Component brands want UCI to allow disc brakes on road bikes

World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry meeting in Taipei this morning discussed how best to move forward

by nick_rearden   March 9, 2012  

Colnago C59 with discs presented in Taipei by Ernesto Colnago

Industry commentator Carlton Reid says a consensus of component manufacturers are behind the formal adoption of disc brakes on road bikes which would need to be accompanied by a change of the rules for top level competition.

In a story on the UK trade website BikeBiz posted last night our time, Carlton Reid Bikebiz executive editor spoke to manufacturers' reps among them Charles Becker, category manager for road and triathlon at SRAM, who have already expressed their intention to launch disc brakes in various configurations shortly.

"We'll be supplying road discs for testing by the UCI soon," he told Reid. "Regardless of what the UCI decide we'll be producing the kit for the market. For us it's a safety issue as well as a performance issue. Yes, there are compatibility issues for team and neutral support at pro races but that's not an insurmountable problem. I think the UCI will see sense on this one."

Giancarlo Vezzoli, the engineer in charge of the road disc project at Formula, the brakes brand appearing on the Colnago C59 we featured on Wednesday said, "You may be surprised at how quick the UCI makes the right decision. All the brake manufacturers are united. The UCI will see this is a safety decision, nothing to do with politics."

Meanwhile, prior to a press meeting of the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) held this morning at the trade show, a representative of one major brake manufacturer represented in the WorldTour peloton told road.cc's technical editor, Mat Brett, "We need to be ready to go with road discs just in case the UCI say at any time that they're going to be road legal. But we also know that, equally, the UCI could say they're not legal."

According to Robbert de Kock, Secretary General of the WFSGI the UCI has yet to receive any road disc brakes to test but once it has done so a decision will be made on whether or not to allow the use of road discs in professional road races.

For many the question of disc brakes on a road brake is an aesthetic one, arguing subjective ugliness as well as an avoidable weight penalty which most commentators agree will amount to a minimum 200 grams.

There are however technical issues to consider, most importantly the one of safety where even their biggest detractors agree that the increased power of disc brakes offer the opportunity for improved control and under all weather conditions.

The biggie is wheel dropouts and quick-releases, where the torque applied to a disc rotor has the effect of trying to twist the hub axle out of its frame or fork dropout. This has been an issue that's bubbled under in the MTB community for many years, with some cases going to court. The issue is addressed on mountain bikes by using thru-axles; basically a redesigned hub where the axle interlocks with the dropout in such a way that it simply cannot be loosened by the braking force.

A 15mm quick release thru-axle on a MTB isn't any slower to release than a standard QR, and has the benefit of stiffening up the front end, so it's probably only a matter of time before we see road bike manufacturers experimenting with similar systems, although it's likely road thru-axles would be smaller, possibly 12mm like an MTB rear hub or maybe even smaller.

Meanwhile, the manufacturers have been testing, as you would hope. Formula's Giancarlo Vezzoli told Bikebiz that the braking system shown on the new Colnago has checked out well, "We did 20 minute mountain descents using just the front brake or just the back brake, locked on all the time, and everything was fine."

26 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

That answers one of my forum questions.

How long before they announce a decision?

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
9th March 2012 - 14:54

like this
Like (2)

UK manufacturer Hope have been running disc-equipped 'cross bikes this season to good effect - Paul Oldham took the series overall (photo of Dave Collins' front wheel on this page).

A weight penalty of 200g is small and it's at the axle, not the rim. I'd happily take the extra mass anyway if it meant more consistent braking in all conditions. The discs on the Colnago are, at 140mm, smaller than those fitted to most MTBs (160mm and up).

New hardware doesn't have to be UCI legal to sell (though naturally it helps with marketing) - LED bike lights and 11 or 14-speed hub gears, for instance.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1883 posts]
9th March 2012 - 14:54

like this
Like (3)

"We did 20 minute mountain descents using just the front brake or just the back brake, locked on all the time, and everything was fine."

If that's the case, I'd say that the brakes in question aren't powerful enough!

posted by TimD [11 posts]
9th March 2012 - 14:55

like this
Like (2)

Just using front brake including locking up. Faceplant time!

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:01

like this
Like (0)

The wheel-shifting issue is also addressed by forward-angled dropouts, as found on most QR suspension forks now. There's no way a through-axle setup is as quick as a (de-safety-tabbed) QR, I really can't see racers going for that. I suspect that calipers and pads will need to be redesigned for properly-quick wheel changes too, it's awkward to get everything lined up.

