When Tom Boonen, the most high-profile advocate of disc brakes in the peloton, said that he could stop a wheel spinning at 60 kilometres an hour by grabbing the rotor with his hand, Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad decided to put his theory to the test.
The controversial technology has been back in the news this past week after Team Sky’s Owain Doull claimed that his shoe had been sliced open by the disc brake rotor on the bike of Marcel Kittel when the pair crashed on the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour last week, although it’s far from clear that is what damaged the shoe.
Speaking ahead of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, Boonen said: “I maintain that they are not dangerous. I’ve dared to stop a wheel at 60 kilometres an hour with my hand.
“It’s absurd,” he continued. “Disc brakes seem at the moment to be the biggest problem in the world.”
Boonen added: “I can’t understand the fuss. A crash involving 30 riders with broken legs and arms isn’t news. But one abrasion, allegedly caused by a disc brake, is worldwide news.”
Het Nieuwsblad put Boonen’s theory to the test at the race it sponsors.
Prior to the start, a reporter visited the bus of Belgian UCI Professional Continental team Veranda’s Willems Crelan, also using disc brakes this weekend on its Felt bikes.
A video on the newspaper’s website shows the team’s mechanic, Tim Dejonghe, stopping the wheel at full speed with no injury to his hand.
Concerns remain about the safety of the technology and as we reported yesterday, Lotto-Soudal’s Adam Hansen has accused Specialized – the bike sponsor of Quick Step Floors – of trying to rush it into the peloton.
He also noted claimed that Boonen, who rides his final race at Paris-Roubaix in April, had changed his tune over disc brakes.
Hansen said: “Tom Boonen was against disc brakes last year, now he’s retiring this year and loves them.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.