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UCI suspends disc brake use, but have they really caused damage?

The UCI has suspended the trial of disc brakes in the pro peloton but is there any solid evidence to back up the claims that disc rotors have been responsible for any injuries?

Rather than simply accepting the claims that have been bandied about, let's examine them.

Movistar’s Fran Ventoso is at the centre of the controversy following an injury in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.

In a statement he said: 

“Let me take you to 130km into the race: into a cobbled section, a pile-up splits the field, with riders falling everywhere. I’ve got to brake but I can’t avoid crashing against the rider in front of me, who was also trying not to hit the ones ahead. I didn’t actually fall down: it was only my leg touching the back of his bike. 

“I keep riding. But shortly afterwards, I have a glance at that leg: it doesn’t hurt, there’s not a lot of blood covering it, but I can clearly see part of the periosteum, the membrane or surface that covers my tibia. 

“I get off my bike, throw myself against the right-hand side of the road over the grass, cover my face with my hands in shock and disbelief, start to feel sick… I could only wait for my team car and the ambulance, while a lot of things come through my mind.

“15km after my incident, Nikolas Maes, a rider from Etixx-Quick Step, comes into the very same ambulance I’m sitting in. There’s a deep wound in his knee, produced by another disc.” 

Let’s deal with the Nikolas Maes incident first because we can debunk that one straight away. Here are photographs of the crash that led to Maes abandoning the race. 

Paris Roubaix Maes - 1.jpg

Paris Roubaix Maes - 1.jpg

You can see Maes in the white helmet in the centre of the shot still upright as Orica GreenEdge’s Mitchell Docker hits the ground. The black bike with green bar tape falling over is Docker’s. It's a Scott without disc brakes.

Two teams racing Paris-Roubaix were using disc brakes: Lampre-Merida and Direct Energie. 

We have many shots of this incident. As well as Orica GreenEdge and Etixx-Quick-Step, our pictures show riders from IAM Cycling, Lotto Jumbo, AG2R, Astana, FDJ, Trek Segafredo, Katusha, Wanty - Groupe Gobert, Bora-Argon, Fortuneo - Vital Concept, Cannondale, Tinkoff, Lotto-Soudal, Delko Marseille Provence KTM, Cofidis, Dimension Data, and Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise – the vast majority of teams in the race – but none from Lampre-Merida or Direct Energie.

Paris Roubaix Maes - 2.jpg

Paris Roubaix Maes - 2.jpg

Here’s Maes landing on his right knee (above) behind a Lotto Jumbo rider.

Paris Roubaix Maes - 1.jpg

Paris Roubaix Maes - 1.jpg

And here’s Maes’ injury to his right knee (above, far left of the picture).

 

 

And here’s a video shot by Guy Wolstencroft showing the incident from another angle.

See any Lampre-Merida or Direct Energie riders close to Maes? 

Unless Maes was involved in an incident prior to this one, his injury wasn’t caused by a disc brake rotor.

What about the claim that Fran Ventoso’s own injury was caused by a disc rotor?

Fran Ventoso.jpg

Fran Ventoso.jpg

Ventoso’s injury is on the front of his left leg, on the outer side. It must be difficult to get a disc brake injury here if your own bike isn’t fitted with discs and you haven’t come off – not impossible, but difficult. If the injury was to his right leg you’d have an easier time understanding it, disc brakes being fitted to the non-driveside of bikes. Still, strange things happen in crashes.

Ventoso didn’t see a disc brake cause his injury or realise it in the immediate aftermath of the crash, he only came to the conclusion that a rotor was responsible once he was underway again.

Maybe he’s right – he could well be – but the evidence seems far from conclusive. Ventoso obviously believes he was injured by a disc rotor, but we don't have to accept that without question. The rider has been hurt and our sympathies go out to him, but that doesn't mean he is necessarily right.

People have been voicing safety concerns about disc brakes in the pro peloton ever since their introduction was first suggested. These have usually been based on the ability of a rotor to cut and the different stopping abilities of riders running disc brakes while others are using rim brakes.

It’s interesting that the UCI decided to go ahead with the disc brake trial despite those concerns and has apparently decided to suspend that trial based on evidence that’s some way short of categorical.

What next? The UCI has now officially suspended the disc brake trial but the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), representing the bike industry (or at least a large part of it) insists that discs are still very much part of the future of road racing.

Read what the UCI and the WFSGI have said here. 16 March 2016  - 3.jpg

When Campagnolo revealed its new disc brakes last month we reported the brand’s marketing and communication director Lorenzo Taxis as saying, “Professional teams are not pushing for disc brakes, so let’s see what happens in the race season.” 