I think the main safety issue is heat build up. You're dumping the same amount of energy into a 140mm steel rotor as you used to be into an aluminium rim with more mass and better heat conductivity. People manage to boil MTB brakes in the Alps with bigger rotors and at lower speeds.

All that said, it'll get sorted and there's a market whether the UCI approves them for racing or not.

posted by David Portland [87 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:03

like this
Like (1)

Simon E wrote:
The discs on the Colnago are, at 140mm, smaller than those fitted to most MTBs (160mm and up).

New hardware doesn't have to be UCI legal to sell (though naturally it helps with marketing) - LED bike lights and 11 or 14-speed hub gears, for instance.

Yes, and we'd heard that other manufacturers are looking at 160mm for road precisely because of the higher speeds but that all remains to be seen. It's easy enough to test under all conditions. If it can be done for much heavier motorcycles doing 200mph+ it can't be impossible to get the balance right.

And, absolutely agreed on the kit not having to be UCI approved. Indeed, there are whole markets geared up to doing things specifically because they're not UCI-approved. Triathletes, for example. Don't imagine too many tourists being too bothered by the UCI and they'll be some of the biggest beneficiaries of a better selection of disc brakes.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:44

like this
Like (1)

David Portland wrote:
People manage to boil MTB brakes in the Alps with bigger rotors and at lower speeds.

But then lower speeds are achieved by using the brakes more, and lower speeds provide less cooling.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [363 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:46

like this
Like (1)

All pro bikes can easily come in under the required UCI weight limit, so 200 grams is no issue.

I actually think the bikes will look good, if not better, once you get used to them.

Also, if this is the way to and the UCI says no now, I believe it will have to toe the line eventually if the manufacturers decide to drop the current rim brakes

Marky

Marky Legs's picture

posted by Marky Legs [106 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:46

like this
Like (1)

Super Domestique wrote:
Just using front brake including locking up. Faceplant time!

Don't think Formula were recommending it as a technique, just to test for all eventualities.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:47

like this
Like (2)

Marky Legs wrote:
All pro bikes can easily come in under the required UCI weight limit, so 200 grams is no issue.

I actually think the bikes will look good, if not better, once you get used to them.

Also, if this is the way to and the UCI says no now, I believe it will have to toe the line eventually if the manufacturers decide to drop the current rim brakes

You say it's 'no issue' but a lot of roadies who will never race in a UCI race are only interested in absolute weight. So they'll need to be convinced that the advantages quite literally outweigh the perceived disadvantage. And, of course, some of them never will be. Which is why the brake manufacturers will carry on making rim callipers. There will still be a choice and even if - and it's a big 'if' - the big companies stopped it would open up an even better opportunity for all those smaller brake specialists like TRP and their mainstream brand Tektro to keep on making calliper brakes. Certainly cannot see Campagnolo stopping production of rim callipers any time in the next 1,000 years...

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:55

like this
Like (2)

nick_rearden wrote:
Super Domestique wrote:
Just using front brake including locking up. Faceplant time!

Don't think Formula were recommending it as a technique, just to test for all eventualities.

Of course. I was just expressing sympathy for the test pilot.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
9th March 2012 - 15:59

like this
Like (1)

people that are truly obsessed with weight tend to fit brakes that don't work very well anyway. so they're not likely to be swayed by the fact that discs are better Big Grin

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7230 posts]
9th March 2012 - 16:00

like this
Like (2)

True you can boil brakes on an MTB in the Alpes, but one of the reasons for this is (as mentioned elsewhere in the comments) that the slow speeds are from dragging the brakes. On the road there is less occassion for this: more often it is short, hard application of the brakes, which means longer periods between for the heat to dissipate.
Furthermore, there is a difference between hauling to a stop a 30+lb downhill bike plus a fully-armoured, backpack carrying MTBer, and a road bike with rider. Less weight means less energy is produced when slowing, so the stresses on the brakes are reduced.
That's my opinion anyway Thinking

jamesfifield's picture

posted by jamesfifield [91 posts]
9th March 2012 - 16:53

like this
Like (2)

jamesfifield wrote:
Furthermore, there is a difference between hauling to a stop a 30+lb downhill bike plus a fully-armoured, backpack carrying MTBer, and a road bike with rider. Less weight means less energy is produced when slowing, so the stresses on the brakes are reduced.
That's my opinion anyway Thinking

I agree. MTBs are going down much steeper slopes too.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
9th March 2012 - 17:11

like this
Like (3)

