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Trek's component guru outlines why discs are the way forward for the pro peloton… and it's not just cos they stop better

Leading bike industry figure Keith Bontrager believes that disc brakes on road bikes are the future and we believe that Bontrager’s parent company, Trek, will almost certainly be launching a disc-equipped road bike in the near future.

“The basic problem is that rim brakes for bicycles were developed around aluminum rims and rubber brake pads,” said Keith Bontrager. “All of the part dimensions, leverage, etc depend on the fundamental physical properties of those two materials. And the state of the art is pretty good.

“Now we are substituting a rim material with much less thermal capacitance and heat conductivity. That changes everything from a thermodynamic point of view.

“Disc brakes will solve that problem. They will also solve wet braking, another situation that the carbon rims performance is limited and always will be (also for fundamental reasons).

“The UCI could change the rule soon because the major component makers will have well developed braking systems available. I have no insight into whether the changes will occur at any particular point.”

 

We used to hear from bike industry insiders that the introduction of disc brakes in the pro peloton was at least two or three years away, but over recent weeks we’ve been told by two different wheel manufacturers (neither of them Bontrager) that they expect a shift to happen sooner than that, largely in response to changes in the senior echelons of the UCI and an apparently increased willingness to embrace technological innovation.

“Having worked with Fabian Cancellara, I’ve watched him destroy a pair of carbon rim pads in a single Vuelta stage,” Keith Bontrager said, quoted recently in Bike Biz. “From a thermodynamics point of view it was a big mess. The weight of discs on pro bikes won’t be an issue, I mean at present we’re adding weight just to meet the regulations.”

Bontrager is here referring to the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum bike weight limit. It’s not legal to race a bike that weighs less than this in a UCI sanctioned event, despite every major manufacturer having the technical capacity to build bikes considerably lighter.

With Keith Bontrager’s comments in mind, we asked Trek UK whether they had plans to release any disc-equipped road bikes in the near future.

“Since we don't have a model year any longer, we'll be introducing bikes as and when they are ready,” said Chris Garrison of Trek UK. “We are working on disc-equipped bikes and Keith Bontrager is part of that development.”

And what’s the timing on that? Trek aren’t saying on the basis that unforeseen delays can happen.

Trek do already have disc-equipped cyclocross bikes in the range, one of which is the the £2,400 Boone 5 Disc (above). The Boone bikes feature an IsoSpeed decoupler which isolates the seat tube from the rest of the frameset to provide more compliance and comfort. The obvious launch point for Trek in the disc brake road bike market would be for them to offer the existing Domane, the bike that first featured the IsoSpeed decoupler, as a disc option.

When we showed you the Trek 2014 range (the last one in which Trek will stick to a product year), some people were surprised that there was no Domane disc option included. At the time, Trek UK commented, “No disc road bikes for us right now. We are researching them, but we won't bring something to market unless we're satisfied that it's done right. We haven't reached that comfort level with disc road bike design, so nothing from us in that category at this time.”

That time could be approaching. Trek is, of course, one of the most influential bike brands in the world thanks to a large marketshare and the Trek Factory Racing WorldTour team, among other things. If they introduce disc-equipped road bikes, it’s likely to have a significant impact on the market and the future direction of road bike design.

Out at Taipei Cycle a couple of weeks ago, we reported that Reynolds is extending its range of disc brake wheels for road bikes, treating the whole disc thing as a serious shift in the market. Plenty of other wheel brands are doing something similar.

Another indication that the pros will be using discs at some stage in the not too distant future comes from the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), a body that represents many of the major cycling manufacturers. Earlier this month we reported that the WFSGI has discussed disc brakes with Dimitris Katsanis, the new consultant to the UCI’s Equipment Commission. 

“Dimitris... showed an openness towards this topic,” said Yves Mori, the WFSGI’s Communication and Bicycle Manager. “There is already a specific disc brake group inside the Technical Committee of the WFSGI and Dimitris has mentioned that he is willing to work together with this specific disc brake group to speak about the possible introduction of disc brakes in road racing.”

