Home
Paul Lew, the man behind Reynolds wheels, asks why cycle sport's world governing body is resisting change

Paul Lew, the man behind the Reynolds range of wheels, has been nominated as the Vice Chairman on Wheel Committee after two years on the board. The committee is a sub-group of the Bicycle Technical Committee and deals with UCI on the issue of wheels.

Why would you care? Well, the committee has an ongoing conversation with the UCI on the approval of wheels for UCI-sanctioned events.

Currently, the UCI requires rupture testing of all “non-standard” wheels which have “rims taller than 2.5cm, fewer than 16 spokes and spoke thicknesses of over 2.4 mm". Here’s the current list. The UCI aims to ensure wheels are safe for racing, while the manufacturers say the UCI testing protocol is unrealistic and hard to reproduce.

The committee met most recently just before the Eurobike show, with a discussion about disc brakes. The UCI don't currently allow disc brakes in road events. Paul Lew has provided his observations coming out of that meeting. We'll print them in full...

 

"The day before Eurobike started, I participated in the most recent UCI disc brake discussion. In that meeting, compelling evidence was presented that indicates the UCI may postpone its approval of disc brakes indefinitely. With most of the industry’s key suppliers embracing the new technology, one might ask: “Why is UCI resisting the technology of road disc brakes?”

For some insight as to why the UCI is resisting the technology of road disc brakes, here is an excerpt from its presentation. Please excuse any typos, misspellings, or grammatical errors — these are the words, spellings and phrases from the UCI’s 27 August 2013 presentation (everything that follows in bold italics comes from that presentation).

 

1 Disc brakes are still considered as technical innovations on the road and have to be submitted to the UCI and approved by the Equipment Commission to be allowed in competition after one or several test events.

Until today no disc brakes adapted for the road cycling was never presented to the UCI. 

3 Challenges on the road are very different from the mountain bike or cx with

• Higher speed

• Longer braking time

• Higher temperature accumulation

• Bigger disk which means bigger issue in case of crashes

• Braking behaviour that may block the wheel and make the bike slip

• Difference of braking performance between disk brakes and rim brakes that may cause crashes inside the peloton

The UCI don’t want to allow dangerous, non-adapted braking systems in competition that may cause even more crashes instead of improving safety

If disc brakes will be allowed on road events, enough time will be given to the industry to adapt to this decision

 

For cyclists who compete in UCI-sanctioned events or sanctioned events that adhere to UCI regulations, the message is clear: disc brakes are not allowed. UCI has made it clear that they have reasons not to accept disc brakes and if we take a historical perspective, UCI is not easily persuaded to adopt regulations that permit new equipment.

For cyclists who don’t compete in UCI events, it’s easier - and also a bit more complicated. Disc brakes are here to stay and they offer many benefits. Certainly, they are “allowed” for casual group riding and tours. Those who intend to compete on bicycles with disc brakes in local events will need to check regulations on a case-by-case basis. 

The UCI attitude regarding disc brakes will influence the trajectory of disc brake technology, which is driven by the willingness of manufacturers to invest in developing and advancing disc brakes, and the consumers’ demand for purchasing them.

Reynolds Cycling has made commitments to embrace the new disc brake technology, and to simultaneously improve our rim brake technology. For example, in 2013, Reynolds has released both an upgraded rim braking system (the Cryo Blue Power brake pads), as well as its first disc brake road wheel, the Assault Disc. As one of the early adopters, Reynolds Cycling will invest a significant portion of their product development budget to lead the market place with innovative disc brake wheels and solutions.

Time will tell where the UCI goes with approving disc brakes on the road. Reynolds and I will remain committed to participating in the discussion, ensuring safety, and embracing innovation. Whatever the outcome, the cyclist and the sport are always better off for having new technology options."

 

So, according to Paul Lew, the UCI isn't in any great hurry to allow disc brakes in competition on the road, and it might never actually approve them.

Now, it must be said that these comments were made prior to today's election of Brian Cookson to the UCI presidency. Our next question to Paul Lew is whether he thinks the new change at the top is going to make a difference on this issue. We'll keep you posted.

