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  • Wily_Quixote

    What’s next? pro-riders demanding plain jerseys?

    At the end of the day pro-riders are employees and will likely ride what they are paid to ride. they might prefer one thing over the other but what does their contract say? unless there is a safety issue (which seems vanishingly unlikely given the braking qualities of disc brakes and the lack of real world ‘spinning blades of death’ evidence) I don’t see that pro-riders have a shaved and embrocated leg to stand on.

    I don’t recall my local bus driver throwing a tantrum because he’s got a Volvo and not an DAF to drive.

    • James Huang

      Don’t get me wrong; I agree with you in concept, and I’m personally a big supporter of disc brakes on the road. There comes a point in every argument, though, where sometimes it’s better to just leave things well alone. What the pros ride doesn’t have to – and shouldn’t – necessarily affect what you and I ride.

      I’ve said before that I believe most of the problems surrounding the implementation of discs in the pro peloton rest on how the trials have been done. This shouldn’t have been nearly as complicated as it’s turning out to be.

      • Neil_Robinson

        cycling australia cares what the UCI says.

        limits to funds that means i have one road bike to ride and race, i’d like one day for that road bike to have discs, but until i can race with discs (see CA/UCI comment) i wont.

        so, i care what the pros ride, because it affects what i ride. i totally get i’m not the majority of people buying bikes though.

        • James Huang

          If pro riders absolutely refuse to use discs, there’s going to have to be some concessions made at lower tiers of the sport. Otherwise, it should be as Wily_Quixote mentioned above: sponsors will have to play hardball.

      • Adam K

        Its a good article and response, but I think it must be accepted that a large part of the mainstream that follows pro racing will always keenly watch, covet and follow what the pro’s are using. Its an inherently fun part of the sport. For many people – some saving and budgeting can have you running the same level of gear as the pro’s, and you are right there are not many sports where that is possible so its downright cool that we can. In fact, its downright cool that we can relatively easily run bikes a kilo lighter than the pro’s if we want to, how often is it that amateurs get to run even faster equipment than what the top pro’s are able to run?!

        There is and always will be a massive connection between what’s hot in the pro peleton and what avid cyclists choose to run. If the pro’s as a whole rejected electronic and stayed with mechanical, the take up rate and overall % of recreational cyclists converting would likely be a lot different. And so when we see the bike tech articles from giro, TDF etc, I think when we see the pro’s running oversize pulley wheel systems, wax and powder chains etc, that has a big impact on the take up of those products by cycling population. And I’m sure team sky using stages was a hugely successful marketing platform for them.

        So seeing what the pro’s do or don’t do with discs will have a large bearing on the take up of discs by avid recreational racers / sportif riders and many others. There is no escaping the connection, and so there will always be a view by many re is the push for discs due to the fact they are a flat out better braking system and so its rightful place is at the top of the sport, or is it a push by the manufacturers to sell more product and there is no need for it in the pro peleton.

        I don’t mind either – I luv disc brakes on my mtb and cx, but am still hesitant re road racing (I still find its hard to ensure no disc rub, especially when changing between wheelsets etc. And I don’t mind manufacturers wanting to sell lots of product – more jobs for people in all levels of these companies – sales, design, R&D, marketing – so they can go nuts coming up with new products or improvements to products and pump out the marketing to their hearts content – it is up to us consumers to weigh up the hyperbole, read the reviews and make our own informed decision as to yes or no.

        But it will be very interesting to see where the disc brake path goes from here, and it was informative to see the pro survey results, so I thankyou for the article :)

        • Wily_Quixote

          I think it is the other way around, pros ought to use discs because it will make the tech more widely available to the punters.

      • glenny oc

        Hmm…it’s a but like mates with a much higher spec laptop which they could do without although we know it’s much more versatile to have the latest. Some of us do not see the point in the latest tech because tech has so advanced in the last 5 years that it can seem pointless to upgrade. Some of us are happy as is some aren’t. As a previous poster mentioned that it will just take one stage win on a tour downhill and they will listen to their sponsors. The top riders will be paid to like don’t worry about that.

      • Dude pedalling

        But it does James because if I go and buy a new bike with discs and then can’t race it because all powers that be – from club commisaires to the uci – can’t figure out how to run a race then time and money have been wasted. The UCI is a toothless tiger.

        • James Huang

          To say that the implementation of disc brakes in road cycling has been messy would be quite the understatement. I definitely agree that no matter what happens at the top end of the sport, there need to be concessions made for amateurs.

    • Cam

      I think you underestimate the collective power of employees.

      • Wily_Quixote

        I remember well the collective power of cyclists to resist the wearing of helmets in pro-cycling.

  • sl149q

    I don’t particularly care if the pro peloton wants to go old school.