Sean Kelly told us the same thing at a Vitus product launch earlier in the year, and we’ve heard similar from numerous current professionals. 

In the aftermath of Paris-Roubaix several pro riders have reiterated that they're opposed to the use of disc brakes in the peloton.

 

 

Much of the bike industry, on the other hand, is keen for disc brakes to be used by the pros. The big races serve as a shop window for their products, after all. It'll be interesting to see how things develop.

What do you think? Over to you.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight 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 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.

55 comments

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DrJDog [441 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Ventoso's injury could definitely be caused by dropping that knee onto an upright disc wheel on a sideways bike.

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surly_by_name [559 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes
DrJDog wrote:

Ventoso's injury could definitely be caused by dropping that knee onto an upright disc wheel on a sideways bike.

"Could" definitely. It could definitely have been caused by a bloke with a knife running onto the pave where he crashed and slashing his leg then running off again (just like the basketball gorilla game). Jesus.

I once crashed my bike (ironically in the old P-R sportive, although I wasn't far out of Compiegne). I did what we all do when we crash, which is get straight back on bike and keep riding. It wasn't until several minutes later than I realised that what I had thought was rain falling on my thing was in fact blood from a cut to my right elbow. I think I hit a gutter with my elbow, pulling back a massive flap of skin (needed 16 stitches, thank you St Quentin hospital). But maybe I didn't, maybe I collected my chainring, or a spoke, or even just hit the road. 

Ventoso is entitled to his own recollection of what happened and the riders' voice (as expressed by the CPA) should be heard.

But making rules based on anecdote is a dumb idea.

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CXR94Di2 [1960 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

What a 'knee jerk' reaction from the UCI!

Hysterical rider blaming a technology that wasn't involved. I can see the UCI backing away from disc brakes without evidence

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step-hent [727 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
surly_by_name wrote:

Ventoso is entitled to his own recollection of what happened and the riders' voice (as expressed by the CPA) should be heard.

But making rules based on anecdote is a dumb idea.

 

It's not making rules based on rider stories that I have an issue with - after all, in a bunch pile up it will always be difficult for cameras to show exactly what caused an injury, and we'll have to rely on the riders to tell us what happened. The issue here seems to be that he didn't actually see what caused it himself. How can a decision be based on something that nobody actually appears to have seen?

 

If the UCI has some better evidence of a lack of safety, then fair play to them for acting quickly. If only they could be so rapid in sorting out the use of motorbikes in races, they might solve a really safety problem...

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ron611087 [358 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

UCI is inherently conservative and in it's desire to standardise the race bike it stifles innovation. If UCI was around in 1880 we would still be racing on penny-farthings.

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cdamian [182 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
ron611087 wrote:

UCI is inherently conservative and in it's desire to standardise the race bike it stifles innovation. If UCI was around in 1880 we would still be racing on penny-farthings.

Already now bikes available to non-pros can be lighter, more aero and with better brakes.

Manufacturers will hate if this is getting worse, because it makes sponsoring team less important.

I waited until disc brakes were available for road bikes until I bought my first one.  I love them and had them on my mountain bike and urban since 2004. Going bake to rim brake would indeed feel like racing on a penny-farthing.

And I don't care that it doesn't have an UCI sticker.

(I have to confess I am more conservative in regards to electronic shifting)

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Jimmy Ray Will [852 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

I think we can take Ventosa's version as being fairly accurate, he was there, he knows what he knows... 

DrJDog has helped me visualse how that could have happened now... 

I'm not comfortable with people calling him a liar, looking to fulfill his own personal agenda, when the guy is clearly sporting a very atypical crash injury. 

 

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shutuplegz [54 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I wonder how many nasty chainring injuries there have been over the years in pro-cycling? Will they ban chainrings now too?!! Belt drive and hub gears would be much safer, with no exposed teeth!

 

I have inflicted a few chain-ring injuries on myself over many many years of cycling but in the 16 or so years I have been riding with discs (MTBs, then road hybrids, then pure road bikes) I have never sustained a disc related injury whilst cycling*!

 

*I came close to taking the tip off my finger once whilst my bike was in the workstand due to almost being sliced by the disc and me having my finger where it shouldn't have been but no blood was drawn!

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bendertherobot [1494 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

That Etixx rider has an injury that looks much more disc like.

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BikeJon [209 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I think we can take Ventosa's version as being fairly accurate, he was there, he knows what he knows... 

DrJDog has helped me visualse how that could have happened now... 

I'm not comfortable with people calling him a liar, looking to fulfill his own personal agenda, when the guy is clearly sporting a very atypical crash injury. 

