UCI-approved road bike disc brakes coming in 2016, says WFSGI's bike man

Safety and standards still a concern for cycling's governing body

by John Stevenson   May 20, 2014  

specialized tarmac disc (2)

Disc brakes will appear in the professional road peloton in 2016, according to Jeroen Snijders Blok of the World Federation Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI).

Snijders Blok is also chief operating officer of Accell Group, owner of bike brands including Lapierre, Raleigh, Ghost, Koga Myata and Van Nicholas. He is the bike industry representative on the board of directors of WFSGI, which has been meeting with the UCI Equipment Commission to discuss the technical regulation of race bikes and the sometimes fractious relationship between the industry and the UCI.

Reacting to a claim on Benelux trade website www.tweewieler.nl that discs would be approved for 2015, Snijders Blok told that site's pan-European sister site Bike Europe: “The report on Tweewieler.nl surprised me. It is true that we are getting positive responses in our meetings with the UCI. But despite that it will take longer than 2015 for the UCI to approve the usage of disc brakes in professional road racing.

“That it will take longer is caused by an extensive examination the UCI wants on the consequences the usage of disc brakes will have.

“They want to know more on what for instance happens at 80km/h descents; what's the heat then at carbon rims? Could this cause severe skin burns in the event of a fall? The UCI wants to have such matters clarified before any approval.”

"So, first this examination must be completed and the results discussed. All this means that it will take up to 2016 before professionals will use disc brakes. I do not expect that all this will take up to 2017. The usage of UCI approved disc brakes at WorldTour races will happen in 2016. At least, that's what I expect now."

You might think you’d have bigger things to worry about than rotor burn if you deck it at 50mph. It seems likely that as well as safety concerns, the UCI is also worried about more mundane factors such as wheel interchangeability.

Widespread adoption of disc brakes could substantially increase the complexity of providing neutral technical support in big races. At the moment neutral support in, say, the Tour de France just has to deal with the difference between Shimano and Campagnolo sprocket clusters.

Add in all the combinations and permutations of 130mm and 135mm rear axles; through-axless conventional quick releases; and 140mm and 160mm rotors, and Mavic will have to replace its cars with big yellow lorries to carry enough spares.

At the moment, only Shimano actually has a working road bike disc brake on the market. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a bit premature for the UCI to be thinking about allowing a technology that’s not yet available to all teams, or refreshingly foresightful to be trying to anticipate the issues.

Of the other two big component makers, SRAM’s recalled disc brakes were supposed to reappear in April, but are still in redesign hell and Campagnolo says its discs won’t be available until 2016. It could be that the UCI is deliberately giving all players plenty of time to get ready.

That goes for bike makers too. You’d expect companies the size of Trek and Specialized to be designing competition-level bikes with an eye on possible UCI rule developments, but Trek has recently plumped for bolt-through axles with the disc version of the Domane 6.9, while the recently-unveiled Specialized Tarmac uses conventional quick-release skewers.

It seems what we have here is another example of the adage that the bike industry adores standards, that's why it has so many of them. From the point of view of everyday riders, the UCI might impose some welcome order on the current free-for-all.

63 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Chuck wrote:
aworthycause wrote:
poor bike handlers in pelotons slamming full-on, locking and taking others down too.

A common argument against discs is that they're not needed because you can lock up with rim brakes easily enough already. So how would this be different?

You can lock them even easier with a Disc.

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [280 posts]
21st May 2014 - 11:09

like this
Like (15)

Dr.Galactus wrote:
colinth wrote:
Interested to see how triathlon and tt bikes will handle them, are disc brakes more or less aerodynamic ?
They're slightly less aero but as you don't need to have a braking surface the rim needs less compromises, it can also be lighter which offsets the disc weight.
- http://road.cc/content/feature/83327-disc-brakes-v-rim-brakes-which-are-more-aero
It depends a bit on what you expect.
In the Culprit test, the area differences between the disc and rim brake setups are about the same across the yaw angles as you would find between the same bike with Zipp 404s compared with 32 spoke box rimmed wheels.

If you want to do a like for like comparison, I'd suggest that in terms of overall aero drag and overall weight, a disc braked bike with 404s and a rim braked bike with an unaero 32 spoked alloy wheel would be about the same.

Then you have to weigh up the improved braking of discs vs alloy rim, along with the improved aero you could get from a lower spoke count 30mm deep aero shaped alloy rim.