    I do care if that results in UCI saying disk brakes are not allowed anywhere in road events as that affects everything down to and including grass roots racing where race sanctioning and insurance requires following UCI rules and regs.

    I don’t want to keep telling the participants of the races I put on that sorry, you cannot race on that new bike.

    • James Huang

      Agreed. If the top-tier pro riders absolutely refuse to run discs, there can be only two options: they’re allowed for everyone else, or sponsors basically require it as part of their contracts. Stop fighting, or drop the hammer.

    • imranbecks

      Sooner or later, disc brakes will be the norm for road cycling. Watch this space.

  • RayG

    Pros didn’t want to use index gearing because they thought the click would signal when they were about to attack.

  • Il_falcone

    Even if the trial resumes and even if it continues this time until the end of the season and disc brakes are then approved for racing by the UCI at least the captains of the teams will still be able to choose what they want. And I don’t see guys like Contador, Quintana use disc brakes. Those guys are highly paid employees and as a team sponsor you better not try to force them using equipment that they don’t want to use. So why should you do with the less prominent riders of a team.
    But then the moment will come when someone wins an important race or stage because he is on disc brakes. Imagine the second-to-last stage of the 2016 TdF descending from the Joux Plan in heavy rain towards the finish in Morzine. Or Milan – San Remo with the Poggio descent in the rain. That will be the turning point.
    That’s why I think James is right. Don’t push them. Let them use what they want. But that does not mean that disc brakes should not be allowed or at least sufficiently tested during at least a whole season. We all know that ending this year’s trial after Ventoso-Gate was just a (silly) overreaction.

  • alexvalentine

    If disk brakes provided a significant competitive advantage, professionals would be demanding their inclusion.

    • Rodrigo Diaz

      Maybe. And maybe you wouldn’t get teams still racing on 22’s years after it was demonstrated they are not faster than wider tires.

      Cycling still bows a lot to tradition over objective assessment.

    • Dave B

      – nathan haas was concerned they’d go even faster and that’d make it more dangerous!

  • glenny oc

    Formula 1 drivers don’t have the final say, motor cycle racers etc so really the riders are lucky to get the gig. I smell something here as many riders including myself have crossed the disc road and are not going back. Riders like cadel and Sagan plus other ex mtb guys tend to embrace new tech but old school die hard roadies are a bit precious, or I hate to say snobby. I’ve got mates that go on about the refinement of road over other cycling pursuits, very old boy. I have no time for posers.

  • Nathan Hosking

    Sometimes the greatest technology doesn’t relate to the greatest solution in the real world… I’d love to dive a high performance Ferrari 358 (ie, disc brakes), but my Mazda3 hatch is easier to live with on a day to day basis because of its versatility and simplicity…. Like rim brakes. I think the main theme here is that disc brakes are a solution to a problem that road racing doesn’t have in the first place… In all other forms of cycling though, they make perfect sense.

    • zosim

      They may be a solution to a problem that racing doesn’t have but not having them is the same. Pro riders have no real evidence of the danger of disc brakes beyond hearsay (“my mate dave met a guy at a coffee shop who knows someone who saw someone burn himself on one”). Of all the dangers riders face, the disc brakes appear to be something they are fighting whereas, for example, they’ve not threatened to “down tools” over the number of race cars/motorbikes or some of the sketchy descents they’ve been riding.

      As mentioned above, sooner or later it’s going to cause a schism in cycling; UCI sanctioned events will continue banning disc brakes but unsanctioned events will allow people to ride what they have rather than having to have a race bike. This will extend to sportives; last year French sportives banned disc brakes when the UCI suspended the trial citing “safety reasons” which is a huge issue when you’ve only got one bike (disc brakes) and have paid for travel, entry, accommodation etc.

      I’d imagine that sooner or later, the big name riders will have new sponsor contracts that not only tell them to ride with disc brakes outside races but also shut their mouths in public about them unless it’s entirely positive. Given some of the odd stuff riders do for sponsors already, unless they are really anti-disc they will no doubt fall into line.

      • Paul Thomson

        Funnily enough, the UCI allow disc brakes in sportives, etc. I got told they allowed them the day before the UCI Grand Fondo in the UK (useful as I was an Assistant Comm there and didn’t fancy having to turn away loads of ill-informed riders that their bike wasn’t allowed).. Ironically I only saw a small number (a handful at most) with disc brake equipped bike there from the 7500 odd that rode it.

        • James Huang

          I suspect the adoption of disc brakes will vary considerably based on geography. Were I still living in the (mostly flat) US Midwest, I wouldn’t feel much need for disc brakes. Here in Colorado, though, I make good use of them almost daily.