So, it’s looking increasingly possible that disc brakes could be introduced in pro racing in the fairly near future. Of course, the rest of us are free to ride disc brake road bikes now, whether or not they’re permitted in top-level racing, but if the pros start using discs it’ll certainly influence their popularity in the marketplace.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

46 comments

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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New kit is the future, says man who wants to sell you new kit.

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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Nick T wrote:

New kit is the future, says man who wants to sell you new kit.

He's also a straight-talking bloke with a massive wealth of experience and an engineer at heart to boot. From what i've seen of him in talks, interviews and the like - I personally doubt he actually gives that much of a stuff about the financial side of road discs as long as his stuff is done technically well.

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jmaccelari [240 posts] 2 years ago
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But in this case, I would agree. Having moved from v brakes to disc on my MTBs, I can't wait for road brakes to move that way as well...

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh, I'm not knocking him or disc brakes, I'm just in a cynical mood this afternoon so don't mind me.

It's an absolute certainty we'll see a rule change allowing discs, and I'm fascinated to see what changes it'll bring. My gut feeling nothing much will be different in the pro road scene but selling bikes is big business - we've done lightweight, we've done super stiffness, we're doing aero now and the same for electronic gears. None of it's really made much of a difference at the sharp end of things so far so I don't expect discs to, either.

Discs make huge sense for a lot of other types of riding though, absolutely.

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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Not really surprising,

Whether we need disc brakes or not is irrelevant, road bikes will get them.

Curious to know how they will be handled though, I took a tow off a group of roadies at the weekend when out on the mtb, it was noticeable how much more careful I had to be with the brakes than when with the same group on a road bike.

Also will road bikes get hydro's across the board, or will it be cable unless you stump up for Di2/EPS,

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pwake [374 posts] 2 years ago
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Having grown up in the Seventies using pressed steel side-pull brakes with rock-hard rubber blocks on chromed steel rims... in the wet, I'll take any improvement I can get and pay for it!

"...and if you tell that to the young people today, they won't believe you..."

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caaad10 [184 posts] 2 years ago
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No-one will be forced to buy them, but everyone will. Personally I can't wait....

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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Bontrager has been there and done that. I think he carries a fair chunk of credibility in the industry.

I wish I'd got one of his steel hardtail frames back in the 90s. .....

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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allez neg wrote:

Bontrager has been there and done that. I think he carries a fair chunk of credibility in the industry.

I wish I'd got one of his steel hardtail frames back in the 90s. .....

Got two and very nice they are too, only issues, they are 1" headsets and don't do discs.

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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caaad10 wrote:

No-one will be forced to buy them..

Depends if they sweep compulsory disc brakes in for any UCI sanctioned event.

Quite a few people will be forced to.

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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Nick T wrote:

Oh, I'm not knocking him or disc brakes, I'm just in a cynical mood this afternoon so don't mind me.

 1 Well you're certainly right about one thing - a lot of a companies won't just be pushing them just for charity..

Nick T wrote:

Discs make huge sense for a lot of other types of riding though, absolutely.

True - however bombing around some of the hills in Bristol in the wet, i'd take 'em.

That's just me mind although, if I was really sure about re-incarnation, i'd be quite tempted to rock up at a road.cc or BR forum party with a disc-braked, 11-speed, compact chainset, Carbon framed bike - running 28mm tubeless tyres of course - take off my helmet and hi-viz and see just exactly how long i'd last  3

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Simon E [2681 posts] 2 years ago
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I really don't understand the fixation with the pro peloton and the 6.8 kg weight limit. Changing the limit to 5.5 kg or whatever will change nothing... apart from prompting wannabes and overweight MAMILs to 'upgrade' their machines.

The widespread adoption of discs on road bikes can IMHO only be a good thing for the people who live (and ride) in the real world. Those who have used them that I have spoken to or read about have no desire to revert to using rim brakes.

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:

True - however bombing around some of the hills in Bristol in the wet, i'd take 'em.

Me too.