It'll be interesting to see how much extra freedom is available in rim design weight and shape when no brake track is needed. It'd seem unlikely you could get lighter than with a tubular rim, but we'll see.

posted by CarlosFerreiro [54 posts]
21st May 2014 - 11:20

like this
Like (11)

I'll change to disc brakes when my Ti frame packs up, i.e. never.
I'm sure they are better but I just don't give a crap, braking is overrated anyway.

posted by Simmo72 [274 posts]
21st May 2014 - 11:35

like this
Like (17)

I'm holding out until we have electronically actuated disc brakes, with an ABS fitted. Even then, I might hold out a bit longer for the chain free bike - a variable resistance dynamo in the crank powering a motorised hub, and do away with such archaic tech like chains. Everyone wins, no more lubes, no more chain wear, infinite gears...

It'll change racing.

posted by Nick T [763 posts]
21st May 2014 - 11:36

like this
Like (11)

I don't understand why they don't just make them legal now and allow the manufacturers and teams to sort things out themselves. You can guarantee that if there is a performance improvement to be had, many of the issues will be ironed out amazingly quickly.

My Kinesis Racelight T2 will be the last rim braked bike I ever have. One with discs would be perfect.

posted by wrevilo [28 posts]
21st May 2014 - 11:54

like this
Like (12)

Because there are legitimate safety concerns as well as a need to keep the playing field relatively even which has to be carefully balanced with the commercial requirement of the sponsors to sell new stuff.

posted by Nick T [763 posts]
21st May 2014 - 11:58

like this
Like (8)

Not to mention how a compulsory disc brakes will affect grassroots racers, who suddenly have the choice of buying new high end bikes or stop racing.

posted by Nick T [763 posts]
21st May 2014 - 12:05

like this
Like (10)

I think that this is great news. Just enough time to hopefully have a choice from Shimano, SRAM and Campy but not so long that I can't wait to get a new bike with discs Big Grin

posted by Jacob [37 posts]
21st May 2014 - 12:11

like this
Like (9)

Dr.Galactus wrote:
However with disc rims you don't have to worry about the rim heating up to more than ~50ºc so can use different/less epoxy.

As you said "tubulars are lighter because they do not have to withstand the force of the clincher tyre pressing outwards against the inside of the rim."
Without brakes compressing the rim you only have to deal the tube(less tyre) pushing out, dealing with force in one less direction = less material for layup = lighter surely?

Maybe true regarding the rim brake squeezing the rim but the problem of the rim heating up is the choice of resin.

NASA use resin infused carbon fibre as heat shields for re-entry to the atmosphere. Just google PICA and phenolic resins. If you can make a heat shield for re-entry out of carbon fibre then I'm sure it can be made to withstand a few hundred degrees of heat generated through braking.

posted by earth [64 posts]
21st May 2014 - 12:39

like this
Like (11)

earth wrote:
[Just google PICA

Terrible advice! Laughing

As for PFs the fixie crowd will be twizzling their moustaches with glee when they find out about Bakelite rims, you are right of course it can be done but the problem is how much it costs to do so.

Dr.Galactus's picture

posted by Dr.Galactus [18 posts]
21st May 2014 - 13:02

like this
Like (13)

Dr.Galactus wrote:
earth wrote:
[Just google PICA

Terrible advice! Laughing

As for PFs the fixie crowd will be twizzling their moustaches with glee when they find out about Bakelite rims, you are right of course it can be done but the problem is how much it costs to do so.

Ok, maybe PICA heat shield. Wink Yeah its the resin used in Bakelite - not even high tech. The point is there is more than one solution to the problem.

The advantages I can see regarding disc brakes are no rim wear and no change in performance in wet weather. If you're a bike manufacturer its the great roll-over.

posted by earth [64 posts]
21st May 2014 - 13:13

like this
Like (11)

I believe phenolic resins don't so much withstand the temperatures as absorb the heat in combustion. They are in fact designed to burn.

My R785s are great though, they pretty much remove all thoughts of anything between your finger and the tyre contact patch with the ground. I did think at first that the braking experience was a little bit exciting and I felt close to locking up, then I went riding with someone else on rim brakes and realised just how late I was braking in comparison. The other week I did lock up on a narrow steep gravelly Welsh lane but found that correction in such circumstanced is a lot easier and less exciting. The rider behind me on rim brakes also locked up. He took a little longer to appear at the bottom of the hill.

Back in the 90s there was a very similar discussion on the value of disc brakes on MTBs, that was when rims were considered a replaceable part. I think before long we will be filing this one away with that and the arguments about carbon fibre being an inappropriate material for the manufacture of bicycles.

posted by Mike_Hall [14 posts]
21st May 2014 - 13:27

like this
Like (19)

I can however see wheel ejection issues re-surfacing and would like to see more manufacturers adopt the 15mm through axle design from MTBs. Some already are.

posted by Mike_Hall [14 posts]
21st May 2014 - 13:46

like this
Like (10)

disc brakes look awful on road bikes. they should be kept on mountain bikes

posted by otclark55 [1 posts]
21st May 2014 - 14:11

like this
Like (10)

otclark55 wrote:
disc brakes look awful on road bikes. they should be kept on mountain bikes

i bet you don't like those pesky STI levers either. or those nasty carbon frames Thinking

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7256 posts]
21st May 2014 - 14:15

like this
Like (16)

Pauldmorgan wrote:
I used to swap wheels with different hubs on a mountain bike with hydraulic discs and needed to fettle the calliper each time.