 

Did you read the article? 

"Ventoso didn’t see a disc brake cause his injury or realise it in the immediate aftermath of the crash, he only came to the conclusion that a rotor was responsible once he was underway again. - See more at: http://road.cc/content/tech-news/186146-have-disc-brakes-really-led-inju..."

I haven't seen anyone call him a liar, only state that we don't have any evidence that disc rotos were the cause of his injury. Given the other rider had a similar injury that definitely wasn't caused by a rotor then you also cannot conclude a rotor caused the injury just from appearance alone.

The P-R surface is hardly typical so that may account for 'atypical' injuries (although I'm not quite sure what you mean by this).

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Warren85 [7 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

The proof Fran Ventoso cut was not made from a brake disc is in the direction of the cut. In the picture above it clearly runs horizontally across his shin. This would very difficult to achieve as the rest of the wheel is in way.  This natural shield does a far better job than the exposed teeth of a chainring (which is most likely culprit for that cut). A disc brake cut is almost always going to run horizontally down a riders body.  If it happened as DrJDog said the cut would knee to ankle, not horizontal.

Riders need to be told to stop whining about it and do their jobs. Manufacturers sponsor teams to sell bikes. If the cycling public want disc brakes - which it appears they do, manufacturers will make them and pro's will be forced to ride them. If pro's refuse, the manufacturers won't bother sponsoring them and the cost of running a pro team will increase,  putting many riders’ jobs at risk.  

 

 

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cxmad [7 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
step-hent wrote:

If the UCI has some better evidence of a lack of safety, then fair play to them for acting quickly. If only they could be so rapid in sorting out the use of motorbikes in races, they might solve a really safety problem...

 

I totally agree with this comment.....how many moto / rider crashes have there been in the last few seasons, some resulting in the passing of a rider, for the UCI to be restricting the numbers involved / following the riders?

I recently had to endure the golf on the telly....my other half likes it because of the well-kept plants for some strange reason....and each time they switched back to the "studio" it was because of the host broadcater going to adverts.

Surely, having just one broadcaster (who "sells" the viewing rights to the various channels), with just 3 motos would be better, numbers-wise, than having multiples of French, Dutch, Belgian, Italian, and Eurosport bikes all following the action. Do we really need to have 4 "still" cameramen following on bikes too?

Bring in "drones" for the Arenberg section, where the vehicles are prohibited, and make it accessible by "doctor" vehicles only.....but please stop the riders getting hurt (or worse) because of idiots getting too close to the action, be they in cars or on motos.

The technology is there for everyone, but the "nerves" in the peleton because of terrain, or the possibility of being ridden into by a neutral service vehicle, TV camera bike, team car, must make the rider's nerves worse.

They can cause their own crashes with wheel overlapping, or riding in high winds, just don't let any morerider injuries / deaths involve "other" vehicles, and don't let one incident with disc brakes stop the technology reaching the top echelon of the sport.

We can get "trickled-down" technology from the top level....namely hydraulic brakes, electronic groupsets, carbon "everything", etc., so why shouldn't they be able to use technology from lower levels of the sport?

The UCI need to pull their head out of the sand and deal with the riders as people, not commodities. They have feelings, families, and bleed like the rest of us.

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Dicklexic [74 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

As an owner of a disc equipped road bike (for well over two years now, and MTB's for a LOT longer!) I am totally convinced that for many riders disc brakes are a big advantage. I know I will never go back regardless off any decision by the UCI. It really makes me laugh/swear when I see so many ill-informed and/or close minded comments from those whove never actually used them, as most of their arguments are complete bo##ox! 

However having said that, whilst I disagree with most arguments against them, I have always felt that discs (in their current form) in the pro peleton 'could' increase the risk of injury during crashes. The edges of most rotors are indeed very sharp. They don't get any sharper during use as some suggest, but rotors that have been stamped or lazer cut from sheet metal do have sharp edges. The Shimano finned rotors (as fitted to many bikes including one of my own) are partcularly sharp. However they don't need to be. One of my old MTB's had early Shimano rotors and the edges had been rounded off during manufacture. It meant the edges were actually very blunt and you would be very unlucky to get any sort of cut from them. Imagine trying to cut yourself with a thick blunt butter knife!

I suspect the latest rotors are sharp only because it costs more to have them ground during manufacture. Perhaps the UCI should stipulate that all rotors being fitted to pro bikes should be free from sharp edges, and have outer edge radiused or ground smooth. Problem solved!

And before anyone claims otherwise, no they wouldn't get 'sharpened' again during use. The rotors really don't wear that much, it would take years of use!