Though if I was paid a hefty sum to get around a course and down the hills as fast as humanly possible on closed roads, I suspect it wouldn't matter a jot if I was on rim or disc brakes.

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jollygoodvelo [1410 posts] 2 years ago
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Great.

And when they work out and easy way to true the damn things...

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:

Great.

And when they work out and easy way to true the damn things...

Wee bit confused... if you're talking about centring the disc in the pads, then that's been available for decades. If not, could you describe what type of truing you mean - new calipers or something ?

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McTag [55 posts] 2 years ago
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Interesting to read all this. I've had discs ever since I've had a road bike... Had a 2006 model Trek (so they've actually been there already) Portland until last summer when the frame cracked, but still run discs having transferred everything across to a Cotic Roadrat frame. The discs are Avid bb7s.

Every time I've had the chance to use a road bike with standard rim brakes it's scared the crap out of me how much less effective they are!

The lifetime of the pads and the ease of adjusting them is great too. Only drag is the noise if the disc isn't well centred (this is easy enough to rectify though) or becomes slightly untrue (age, replace).

Whatever the terrain or weather they certainly inspire confidence! Makes sense for them to become the norm over the next 4-5 years.

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isaacrsmith [14 posts] 2 years ago
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My question for adoption of disc brakes at a pro level is how are they going to get the rotor spacing right on all the neutral support wheels, with any number of wheel, brake and component makers, so that the rotors won't rub? I feel like teams won't use discs until this is sorted out.

Anyway, I'm sure there are people much brighter than me working on a solution right now.

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Yorkshie Whippet [525 posts] 2 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

I really don't understand the fixation with the pro peloton and the 6.8 kg weight limit. Changing the limit to 5.5 kg or whatever will change nothing... apart from prompting wannabes and overweight MAMILs to 'upgrade' their machines.

The widespread adoption of discs on road bikes can IMHO only be a good thing for the people who live (and ride) in the real world. Those who have used them that I have spoken to or read about have no desire to revert to using rim brakes.

I thought the weight limit was to reduce cost to the teams, same as all frames had to be double diamond no fancy one piece carbon stays etc. The issue with the pro-peleton as menationed in another post would be the logistics of the neutral service. Will the UCI make it compulsary for all to use discs, even so with Campag/Sram/Shimano blocks and 140 or 160 discs thats 6 different wheels for the back plus one or two for the front. Then you got to centre the caliper on the disc.

Time will tell. Although I see no reason why us mere mortals have to wait for the pro's before we go disc.

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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Yorkshie Whippet wrote:

Time will tell. Although I see no reason why us mere mortals have to wait for the pro's before we go disc.

Only if you race.

Track bikes are safe because no one has any brakes, road bikes are safe because everyone has equal braking, In the same way having road bikes and track bikes mixing together on the track is only ever going to end badly, the same applies to road racing.

If your not racing it really doesn't matter, disc brakes are coming, you can deny it, you can fight against it, but within maybe 5 years most bikes above £500 will come with disc brakes. My issue is more regarding what those brakes will be like. Hydro or mechanical, winter salt, bad cable routings, cold weather, all can be real issues. Knowing someone who had the pleasurable experience of the cable leading to his chainstay mounted caliper freezing solid.

As said not convinced, but it is what it is.

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dave atkinson [6214 posts] 2 years ago
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i don't buy the whole 'equal braking' argument at all. i don't remember the UCI kicking up a fuss when some riders were on carbon rims and some were on alloy. anyway, andy schleck and vicenzo nibali will never have equal braking. even with the same brakes  3

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simonsays [21 posts] 2 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

i don't buy the whole 'equal braking' argument at all. i don't remember the UCI kicking up a fuss when some riders were on carbon rims and some were on alloy. anyway, andy schleck and vicenzo nibali will never have equal braking. even with the same brakes  3

quite right, ridiculous argument. Stopping depends on how hard you brake not what brakes your using. In a peloton any experienced racer will brake as little as possible, no one is slamming on the anchors!