Fair enough. On my old Kona I used to get in the habit of giving the wheel the quick 'waggle' when removing it - slightly bangs the rotor if very close, then slots back in nicely when replacing. One squeeze when rolling off and done. Worked better on the front, but made for quick and easy changes in that case.

I see at least a few pads with chamfered bases these days, that should help too, as will the quick-turn bolt throughs - and their successors - that are around. I dare say by the time / if the pro teams are trying them, they'll have changes quick enough. If your rotor is warped enough to really be a problem, I doubt you'd want to ride it very far anyway.

All that said, i'm not totally convinced about their use at the top-level in general (certain races/stages yes) but look forward to cheaper, lighter and simpler implementations for the rest of us.

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [296 posts]
21st May 2014 - 15:17

like this
Like (11)

Dave Atkinson wrote:
otclark55 wrote:
disc brakes look awful on road bikes. they should be kept on mountain bikes

i bet you don't like those pesky STI levers either. or those nasty carbon frames Thinking

I prefer the wooden rims and cork blocks myself. At least that way the corks from my liquor stash get recycled. Totally environmentally aware I am. Wink

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1040 posts]
21st May 2014 - 16:26

like this
Like (11)

Could be some interesting innovation around road discs and the changing of wheels.

Basically they will need to find a way to adjust 2-3mm either way from neutral on the fly. I am sure there will be a way to do that... just needs working out.

I think my only hang up with going over to discs is the wheel change and the adoption rates... as mentioned, two speed braking would not be a nice thing in a race, especially in the wet so it would have to be, one over, all over to discs.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [220 posts]
21st May 2014 - 17:06

like this
Like (9)

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
Basically they will need to find a way to adjust 2-3mm either way from neutral on the fly. I am sure there will be a way to do that... just needs working out.

I'm trying to remember the context, but I seem to recall some hydraulic system I saw that uses a pull out plunger or reservoir contraption to increase volume and pull back a free end (piston) - presumably for similar reasons. I guess the idea is to just push it back in when finished to reset the system back to (more or less) where it started, but it would need to block off part of the system to have much effect.

Or I could have just imagined it... difficult to say these days Smile If it rings a bell with anyone, please can they put me out of my misery ?

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [296 posts]
21st May 2014 - 18:46

like this
Like (11)

Sounds more like a closed system than an open.

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [280 posts]
21st May 2014 - 19:00

like this
Like (6)

There are good reasons why the pro-peloton won't use disc brakes but much of it will come down to perception rather than proven fact. For instance, Disc brakes are much heavier than rim brakes. Though weight could be shaved off elsewhere to compensate and still comply.

Disc brakes will make wheel changes slower. Pads have to be opened up before a new wheel can be inserted. All very time consuming. Which is why motor cycle racing generally doesn't bother, a bike swap is the only option.

Disc brakes generally have a small amount of drag but more than Rim brakes. A bit like having a hub dynamo. Not sure if this will be the case for road bikes but it's true for cars and motorbikes.

When it all comes down to it, as Jens Voigt said, 'who the hell uses brakes going downhill?'.

Okay, he was being a bit extreme as he understands that on hairpins, braking from 80KmH to 15KmH needs brakes but what advantage would discs be to someone who is a very fast descender anyway? The fast descenders are not usually great climbers so they won't want any extra weight on their bike and, generally, won't give a monkeys about slowing down.

It'll be interesting to see how it develops.

posted by BigBear63 [69 posts]
26th May 2014 - 15:48

like this
Like (7)

Correctly working bicycle disc brakes should neither drag or need to be opened up to fit a wheel. Not sure where you're getting that impression from.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [779 posts]
26th May 2014 - 16:00

like this
Like (7)

Thanks @adamthekiwi for answering that nonsense. Armchair experts are creeping out of the woodwork. Having ridden discs on MTB for some 8 years or so, I'll quite happily state that anyone who claims changing a disc braked wheel is slower than a rim braked one is speaking drivel. In fact, discs are QUICKER since they do not have to be released and then reset like side-pull or v-brakes.

The only time the pads will close is if someone pulls on the brakes while the disc wheel has been removed: the sort of tyro mistake no competent race mechanic would make.