          • George Darroch

            I’m *really* tired of people who live in flat countries telling me that discs are useless. When I lived in Wellington, NZ, my standard Saturday morning 50km ride had 1200m of elevation.

            The tyre is the limiting force in braking. I can easily apply enough power through rim brakes to cause skidding or heading over the bars on both flat and downhill. In the wet, when the brakes finally apply – after tens of metres – you get to that point very quickly.

            Being able to perfectly control braking so that I get near to that point, but not past it, that’s my idea of safety and comfort.

            • Il_falcone

              “The tyre is the limiting force in braking.”
              While I think it doesn’t really belong here because James’ story was about the adaption of disc brakes through the pro peloton I still feel the urge ;-) to contradict that often read claim because it’s simply not true or at least no longer true. With contemporary tires when riding in a straight line you can hit the front (disc) brake as hard as you want even in rain – on tarmac that is – and the front tire won’t skid. If your brakes or hands are strong enough you will lift the rear wheel instead. Try it out during your next rainy ride, there is little to no risk involved as long as you don’t try it when riding through a turn.
              So no, the tyre is not the limiting factor in braking. It’s your weight distribution on the bike that will finally decide how much deceleration you manage to bring to the ground.
              One of the big advantages disc brakes on road bikes offer is exactly that: Even in the rain when rim brakes don’t work predictably you can still do all the necessary braking BEFORE you enter a turn – because the brakes will work as good as in the dry – and then coast through the turn eliminating the danger of slipping which is much more likely if you are still on the brakes when you start to lean the bike into the turn.

  • dllm

    Why should we care for the pro… let them use whatever they want, and I will stick with my hydrualic brakes on my road bikes. And the Enve 4.5 AR Disc… oh I should keep dreaming…

  • Wil

    I’ve been using discs on road bikes for a fair few years now, initially on cx/tour type bikes and lately on stuff with more racey intentions. I’ll be honest and say I’m not a massive fan of them on full on road bikes, I find it difficult to stop brake rub and they weigh a lot more (I’ve got the Di2 hydros, 685’s and trp hy/rd). However, my needs/requirements are different to others and i’m sure some people love them.

    Whilst I agree with the sentiment below – F1 drivers don’t get to choose their equipment – they do have a very specific tool for doing their job. Why can pro cyclists not also have a tool that’s ‘the best’ for the job they’re doing – they’re not commuting, the roads they ride are well surfaced for the most part and weight is an obvious consideration. They don’t need them, why should they have to have them.

    I was wondering round a bike shop the other day on my lunch and was looking specifically at the new Trek Domane. My friend has one of the original ones and this was the Mk2. For something thats deemed as a ‘road bike’ (unlike something like a Diverge or Grade), its miles away from what you’d expect to see in the pro peleton. Super wide tyres, suspension front and rear, disc brakes and so on. Whilst visually it didn’t appeal to me, it does highlight how different the average Joe is in his/her requirements for a bike. More upright position, fatter tyres for rougher roads, compact chainset and obviously disc brakes indicate that Jo(e) isn’t riding well surfaced black top all the time. Therefore discs make sense.

    The alternate argument is that cycling is cool because (within reason) you can buy the same bike the pro’s ride and the above indicates a move away from this. I personally like a race bike to look like a race bike and come with all the benefits and compromises but I also use a proper commuter with discs to ride to work, and if I’m training in the winter then I like full guards, a comfy frame and discs to save wear on the rims.

    I’d rather the pro’s didn’t use something if they felt it wasn’t an improvement. Using the F1 analogy, its like saying all racing cars should come fitted with air-con and heated seats because that’s what you get in a Mercedes C class. Unless there’s a benefit to the riders, its just a marketing gimmick and thats reason enough not to force the issue.

    • imranbecks

      Brake rubs on the disc are an easy fix. You just need to adjust the caliper. Either that or the disc is bent which is also an easy fix. Plenty of tutorials on YouTube for this. I experienced rubbing on my rear brakes after I removed the rear wheel. I adjusted the caliper and it was good to go.

  • imranbecks

    I’m guessing a majority that voted against disc brakes probably have never tried using disc brakes. I reckon most will change their mind about it once they do. Disc brakes are brilliant in wet weather plus they don’t wear out the rims. A lot more other benefits as well. Sooner or later, disc brakes will be the norm in road cycling.

    • James Huang

      I tend to agree with you, and certainly am only spending money on disc-equipped bikes for myself. Granted, I live in Colorado where I can regularly make good use of the extra stopping performance. YMMV.

      • Bahrd

        I wonder what will Peter Sagan, who knows discs’ advantages, has already the authority in the peloton, and – as they say – is strongly financially supported by Specialized, use during the Spring Classics?

