes by putting their inline and professional equipment on equal footing. It’s how it’s always been in the past, and how companies would like them to stay. But with few exceptions, riders who want disc brakes can already find disc-equipped bikes to suit their needs, and disc-brake technology has already advanced at such a breakneck pace that the mainstream is unlikely to revert; that ship has sailed.
Meanwhile, the pros — nearly 550 of them — have once again stated that they’re happy with where things are.
Maybe it’s time to stop pushing. Maybe it’s time to stop.