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TheLonelyOne [364 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Warren85 wrote:

Riders need to be told to stop whining about it and do their jobs.

I recall the same statements being directed at Sir Jackie Stewart. 

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WolfieSmith [1394 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Riders using disk brakes crashed at the Roubaix?!  But surely disk brakes are so superior to calliper brakes crashing is a thing of the past...? 

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stephen connor [55 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
Dicklexic wrote:

As an owner of a disc equipped road bike (for well over two years now, and MTB's for a LOT longer!) I am totally convinced that for many riders disc brakes are a big advantage. I know I will never go back regardless off any decision by the UCI. It really makes me laugh/swear when I see so many ill-informed and/or close minded comments from those whove never actually used them, as most of their arguments are complete bo##ox!

 

 As @Dicklexic says above, disc brakes performance far outstrips rim brake perfromace epecially when you introduce carbon fibre as a braking surface and even aluminium. I currently have a disc (trp spyre) and a rim (ultegra 6800) brake bike, the disc brake setup is superior in all situations and weather conditon.  I now find myself using my disc equipped bike (winter aluminium bike) equally as much if not more that my higher spec more expensive rim braked carbon bike.

I have tried multiple brands of rim brake pads at different price points and all of them deteriorate in perfromance terms quite quickly due to the fact that road muck and rim detritus get imbeded into the pad surface, this is not such a problem with disc brakes as the disc rotor is a resonable distance from the road. This problem can be some what alleviated by inspecting and cleaning the pads and rim braking surface after every ride (something i used to do after every 3-4 rides, its a slow and mind numbing task) Once water is introduced to the mix, rim brakes are now where near as effective as disc brakes.

The whole Ventoso injury situation doesn't add up to me, left leg being injured "sliced" (sensationalist reporting at it best) by running into the rear of the bike ahead of you with left side mounted disc rotor??? Could be a general ill feeling in the pro peleton or just a team / rider opinion regarding use of disc brakes. One final note, Ventoso's team Movistar rides Campagnolo drivetrains and brakes. The same Campagnolo who are a bit behind the other groupset manufacturers in development of disc brakes. Bit of a coincidence!!!

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WolfieSmith [1394 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes
Warren85 wrote:

If the cycling public want disc brakes - which it appears they do, manufacturers will make them

 

Do they?  The difference between 'want' and 'need' is always the fine point of selling.  

I wouldn't kid myself that I need disk brakes when I don't. Cleats, ergo shifters and computers were major kit improvements . Disk brakes aren't but fair play to the manufacturers for pushing the new revenue stream of disks as hard as they can. 

I have three bikes I can't retro fit for disks and wouldn't want to if I could. I've never crashed due to calliper failure - rain or over heating. I think disks look awful and for me their marginal benefits are not worth the aesthetic compromise. 

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surly_by_name [559 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I think we can take Ventosa's version as being fairly accurate, he was there, he knows what he knows... 

DrJDog has helped me visualse how that could have happened now... 

I'm not comfortable with people calling him a liar, looking to fulfill his own personal agenda, when the guy is clearly sporting a very atypical crash injury. 

 

The fact he was there isn't particularly conclusive and certainly doesn't make his version of events "fairly accurate". There have been a multitude of studies over several decades that have demonstrated that eye witness testimony isn't especially reliable, see for example http://agora.stanford.edu/sjls/Issue%20One/fisher&tversky.htm

I don't think he's lying (and I don't think he has any personal agenda - I imagine, for example, that Canyon would quite like to have some of their teams on the CF SLX D when they release it later this year) inasmuch as he clearly believes his version of events. Doesn't make it true.

The facts are: he crashed. He has a nasty gash to his leg. There were people riding bikes with disc rotors in the same event as him. I think this is about it. The rest is speculation.

I hope Ventoso recovers and is back riding soon.

 

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bobbypuk [57 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

I'm getting a bit bored of the road.cc obsession with disc brakes. I can't remember the last bike review on here that wasn't all about discs. And every second article seems to be about gravel bikes(?), discs or wide tyres. These are all things invented pretty much purely to sell bikes. Between this, click-bait articles and endless reporting of the dangers of cycling I think I'm off.

I realise a lot of people have disc brakes on the road and are very happy. Me, I'll stick with being able to swap wheels between bikes, not having to throw the frame away because I bought a Betamax axle system, riding nice wheels and braking a bit more gently in the wet.

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bobbypuk [57 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

And as for the comments on todays articles, it reads like a moon landings conspiracy forum  1

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Warren85 [7 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
neildmoss wrote:
Warren85 wrote:

Riders need to be told to stop whining about it and do their jobs.