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Bagpuss [99 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't get the point on it's safe if everyone has the same type of brakes on the road.

A 100 kg rider will have to brake earlier and harder for the same corner as a 60 kg rider regardless of the braking system, riders around them will adjust their braking as required.

If the internet is to be believed a rider on carbon rims will never stop while someone with alloy rims will stop on a sixpence (this is not based on fact and may be a tiny exaggeration, I cannot justify carbon rims to find out).

So brakes in the peleton now are not equal. They cannot be.

There's also how braking force is applied, a rider who's a more confident descender will use their brakes in a different way to someone less confident.

To try to prove the point watch this, I've been lucky enough to ride down the same road, with brakes. I bet he was faster without (pit stop not withstanding).

http://vimeo.com/59996430

Edit: Dave beat me to it but the video is worth watching anyway  1

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

i don't buy the whole 'equal braking' argument at all. i don't remember the UCI kicking up a fuss when some riders were on carbon rims and some were on alloy. anyway, andy schleck and vicenzo nibali will never have equal braking. even with the same brakes  3

All I can do, is quote limited experience, riding a mountain bike with roadies, you have to be very aware you will brake far faster than the rider behind you! As long as you don't panic brake it isn't an issue.

On club runs there are riders on discs, and riders on calipers, no one has crashed because of that yet, plenty of other reasons mind!

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dave atkinson [6214 posts] 2 years ago
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nice vid  1

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carytb [77 posts] 2 years ago
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No rear tyres were harmed in the making of this video!

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Gordy748 [110 posts] 2 years ago
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Carbon brake pads melting after a single day? How about a disc rotor warping halfway through the same day?

The carbon braking myth is exactly that. Use good brake pads, i.e. Swiss Stop, and your braking on carbon rims is better than alloys in the dry, and comparable in the wet.

Plus riddle me this. Why do all the big CX pros start their races on discs then, after a couple laps, switch to cantis? If discs are so great, why aren't they using them through the whole race?

Finally, every racer I know who rides disc is not particularly happy with their disc bikes. There's probably a difference in the layup of material that changes the frame's behavior, so until this is sorted then I don;t see pros choosing discs (unless they were paid to do so).

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mattsccm [330 posts] 2 years ago
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Can't see an issue with wheel swaps any more than now.
I do to some extent see the point of wanting everyone on the same. My discs mean that should I want to I brake a lot later as they stop better. I have yet to reach the limits of the tyres in the dry. As riders don't all corner at the same speed some are bound to be heading in slower, faster or just different.
Despite that I would say that it is the riders problem. No one but them has a responsibility to be careful.

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WolfieSmith [1318 posts] 2 years ago
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Wheel swaps will be the issue. And neutral wheels - the one or two times a year they actually get used - will be a problem. I know at least one DS who thinks that unless they can be swapped out as fast and as simply as existing wheels possible braking advantage won't be enough.

At the moment they want to push them as pro choices but unless they become pro choices they won't work for the high street. It's a tricky one.

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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mattsccm wrote:

Can't see an issue with wheel swaps any more than now.

There are plenty of issues, beginning with the pain in the arse that is getting wheels to go in and not catch on the pads. Moving on to, WTF can't the manufacturers agree on some common standards! why is it that no two hubs have the disc in the same place and no two frames have the calliper in the same place!!! closely followed by what size rotor shall we use!

Oh i forgot, how many BB "standards" are there!!!!

On the neutral service issue, inadvertently progress has happened, all 11spd cassettes are compatible, so you only need to have one set of neutral wheels for all three drivetrain manufacturers.

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

On the neutral service issue, inadvertently progress has happened, all 11spd cassettes are compatible, so you only need to have one set of neutral wheels for all three drivetrain manufacturers.

Contrary to popular belief which is not discouraged by the industry, the same is true of 10spd, and 8spd for that matter, it is only 9spd which doesn't work together without much bodgery. I am currently running Campag 10spd and it works the same with both my wheelsets, although one has a Shimano style freehub and a Sram cassette.

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