Taking that a step further, will the new regime be changing other equipment rules any time soon? The best known rule, of course, is that complete road bikes aren't allowed to weigh any less than 6.8kg, but many maufacturers we speak to feel that other restrictions currently in place are also limiting the progress of bicycle design. 

Wouldn't now be a good time for a wholesale review of the rules and regs?

Post script

We now have a reply from Paul Lew. Here's what he says...

"It's important to know that neither I, nor anyone else [on the committee], had any input [on UCI's position] - this was a word-for-word recap of UCI's position at that moment. That's not to say that in the future I and other committee members won't have input.

"In my position as a representative of manufacturers and cyclists, as well as a fair-minded ambassador for UCI, it is important that I stay balanced in my perspective. This means that people who have an opinion for or against disc brakes may from time-to-time find frustration with my opinion on the matter, which is to try to walk a narrow line, halfway between welcoming innovation while also working to see the UCI perspective.

"This IS a negotiation and taking a hard position from either side will stall progress. It is my job to try to find an agreeable way to encourage innovation while respecting the traditional attitudes of UCI. There is a gap and we must build a bridge, not stand on one side of the gap or the other and sling arrows."

The issue of disc brake use in road competition looks set to be a big topic of debate for the forseeable future. Whatever the eventual outcome, it surely needs to be addressed properly with serious examination of the facts, because right now nobody really knows how it would influence road racing or whether oft cited safety concerns are well-founded.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

49 comments

Avatar
caaad10 [184 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Imagine : if disc brakes had been the norm, can you possibly imagine just how absurd a new design for a rim brake would appear? There is no way it would be allowed (or even considered) by the UCI.... The UCI is making a complete fool of itself (again). With road cycling becoming more and more popular somebody should remind them it is 2013

Avatar
flobble [104 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

A thought re complementary pricing.

For any individual, there is a certain amount they're willing to spend on a bike, and that amount is distributed across the sales channel, the bike manufacturer and the assorted component suppliers. By adding cost to the braking system (levers, callipers, frame, disk), you're effectively having to reduce cost elsewhere. Disc systems require more complex and expensive components than rim systems, so value shifts from wheel to component supplier.

So if you're a large and dominant wheel or (especially) rim vendor, it's probably against your interests to have the technology and cost shift away from your products to someone else's. So you'd probably prefer to keep the status quo.

I will speculate that the major wheel/rim vendors are largely against, the frame and component vendors are supportive, and the more innovative wheel/rim vendors will also support because the shift from rim to disk braking gives them an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the pack.

Avatar
Welsh boy [300 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I agree with caaad10. What about reducing the weight limit too, the argument that bikes will be unsafe if they are made too light is absurd when you think that pro teams are adding several hundred grams of ballast (which does nothing to improve strength) just to reach the weight limit.
Come on Brian, make a bold move as your welcome to the poisoned chalice!

Avatar
abudhabiChris [692 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

"Whatever the outcome, the cyclist and the sport are always better off for having new technology options."

Yes of course, this is nothing to do with manufacturers wanting everyone to replace their wheels with disc brakes does it ? How very altruistic of them.

Very disappointed that Road CC is just giving a verbatim and uncritical platform to someone who clearly has a substantial vested interest.

Avatar
mrmo [2088 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
caaad10 wrote:

Imagine : if disc brakes had been the norm, can you possibly imagine just how absurd a new design for a rim brake would appear? There is no way it would be allowed (or even considered) by the UCI.... The UCI is making a complete fool of itself (again). With road cycling becoming more and more popular somebody should remind them it is 2013

I have to say what the UCI is saying does make some sense, if we were all disc brakes no issue, all on rim brakes again no issue, mix and match...

Seen enough calves tattooed by hot rotors to be aware there is an issue there, Spinergy got banned because there were definite issues. Quite how we go from no discs to discs being acceptable is going to be an interesting one. Imagine cat4 races with very different brakes...