I recall the same statements being directed at Sir Jackie Stewart. 

Apples and oranges - in F1 drivers were losing their lives. The rider had a non-life/career threating cut - a similar and less severe injury than others on day. 

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surly_by_name [559 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
bobbypuk wrote:

Me, I'll stick with being able to swap wheels between bikes ....

Me too. But those nice carbon tubs that I use for cross have disc rotors on them and 135mm rear spacing ...

The ability to swap wheels between bikes assumes a level of standardisation that generally isn't. Although perhaps in terms of rear road wheels we currently have the closest thing to a standard that I've seen during my life as a cyclist inasmuch as all 11 speed wheels work across all drive trains. It won't last - bottom bracket standards, rear wheel spacing, axles - look at mountain biking (where new technology is embraced with a little less reluctance), where Boost rear spacing (148mm) has only recently pushed the proliferation of BB "standards" off top spot as current thing to moan about on internet forums.

Its good to have choices. I imagine the vast majority of us will be riding road bikes with disc brakes within 5 years. Although now cross season is well and truly over I've been riding my road bike a bit more and you know what - my brakes work pretty well, certainly well enough for me for now. I'd go so far as to say that they are excellent foor what they are. But in 3 years time when I buy a new frame I will probably go for discs in part because I think that will be more future proof. 

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Tjuice [245 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Hmm.

I think the left leg / right leg thing could be a bit of a red herring.  Crashes are funny things and with limbs/bikes going everywhere (well, not precisely everywhere, but you know what I mean), you can end up with some unexpected injuries.

I still have some (now very faint) gouges on the inside-front of my LEFT shin, which were made by my chainring when I had a fairly big crash a few years ago (bike failure - thankfully no-one else involved).  Yes, it was definitely the chainring - I remember cleaning up the black oily chainring tooth shapes that were printed on my leg.

I still can't work out how my left leg could make such contact with the chainring on the other side of my bike.

Still, really great that road.cc is questioning this point.  While I am not at all convinced about the need for disc brakes on pro road bikes for the most part, I agree that such a strong decision made with no firm evidence is not necessarily the right way forward.

 

 

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Al__S [1284 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Tjuice wrote:

Hmm.

I think the left leg / right leg thing could be a bit of a red herring.  Crashes are funny things and with limbs/bikes going everywhere (well, not precisely everywhere, but you know what I mean), you can end up with some unexpected injuries.

But according to Ventoso bikes weren't going everywhere. He was upright and on his bike, the bike he supposedly hit was upright with the rider on it, neither of them went down (or even fully stopped?).

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hsiaolc [367 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I say ban Motorbikes and cars that follow the cyclists.  Afterall they have killed and injured cyclists. 

 

I think it is just stupid. 

 

 

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Amdathlonuk [1 post] 1 year ago
0 likes

Why don't they just modify the brake unit to pull the brake shoe closer to the hub and cover the exposed edge of the disk with a thin rubber coating or something similar.
Like a mobile phone bumper style case.

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rct [77 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
cdamian wrote:

Going bake to rim brake would indeed feel like racing on a penny-farthing.

And I don't care that it doesn't have an UCI sticker.

 

I assume you are racing sportives as neither BC or even LVRC allow discs in road racing in the UK

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Alankk [153 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Why don't the uci ban chain rings or require a chain guard to be mandatory.. Muppets..

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Tjuice [245 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Al__S wrote:
Tjuice wrote:

Hmm.

I think the left leg / right leg thing could be a bit of a red herring.  Crashes are funny things and with limbs/bikes going everywhere (well, not precisely everywhere, but you know what I mean), you can end up with some unexpected injuries.

But according to Ventoso bikes weren't going everywhere. He was upright and on his bike, the bike he supposedly hit was upright with the rider on it, neither of them went down (or even fully stopped?).

Ah!  Sorry, I missed that bit - was being a bit too hasty yesterday.  I stand corrected.

On the face of it, that does seem rather perculiar. 

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Al__S [1284 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
Tjuice wrote:

 

Ah!  Sorry, I missed that bit - was being a bit too hasty yesterday.  I stand corrected.

On the face of it, that does seem rather perculiar. 

 

Quite. He'd have had to have been unclipped and got his leg into a weird position round someone else's wheel to have got the injury. Weird things happen, but given the other holes in his tale (eg Maes not being anywhere near a rider with discs) it kind of looks like someone- indeed, given some private conversations I've had, an entire team organisation- that just doesn't like disc brakes and is borderline fabricating tales to pin injuries on them deliberately.

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