My concern, as a consumer is price. Which, going by Nick's comment means my next bike might just have to be equipped by Campag for longevity. Oh and a host of other reasons too.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
9th March 2012 - 17:21

like this
Like (3)

cat1commuter wrote:
jamesfifield wrote:
Furthermore, there is a difference between hauling to a stop a 30+lb downhill bike plus a fully-armoured, backpack carrying MTBer, and a road bike with rider. Less weight means less energy is produced when slowing, so the stresses on the brakes are reduced.
That's my opinion anyway Thinking

I agree. MTBs are going down much steeper slopes too.

don't forget though that road bikes are going faster, on much better surfaces. the braking forces possible on a road bike on good tarmac should easily exceed those possible on a mountain bike on knobbly tyres and rough ground.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7230 posts]
9th March 2012 - 18:24

like this
Like (2)

i think the brake systems will need to shift a lot of heat quickly, and lighter isn't better for that. Shimano have done a lot of work in this area over the last couple of years; their ICE brakes have 3-layer rotors with Aluminium sandwiched between steel outer layers for better heat transfer. they also have pads with integral cooling fins. I think i'd like both on my disc-equipped road bike if i'm taking it to anywhere with big hills, given that i'm 100kg Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7230 posts]
9th March 2012 - 18:28

like this
Like (1)

The appeal for road racing is that braking on carbon rims is pretty poor, and in the wet, often diabolical - discs would provide far better control and ultimately improve rider safety. There's also a problem with carbon clinchers and poor heat dissipation causing inner tubes to fail. Going to be hard for the UCI to turn down a proposal based on rider safety when the only real counter-points are relatively simple technical issues.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [358 posts]
9th March 2012 - 18:41

like this
Like (1)

dave_atkinson wrote:
don't forget though that road bikes are going faster, on much better surfaces. the braking forces possible on a road bike on good tarmac should easily exceed those possible on a mountain bike on knobbly tyres and rough ground.

True. Good point.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
9th March 2012 - 21:05

like this
Like (3)

ABS anyone ? Wink

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
10th March 2012 - 9:05

like this
Like (2)

OldnSlo wrote:
ABS anyone ? Wink

My fantasy utility bike has some kind of low-drag generator powering lights, speedo etc and gear shifting with ABS disc brakes.

posted by nick_rearden [859 posts]
10th March 2012 - 14:24

like this
Like (2)

Adoption of discs raises some other interesting questions too. Firstly, will this mean 135mm wide dropouts becomes the new standard on the rear of road bikes, constistent with MTBs - I can think of lots of good reasons for doing this eg access to the whole range of existing MTB hubs?

Secondly, if this happens, presumably the extra width raises the possibility of 12 or even 13 speed cassettes. That should keep us endlessly upgrading for years - bet the manufacturers can't wait!!!!!

Pastaman

posted by pastaman [204 posts]
10th March 2012 - 20:07

like this
Like (0)

David Portland wrote:
The wheel-shifting issue is also addressed by forward-angled dropouts, as found on most QR suspension forks now. There's no way a through-axle setup is as quick as a (de-safety-tabbed) QR, I really can't see racers going for that. I suspect that calipers and pads will need to be redesigned for properly-quick wheel changes too, it's awkward to get everything lined up.

I think the main safety issue is heat build up. You're dumping the same amount of energy into a 140mm steel rotor as you used to be into an aluminium rim with more mass and better heat conductivity. People manage to boil MTB brakes in the Alps with bigger rotors and at lower speeds.

All that said, it'll get sorted and there's a market whether the UCI approves them for racing or not.

Not quite true, the heat build up depends on materials used, rubber compounds produce more fiction than the compounds used in disk brakes and also the rims could be re-designed easily enough.

RhysW's picture

posted by RhysW [73 posts]
10th March 2012 - 22:29

like this
Like (1)

Quote:
the heat build up depends on materials used

the heat *generated* is independent of the braking system, it's simply the kinetic energy of the bike and rider converted into heat energy by the brakes.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7230 posts]
10th March 2012 - 23:15

like this
Like (1)

Could result in a few more "handle-bar-up-backside" (or worse) incidents on club runs. Weight obsessed rider on carbon rims with traditional brakes following the guy who just bought a new bike with discs. Emergency stop as the group comes around a corner to find Mummy duck crossing the road with her wee brood. Cue the expletives.

The duck thing happened to us last night btw, fortunately we all stoppped with no collisions and all the ducklings made it over safely!

posted by Bhachgen [85 posts]
6th July 2012 - 15:15

like this
Like (0)

Just noticed this story is months old. Not sure why a link appeared on the site resulting in my clicking through...

posted by Bhachgen [85 posts]
6th July 2012 - 15:16

like this
Like (1)