The disc brake debate is heating up. The UCI has confirmed its trial of discs on professional race bikes will be extended for the whole of 2016, the professionals are currently being surveyed for their feelings on using disc brakes, and more and more disc-equipped race bikes are being launched by the big manufacturers all the time.
It’s clearly a divisive subject, as our question, “Are disc brakes necessary on professional race bikes?” posted on Facebook the other day proved, with hundreds of comments. Most replies fall largely in the Yes or No camp. And some people are quite passionate for and against disc brakes being rolling out in the pro peloton.
Asking the road.cc readers for their feelings about the suitability of disc brakes for professional racing cyclists might seem pointless, but it’s interesting because many people still base their buying decisions for new bikes and upgrades on what the pros are riding. So here's a pick of some of the replies the question generated.
For disc brakes in the pro peloton
Paul Blackburn says, “If that's the way it's going then yeah. Everyone should move on from this subject it's getting boring.”
Simon Robinson: “Was there all this fuss when gear shifters moved from the down tube to the brake levers, or when people stopped taking the rear wheel out to swap it around to change gear? It's just the evolution of bikes.”
Mark Bonnes: “MTB's adopted disc brakes 20 years ago, even the lightest of XC race bikes have pretty much all been disc only for more than 10 years. Yes, rim brakes are still lighter, but if that's more important than performance, then you need your head examining!”
Paul Sturrock: “It’s a pointless discussion as the manufacturers will decide and leave the riders with no choice but to go along with it. I am sure the likes of Shimano & Sram will come out with road specific disc brakes and not use the mtb discs that they seem to be using at the moment.”
Chris Winder: “Anyone who's ridden a hydraulic disc equipped Mtb would vouch for the increased power, modulation and all-weather consistency. Once discs are standard on road bikes, the rims can be built lighter and that will offset any increased weight in the brakes themselves.”
Pete Jones: “Yes. The addition of disc brakes in the peloton will not only improve their performance on road bikes with smaller rotors but will help to improve the technology with frames too. Holding this back now only slows down progress.”
Henry Batten: “I moved to discs this year... Never looking back! 100% yes, why is it even a question?”
Against disc brakes
Rodney Koh: “Disc braked road bikes are certainly not necessary. But as a clever way to get us all to buy new bikes, allowing them in the pro peloton will surely create a demand for them among riding enthusiasts. I would probably succumb to the draw of disc equipped bikes. It's just that the UCI will need to come up with a set of standards that both the pro peloton and the market can adopt.”
Kris Coetzee: “Honestly, no. But bike part manufacturers need to make money somewhere, so why not make new disc road groupsets, which require new wheels, frames, etc... It's all about the money at the end of the day”
Wayne Phillips: “No… for years progress was to make things as light as possible, disc brakes add weight, but do improve stopping power, ultimately resulting in "locking up" the wheel, rim brakes give more "feel" & control, so less likely to "lock up" the wheel, but it is also possible to "lock up" your wheel with a rim brake, if set up correctly with a good set of brake blocks. the limiting factor being "tyre grip" or traction with the road surface. You either skid or go over your handlebars with either brake system”
Wayne Wolfsbauer: “No, of course, they are not necessary - modern standard rim brakes are more than adequate and I have never seen a rim wear out - ever or actually ever met someone who has. But as people have said it's money and marketing driven even at the expense of practical function just like 11-speed clusters and chains - fragile weak or electric shifters expensive and solving a problem that doesn't exist.”
Darren Chapman: “No not necessary at all. However the manufacturers would like us to buy more bikes so it absolutely will happen.”
Jordan MacSween: “No. Pro's bikes are a shop front, though. Whatever the industry wants to flog and showcase will be garnished (in the highest level spec) on team bikes.”
Bob Corbishley: “I think you're all over thinking this. Reread the question- " are disc brakes necessary". The answer is no, of course not. Any type of brake which brings the bike safely to a stop will do. End of. Whether they are a better overall solution is entirely down to your own priorities.
Who do you agree with?
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.