With it pretty much an open secret that major component manufacturers including Shimano and SRAM are not far from releasing disc brakes systems suitable for use with the kind of combined gear and brake levers used on modern dropped-handlebar racers, the sport's worldwide governing body for racing, the Union Cyclisme Internationale (UCI), has this week told British Cycling (BC), our own rule maker but which follows the lead of the UCI, that no manufacturers have yet applied for approval for "this technical innovation".
According to British Cycling enough members have enquired about the status of the rule on road disc brakes for racing that an approach was made to the UCI's Julien Carron, their 'Coordinateur Technologique' for a clarification on disc brake usage, although the formal rule for UCI and therefore BC-sanctioned road racing is still that only rim and calliper-brake combinations are deemed legal.
In 2010, the UCI changed the regulations controlling disc brakes on cyclo-cross bikes with the last two years spent scrambling behind the scenes to prepare frames, forks and brake systems for production. Initially forks like 3T's Luteus carbon model have started to ship but the final link in the chain will be the major manufacturers launching dropped-bar-style shift levers configured to work with the discs and callipers already de rigueur in the mountain bike market, the lightest of which are already as light as top-end road calliper combos.
As a stop-gap, specialist makers like TRP, Hope and USE have shown handlebar or stem-mounted converters to change the cable pull of current levers to the hydraulic power and modulation that 'cross riders prefer although there's no guarantee that the first 'road' discs from Shimano or SRAM will be, or indeed need to be, hydraulically actuated.
The full response of Julien Carron to British Cycling was as follows:
"I am the technological coordinator in charge of everything related to the equipment and I can confirm that disc brakes are not allowed in road races for 2012. This is a technical innovation that has to be presented to the UCI and evaluated by the Equipment Commission before potentially being approved in competition. For the moment, this technical innovation was not yet submitted to us."
It appears that with purely road-orientated disc brakes not far away if not imminent - let's predict Autumn 2012 launches for the 2013 model year - there is every likelihood that top-end sportive riders will be riding the new brakes on the road before the professionals in the UCI WorldTour peloton and that would be an interesting reversal of the usual state of play. It certainly seems as if the brake manufacturers are happy for customers to drive the demand on this issue.