        • imranbecks

          Disc brakes on mtb’s have been around for years now and it has nothing but reaped plenty of benefits in use as well as rim and bike designs on mtb’s. And to think that road bikes have yet to embrace the benefits of disc brakes is beyond me.

  • nycebo

    I beginning to think that James just posts an article on disk brakes whenever he wants to drive traffic in the comments section. :evilgrin

    • James Huang

      Ha, that’s hardly the motivation, although now that you mention it, people sure do seem like to talk about it.

  • Larry @CycleItalia

    As the industry (again) gains more clout in the sport they try to influence the rules to their advantage. No surprise there, but the pro marketing angle has always been pretty much “The pros use X. This means X must be the best. You should be using X as well.” But now it seems the pros don’t think disc brakes are the best, putting a big dent in the industry’s marketing efforts. One thing about disc brakes vs a lot of other industry “improvements” is they instantly make rim-brake bikes obsolete as there’s no way to retrofit them in most cases. The bike industry salivates when thinking about all those new bike sales to the punters, so they’ll put pressure on the UCI to force the riders to use disc brakes whether the pros want them or not. As they’re currently paying for the band via team sponsorship (BMC, Cannondale, Trek, Giant, Merida, etc. as title sponsors) the pros and the UCI will dance to their music – or else. Back-in-the day Henri Desgrange told the bike industry to shove it when he felt they were negatively influencing the sport….but these days he’s just spinning 360’s in his grave.

  • imranbecks
  • ay

    You miss one factor, and a very big one. The speed of the development. The good example is the recumbent. There’s no question that recumbents are (much) faster than current road bikes. Still no major bike company makes them. The development of recumbents has been and is extremely slow. That’s all because UCI bans them. The same applies to disk breaks. We don’t care if city bikes have disk brakes or not. We want disk breaks on (good) road bikes. Yes, there are some models, but they are still not many enough. Many company still stick to rim breaks and to rim brakes only. Making road bikes with disk breaks means (totally) re-designing frames, wheel, etc. Unless pros use disk breaks, such progress and development would not come soon. At least not in my (cycling) lifetime.

    • Bahrd

      1. The recumbents are not a good choice outside the smooth tarmac roads – I suppose.
      2. MTB bikes weren’t initially invented by industry and with pro-riders in mind either – and I think the industry has re-created all the cyclo-cross/gravel/adventure/etc. bikes as a hedge…

  • Bahrd

    Before the question about discs I would have (okay, a bit cynically) put the following two into the poll:

    A. “Would you use a PED which is 100% undetectable, improves your efficiency, especially during muddy, rainy or icy stages, but which is not 100% harmless?”
    B. “Did you cross the railroad with the barriers lowered at the Paris-Roubaix?”

  • Matthew Emeott

    Am i the only one who thinks the wording of the questions were going to skew the results regardless of how the riders actually feel about disc brakes? Clearly, 40% are opposed regardless, but the first two questions basically ask if they are ok with the UCI ignoring the CPA recommendations. So if i’m a pro who supports the CPA but have zero problems/love disc brakes, then there really isn’t an option for them to select.

    (i’m not claiming there is a large portion of the pro peloton who fully support discs….but eliminating that completely as an answer option makes it a questionable survey).

    • DaveRides

      100% agree. It’s a push poll designed to boost the profile of the CPA which has been rather anonymous in recent times, certainly on the issue of safety in races where they don’t do anything more than issue polite press releases.

      Perhaps the next poll should be “do you want the CPA to focus on disc brakes or stopping riders being killed by motorbikes?”

      If the riders want real results, the CPA will need to get their act into gear by employing a chief executive with experience in a proper pro sport players union, or be replaced by a proper riders union built from the ground up. An ideal candidate would be Tim May, who was the first head of the Australian Cricketers Association and then the Federation of International Cricketers Associations.

      • Bahrd

        Maybe they (i.e. the riders) suspect that the discs are inevitable and the poll is just a part of the contract re-negotiations?

  • Maximus

    Overheard at the finish of the recent Giro Della Donna between two fit looking riders
    rider A “how did you go?”
    rider B “not good, no form, I was back with the disc brake guys”

  • Aran

    As your usual, very well written piece James. I alway look forqard to your articles. But for once it seems a little misleading to me. There’s a reason it’s not titled, ‘Majority pro peloton doesn’t want disks…’ because actually 60% are a go, according to the survey you’ve based this around, but seem to imply that’s not the case. So the question is, are you suggesting then (per the title) if anyone in the pelotón doesn’t want disks, why would they go forward? I agree with most of the points stated around what in the industry is pushing for the change other than the riders directly, but I think you imply more resistance than there may really be, no?

  • Conscience_of_a_conservative

    its about selling bikes to the general public. thought everyone knew that.

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