Avatar
charlierevell [38 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Personally I dont fancy 50-100 bikes coming at me with knife sharp rotors if the peleton goes down. We had a crash this week racing which took a few riders out.
Most suffered pretty nasty abrasions but are ok.
I hate to think what an unshielded rotor could do... especially to fingers/arms etc which could get caught up in a tangle.

All for innovation and for solo endurance rides I'm sure its a great idea... but im not sure it would work in a large crash situation at 40+ mph.

Avatar
Chuck [555 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
abudhabiChris wrote:

"Whatever the outcome, the cyclist and the sport are always better off for having new technology options."

Yes of course, this is nothing to do with manufacturers wanting everyone to replace their wheels with disc brakes does it ? How very altruistic of them.

Very disappointed that Road CC is just giving a verbatim and uncritical platform to someone who clearly has a substantial vested interest.

Dunno about the sport, but I think it's fair to say that cyclists generally benefit from new technologies.

And I don't have a problem with road.cc giving this guy a platform, he's in 2 positions of interest so why not hear what he's got to say? I don't think it's their job to criticise what he's saying, and I'd hope it was more or less verbatim!

Avatar
jova54 [659 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
mrmo wrote:
caaad10 wrote:

Imagine : if disc brakes had been the norm, can you possibly imagine just how absurd a new design for a rim brake would appear? There is no way it would be allowed (or even considered) by the UCI.... The UCI is making a complete fool of itself (again). With road cycling becoming more and more popular somebody should remind them it is 2013

I have to say what the UCI is saying does make some sense, if we were all disc brakes no issue, all on rim brakes again no issue, mix and match......

Don't agree mrmo.

UCI are completely wrong and their argument is fatuous.

Back in the 1950's Jaguar experimented with the first disc brakes on a racing car, Jaguar D Type, when everybody else was still using drum/shoe brakes. Were there massive crashes because the Jaguar's out-braked the inferior drum braked cars? No, and the same will apply to a peloton where some have discs and some have rim brakes.

If the argument is about safer braking then they should ban rim brakes completely and specify disc brakes only as they are more efficient, reduce stopping distances and aren't so easily affected by dirt and water.

Avatar
joemmo [1164 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
charlierevell wrote:

All for innovation and for solo endurance rides I'm sure its a great idea... but im not sure it would work in a large crash situation at 40+ mph.

That's a good point. I imagine you could also get a few slashed / popped tyres resulting from relatively innocuous bumps. A hot rotor and thin tubular probably don't go together well.

Avatar
ch [188 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Sharp thinking!

Avatar
monty dog [459 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

So there's a danger from rotors but there's isn't a problem with chainrings? This is the problem with leaving these things to people with too much interest in the outcome - it wouldn't be too difficult to make a lightweight rotor protector in carbon fibre for example.

Avatar
crazy-legs [794 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

Back in the 1950's Jaguar experimented with the first disc brakes on a racing car, Jaguar D Type, when everybody else was still using drum/shoe brakes. Were there massive crashes because the Jaguar's out-braked the inferior drum braked cars? No, and the same will apply to a peloton where some have discs and some have rim brakes.

You obviously haven't seen the start of the Three Peaks CX race. Although it's CX, it starts on road for about 6 miles and you have a peloton of 500+ riders, some on discs, some on rim brakes. It's bloody terrifying. I've seen crashes caused by one guy having great brakes and the guy behind having rubbish ones.

Whether or not it's actually true when you look at the bigger picture is debatable but it's certanly one of several issues that need to be looked at before you can say "yes, go ahead and use them"

The other main one is neutral service at WorldTour races - it's already a nightmare with 10sp & 11sp and the mix of Campag & Shimano - now double the types of wheel by having a disc variant of each one too.

Avatar
David Arthur @d... [699 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
crazy-legs wrote:

The other main one is neutral service at WorldTour races - it's already a nightmare with 10sp & 11sp and the mix of Campag & Shimano - now double the types of wheel by having a disc variant of each one too.

