Under new rules, professional road cyclists have the choice between disc brakes and vee (calliper) brakes this year. Where this is extremely good for bike manufacturers who can market ever more technically advanced machines to the Mamil market, some professional cyclists have expressed concern about the different systems being used in the peloton.
Different braking speeds
The worry that current Tour de France yellow jersey holder Chris Froome has is the different braking distances of vee brakes against disc brakes. Every Grand Tour series race has at least one pileup in the peloton – one of these wiped Chris Froome out and ended his Tour de France the year before last.
Disc brakes and vee brakes have different characteristics but the one that stands out is the relative efficiency of disc brakes in the wet. Where wet vee brakes are slower to respond, discs are almost as good in the wet or the dry. Where part of the peloton hits their disc brakes suddenly, the vee brakers would hit them up the backside and this will cause carnage.
Froome told Cycling Weekly, “As a matter of safety, I say that they should be used by everyone or no one at all. Having a group different brake systems would increase the dangers.”
Bernie Eisel, who is now working for Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data team but tested discs with Team Sky last year, was more succinct about the issue: “You can’t have the bunch with disc brakes and the other half with normal ones, that would cause carnage because the braking points are different.”
Mixture of brakes used
Not all teams will be using disc brakes at the beginning of the season – Sky will be using vee brakes at the Tour Down Under in Australia in the coming week yet others will be using discs immediately. Not all major component manufacturers have released competition level disc brakes either. Campagnolo are one of those manufacturers that have yet to do this, and a large number of teams use Campagnolo.
The technology needs to move forward too. Vee brakes now weigh just a few grammes yet disc systems, with the hydraulic fluid and pistons, as well as the discs themselves, can weigh considerably more. You can’t immediately go for a smaller disc as the smaller you go the less efficient on downhill stretches, and we all know that Grand Tours are won and lost in the mountains…
Now the cycling authorities have given the go ahead, disc brakes will almost certainly be the only brakes on all racing machines from 2017 – 18 at the latest. This will mean that the technology in this gear will leap forward as road racing component manufacturers seek ever lighter systems.
Discs have been standard on cyclocross and mountain bikes for quite some time but Mamils seem to have deeper pockets than their muddy friends, and this may well lead the race for ever lighter and more efficient components in years to come.