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

jmaccelari's picture

posted by jmaccelari [144 posts]
26th May 2014 - 17:43

like this
Like (6)

There's an awful lot of cr@p on this thread, most of which seems to be promulgated by people who have never ridden discs.

Badly set up disc brakes suck, but slightly less hard than badly set up rim brakes.

Contrary to popular belief, disc brakes *do not* provide significantly more braking power than rim brakes - it's just more reliable, more controllable and works as well in the wet as in the dry. If anything, hydraulic discs offer much more modulation, and hence control, than rim brakes, so lock-ups become *less* likely, not more.

Changing wheels is trivial with discs, once you're used to having to line up the rotor and caliper first - I've no idea where the myth that the pads automagically close up without any lever-squeezing unless there is a rotor between them has come from - mine have never done this.

BigBear63 wrote:
Disc brakes will make wheel changes slower. Pads have to be opened up before a new wheel can be inserted. All very time consuming. Which is why motor cycle racing generally doesn't bother, a bike swap is the only option.
What a load of rubbish. Pads do not need to be opened unless the brake lever has been compressed. Motorcycles don't change wheels because they don't have quick releases, they have large through-axles and no chain-tensioning derailleur cage to release the chain.

adamthekiwi's picture

posted by adamthekiwi [39 posts]
26th May 2014 - 17:46

like this
Like (6)

Either many of the response come from people who don't use discs a lot or they don't maintain their bikes well. I went to discs on the MTB very early on and regularly swap wheels around as its quicker than changing tyres. Can't remember ever having to spread the pads, just like I don't on the dozens of motorcycles I have had with discs.
As the stupid UCI have imposed lawyers lips anyway I can't see through axles being much of a handicap. It is a shite idea though as pulled axles can contaminate if dropped in the gravel and they are really just a solution that isn't really finished yet. Not needed at the back IMO.
Both my road bikes have discs. From experience (how much of the above is?) they are no more likely to lock up. Indeed possible less in poor conditions as when you are fighting a wet braking surface your are not having to pull as ahrd.
Re amateurs. so what. They can change when they want to.
Discs can be safer. I get a bit of arthritis and my hands ache on long descents. Discs mean I brake less and with less effort. Quite possibly that poor girl who died recently, Devon? not the one in Winnants might be alive as the verdict suggested cyclist's palsy.Maybe the other one might have not had problems either. Guess work of course.
Looks. Well road bikes went to shit when black came away from the tyres.
Of course many people don't need discs, good luck but some do.
Can't see it being a problem in races. Any injuries are going to be trivial. A hot disc will burn but so does gravel rash.

posted by mattsccm [245 posts]
26th May 2014 - 18:17

like this
Like (6)

adamthekiwi wrote:

Changing wheels is trivial with discs, once you're used to having to line up the rotor and caliper first

Changing wheels with discs is a pain in the arse, only thing worse was the backward facing Klein dropouts!!!!

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1031 posts]
26th May 2014 - 19:16

like this
Like (4)

mattsccm wrote:
Any injuries are going to be trivial. A hot disc will burn but so does gravel rash.

Discs do a good job of cauterising and cutting, i suppose it is better than chainrings that just cut?

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1031 posts]
26th May 2014 - 19:17

like this
Like (6)

mrmo wrote:
adamthekiwi wrote:

Changing wheels is trivial with discs...

Changing wheels with discs is a pain in the arse...

OK: apparently, some people struggle with installing disc-equipped wheels. I should modify my statement to:
"Changing wheels is trivial with discs, unless you're ambisinistrous"

adamthekiwi's picture

posted by adamthekiwi [39 posts]
27th May 2014 - 15:48

like this
Like (4)

adamthekiwi wrote:

OK: apparently, some people struggle with installing disc-equipped wheels. I should modify my statement to:
"Changing wheels is trivial with discs, unless you're ambisinistrous"

Feel free to try and change the rear wheel on my Top Fuel, If your lucky the disc drops nicely in to the XTR calliper, usually it catches on a pad. So while your fighting chain tension and trying to get the wheel in wasting time.

turn the bike upside down and its fine, try and do it in a hurry the right way up and.....

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1031 posts]
27th May 2014 - 15:57

like this
Like (4)

adamthekiwi wrote:
mrmo wrote:
adamthekiwi wrote:

Changing wheels is trivial with discs...

Changing wheels with discs is a pain in the arse...

OK: apparently, some people struggle with installing disc-equipped wheels. I should modify my statement to:
"Changing wheels is trivial with discs, unless you're ambisinistrous"

Chances are you're changing the wheel with the bike upside down and not under the pressure of a race...

For that purpose rim brakes are just a good example of poka-yoke, you can't mess it up getting the wheel back in.

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [280 posts]
27th May 2014 - 16:01

like this
Like (4)