This from personal experience crazy legs? Nice to know we've got a pro reading road.cc

Odd that people are worried about hot rotors but not pointy chainrings

Avatar
mrmo [2088 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
jova54 wrote:

If the argument is about safer braking then they should ban rim brakes completely and specify disc brakes only as they are more efficient, reduce stopping distances and aren't so easily affected by dirt and water.

which goes completely against the UCI remit of widening participation. There are two reasons behind the weight limit, one is safety which is questionable, the other is keeping the price of competetive bikes down. Yes you can buy a $10k bike but you can get an equally light and functional bike for a lot less.

If we were starting elsewhere then discs would make sense. But we're not.

Avatar
Ladders [10 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I certainly wouldn't fancy riding with a load of newbies with hot, sharp disc brakes in a road race!!

Fine, have them on your road bike if you must, but not in road races please!

What I also don't understand is why we apparently need them so much? Braking in the dry, calipers work fine. So we need them when it rains then! But what happens when the braking forces outstrips the grip the tyres have in the wet and start to slide?

Avatar
crazy-legs [794 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

Odd that people are worried about hot rotors but not pointy chainrings

I don't get that either - there are plenty of very sharp pointy things on bikes that can get all painful in a crash (as well as the very hard flat thing called "tarmac" that you land on), frankly I don't think discs are a problem. I mean, they're allowed in CX and MTB and I'm not aware of racers coming back with fingers amputated or large red burn marks in their thighs...

Quote:

There are two reasons behind the weight limit, one is safety which is questionable, the other is keeping the price of competetive bikes down.

Safety - back in the day (before carbon fibre), racers were doing everything possible to lose weight off the bikes including drilling out parts (even frames!). This was natually somewhat unsafe so the UCI moved to ban the practice. However, CF came along and kind of blew that one apart - it's perfectly possible to buy an off-the-peg bike now, tested to all relevant specs which is way below that limit. The limit is outdated, simple as that - it was fine back then but it's not suitable now.

Price - trickle down technology. Not an issue at pro-level (where it's all sponsored) and at amateur level, there will always be the haves and the have-nots. I've seen Elites riding (and winning) on Ultegra & 105, I've seen 4th cats on bikes worth £10k, riders at tin-pot crits using £2000 wheels...

Quote:

So we need them when it rains then! But what happens when the braking forces outstrips the grip the tyres have in the wet and start to slide?

It's not about power. It's about consistent braking, wet or dry, it's about not using the rim (a major structural component) as a braking surface. No-one is going to go round locking up wheels (your brain very quickly figures out the amount of force to apply at the lever); you just have more modulation, more power and more consistency.

Avatar
dodgy [201 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

All this talk of 'super hot disks', making it sound like super heated white hot disks of destruction. Come on chaps, they get hot for limited parts of any ride (during braking) and cool down pretty quick, if they didn't, that would be a problem in itself.

If disks are a problem in a crash, what about other potentially dangerous parts of a bike?

  • Chainrings (spiky rings of death)
  • Spokes (tried putting your hand through at speed?)
  • Pedals
  • etc

Disks that are either hot or warm are not the real problem here, it's spokes  1

Avatar
DeanF316 [136 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I think the UCi are just doing it to wind up all you that think cycling is about nothing more having more money to spend on posing.

Avatar
Tregouet [3 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Wow. I mena ...,.just, wow.
Does anybody proofread this? Does the editor or proofreader have a command of the English language? How about grammar? Agreement? Blimey and crikey and cr@p... And whatever other expletivees one may wish to use when perusing such a poorly constructed piece. Dear lord man, learn to write.

Avatar
Mat Brett [626 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Tregouet wrote:

Wow. I mena ...,.just, wow.
Does anybody proofread this? Does the editor or proofreader have a command of the English language? How about grammar? Agreement? Blimey and crikey and cr@p... And whatever other expletivees one may wish to use when perusing such a poorly constructed piece. Dear lord man, learn to write.

"Mena"? "Expletivees"?

Well, you have to remember that not everyone is as well-educated as you, Tregouet.

