During a recent press trip for its new Ultimate CF SLX road bike, German company Canyon revealed to us that the Movistar and Katusha teams will be testing Canyon road bikes with disc brakes in August and September, at two races of their choice, as per the UCI rules. Yes, the disc brake revolution is truly upon us.
"During the 2015 UCI professional road season, all teams will have the opportunity to use bikes with disc brakes at two events of their choice during August and September," the UCI announced in a recent statement.
Canyon doesn’t currently have a disc-equipped road bike, but it did let on that this testing won’t be conducted on an Aeroad or Ultimate - respectively their aero and lightweight (and now more aero too) race bikes - leaving us to conclude that the Endurace, Canyon's endurance road bike, is set for a disc brake makeover, and that we will probably see it at Eurobike in September.
This testing of disc brakes in road races will take place later this year and through 2016, with a likely widespread introduction to the pro peloton in 2017. If that's the case, it doesn't rule out an Ultimate or Aeroad with disc brakes being ready for 2017, given that most bicycle manufacturers spend a couple of years developing new models.
Most of the new bikes we're seeing being launched at the moment - and we're seeing a lot of new bikes - were likely on the drawing board well before the disc brake debate really got going and before the UCI provided any clear indication on their acceptance, let alone a rollout schedule.
Aside from the issue of disc brakes in the pro peloton, adding disc brakes to the Endurace makes a lot of sense. Most of the disc-equipped road bikes we’ve seen so far have been endurance bikes, with models like the Cannondale Synapse, Bianchi Infinito CV, Trek Domane and Specialized Roubaix proving to be very popular with consumers. Adding disc brakes to the Endurace would be a natural evolution for this model and suit the current target customer well, who for the most part is not all that interested in racing or what equipment the pros are allowed to use.
The Endurace also has longer chainstays than Canyon’s two race bikes. At 415mm they are right on the Shimano recommendation for chainstay length for running disc brakes. Go any shorter than that and the wider rear axle - required for the discs - can cause chainline issues, with the potential for the chain to contact the front derailleur cage in certain gear combinations.
Most race bikes feature chainstays in the region of 405mm. The Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc is the only true race bike we’ve seen so far that manages to combine disc brakes with short chainstays, but Specialized has had to resort to a bespoke wheel and dropout design that shifts the cassette inboard.
Interestingly, in updating its Izalco Max Disc race bike, Focus has simply lengthened the chainstays from 405mm to 415mm, avoiding the necessity for any complex or proprietary design solution as we’ve seen on the S-Works Tarmac Disc.
Although modern race bikes have short chainstays, it wasn’t always this way; geometry on race bikes has evolved a lot over the decades. Longer chainstays do bring about appreciable benefits like increased stability and less twitchy handling behaviour, but any change will likely be met with resistance from racers used to the quick handling and direct power transfer associated with super short chainstays.
Of course, you might point that that Canyon does already offer a disc-equipped bicycle, in the shape of the Inflite. True, but that's a cyclocross bike though it can be equipped with slick tyres and mudguards for road cycling duties. You're not going to see the Movistar or Katusha pros riding that bike anytime soon.
Back to the Movistar and Katusha disc brake testing. The big question revolves around their Campagnolo sponsorship, because as we all know, Campagnolo hasn’t shown any disc brakes to the world yet. The Katusha team is sponsored by Shimano so no problems there, but Movistar is sponsored by Campagnolo, and while the Italian company has confirmed to us that it is working on disc brakes, nobody has seen anything yet. In order for this testing to go ahead, we can only assume it has a product nearly ready. Canyon also let on that it has been working with Campagnolo and Mavic for these tests, so we must presume Campagnolo has a disc brake ready, and Mavic has been working on some race disc wheels.
Why do we need disc brakes on a road race bike at all? It’s a valid question, and one that Canyon’s Michael Adomeit answers by saying, “It’s not about brake power, it’s more about modulation, that will be the big advantage.”
Canyon is no stranger to putting disc brakes on a road bike, it's been down this path before. Its Project 6.8 from 2006 showed a road bike designed with hydraulic disc brakes and with a weight of 6.8kg, hence the name. That bike featured dual disc rotors at the front, with a diameter between 120 and 125mm, the idea being to reduce uneven load on the fork and heat buildup.
"Thanks to this technology the safety of bike racers is significantly raised as disc brakes clearly function better than traditional brake systems on wet courses and on long descents," says Canyon. "They also radically reduce the wear on the rims."
So is the future one where all road bikes have disc brakes? That might just be the case, reckons Canyon, with one representative telling us it’s not inconceivable that by 2019 the only bikes with rim brakes could be triathlon and time trial bikes. Time will tell, but it’s certainly a long way to go before we see the widespread adoption of disc brakes and it’s likely to be a bumpy road for many.
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.