Did you not read the bit where Paul Lew said, "Please excuse any typos, misspellings, or grammatical errors — these are the words, spellings and phrases from the UCI’s 27 August 2013 presentation"?

Or did you purposely ignore it for reasons of irony?

Avatar
darenbrett [19 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I dont know why most of you are getting excited!! its not going to affect any single one of you, not unless you,ve had a call From David Brailsford saying your in the team!!
You can all go out, purchase a disc braked roadbike & road race!! whats the problem, some have to moan about something!!

Avatar
chokofingrz [407 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

How hot does a rotor get if you're not descending an Alp? Genuinely curious.

I can see them being mildly more dangerous that a caliper brake in the event of a pile up, but not exactly the death trap they're made out to be.

I wish they'd decide because I'm deciding what bike to get and there aren't many disc road wheels yet.

Avatar
Some Fella [890 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I would love to be on a Wheel Committee

Avatar
darenbrett [19 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
chokofingrz wrote:

How hot does a rotor get if you're not descending an Alp? Genuinely curious.

I can see them being mildly more dangerous that a caliper brake in the event of a pile up, but not exactly the death trap they're made out to be.

I wish they'd decide because I'm deciding what bike to get and there aren't many disc road wheels yet.

youve had the call from team sky then??

Avatar
shay cycles [333 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

When dual pivots were introduced but only some teams had them there were indeed numerous crashes due to the differential in braking performance - and that with the world's top pros.

Why do people think there are no brakes on track bikes?

And to D A Brett: you can't actually buy a bike with discs and go out and road race, not even as am amateur, certainly not in the UK. The UCI rules apply to all member governing bodies.

Avatar
darenbrett [19 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

and to Shay!! how many UCI road races do you enter??

Avatar
cub [86 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

At first I was all for disc brakes, but I've changed my mind. I would certainly be buying them for a winter bike though as they are much better in the wet.

I also can't see a problem in pro races where every rider could easily ride discs, the real problem is in amateur racing. Although not inherently more powerful, the modulation of disc brakes makes it feel easier to apply more power. Going into a corner in a race the guy in front of you on discs may think he is only feathering for the corner while you are pulling very hard on your rim brakes so you don't go into the back of him. You never usually brake that hard as you don't want to be rear ended, guess whats going to happen.

To whoever wrote about disc brakes in motor racing the analogy doesn't apply, in motor racing corners are taken on the limit of a cars traction and drivers have a predetermined braking point on track, if you have worse brakes you already know your'e braking earlier to get down to cornering speed. In cycle racing you brake when the guy in front does to stay on his wheel and unlike car racing you will be 2 or more riders wide and it's bad form to 'race' in corners.

Avatar
jellysticks [95 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Is it me, or is all this 'difference in braking power' the biggest load of absolute fucking shite I've ever heard?

Let's take a hypothetical bunch coming around a sharpish corner. If no-one in this bunch had EVER ridden that bike with that set-up before, then perhaps yes, you may get people jamming the brakes on, locking up, not pulling hard enough etc. and the resulting pile ups. However, assuming that everyone in this hypothetical bunch will at the LEAST have ridden around the car park before starting, I imagine that they will all have a reasonably good idea of the modulation and finger-pressure:braking effect ratio of their particular set up. This means that while an individual bicyle's braking power may differ from that of its neighbour, that old walnut the human brain will be able to ascertain differing and even rapidly changing speeds and distances between bicycles, much as it always has done, and allow for braking as required by the individual.

Rant over, and excuse the hyperbole - isn't it just the WORST thing EVER?

Avatar
jellysticks [95 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Isn't swearing in internet forums exciting?

Avatar
dave atkinson [6251 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
chokofingrz wrote:

How hot does a rotor get if you're not descending an Alp? Genuinely curious.

i can blue them up and make the air all wavy on the descent into town (160m descent in 3km). so pretty hot. but that's braking to deliberately heat them up.

pile-ups happen in races because people don't have enough time to brake.

Pages