Braking News

TLDR version: Road pros can use disc brakes without limit in 2016. This makes overall adoption of disc brakes something of an inevitability, if only because manufacturers will likely make it so. Though we're far from disc brake evangelists, we've been prepping for this day for 5 years. But the bigger question to us is "what do actual real people think about discs on the road?"

Yes, we tested

With the cycling world's silly season headlines dominated by the recent UCI decision to allow discs in 2016, you had to know that we'd weigh in on it, and almost certainly with a terrible pun. Happy to oblige. But while every pro constituency has some angle on it one way or another, and while the general public seems to be in favor of letting pros use them, what we're curious about is what the people who matter - bike riders - have to say about them. 

We've actually been swinging at the road disc pinata for longer than I care to consider. In 2011, when we first tested what became the HOT BUNS cross frames, I pulled the straw to test the disc bike (which is actually still my cross bike) and thus began our road disc wheel story. Because you need road wheels for your cross bike. And you need cross wheels for it, too. 

This sexy beastThen, when we did the Timoneria, we did a disc version to check it out. The drop dead looker you see before you is currently kitted out in full winter regalia with fenders and saddle bag, but that just makes it kind of like a swimsuit model in jeans and a baseball hat - somewhat more down and dirty, but more than capable of setting things quite astir. 

Having ridden said disc bike in situations that run the full gamut, I can say that I believe that the danger of mixing discs and rim brakes is a red herring. Whatever crash that happens might happen differently, but my considered and experienced opinion is that no crashes will occur because of a mixed brake environment. I say this having crashed in a mixed brake environment on Sunday, when I simply wasn't paying super close attention, allowed my front wheel to overlap too much with the guy ahead, who is a strong but not steady rider, who swerved while I happened to be blowing a snot rocket (those of you who ride with me will know that this is about 1/3 of the time), and woof! down I went. No brakes were even involved, and no one got branded with red hot rotors. 

But my experience is also that while good disc brakes are undeniably better than rim brakes, they're not nearly the experience-changing switch that disc brakes were in mountain biking, or even cross. They're better. They remove the heat danger from rim brake wheels (yes, Virginia, you can even overheat an aluminum rim), but that just means they transfer it within the braking system.  

The standards are something of a mess, which if there's one good thing to come from pro peloton adoption it is that that should clear up. For amateur racers, the wheel swap speed is once again, to me, a total red herring. Most of my lifetime of flats has occurred in races. Two times I was able to absolutely smoke myself and catch back on. The far more other times, my day was over. If you flat in an amateur road race, you're probably hosed. 

But enough about us, what do you think about us? Have you got any experience with them? What do you see as the good, bad and ugly of it?

Back to blog


I have commented before on the topic, but I definitely am all-in on disc brakes. My road, cx, and of course mtb are all running disc brakes; I don't see a reason to ever deliberately go back to rim brakes on the road bike (or of course the cx & mtb). I agree with the comment above that going from cantis to mini-v was a bigger improvement on the cx bike than switching to mechanical disc but I also know from a few around-the-block rides that hydros are huge improvement over mechanicals.On the road bike, I love being able to stop quickly and consistently with carbon rims. That was not at all my experience prior. Yeah, different pads etc. but disc brakes make a night-and-day difference there and I like carbon rims.I suspect that the move to disc will benefit Asian rim manufacturers most. Many people would love to pay $350 for a set of deep carbon rims but are [rightfully] terrified of heat buildup delaminating their rims on a downhill. When you remove that factor, I suspect those rims look more appealing. Obviously not for folks that really care about proof of aerodynamics, but I suspect that is a small minority of people that spring for deep carbon rims. (For the record, I'm using LightBicycle U45 rims that I built up myself; they have been fantastic no my road bike, but I would never trust them to rim brakes; I have seen what happens.)My next wheelset might be the disc-specific Novatec 40mm carbon rims, though they are significantly more expensive than the mainland competition.


I have disc on my gravel bike. I feel that's were the benefits are. Off road. I have been riding gravel for a long time fire roads we use to call it and I had my share of worn out rims and well no stopping power. disc brakes sloved that. On a road bike though if your hitting your brakes that hard or need that much power well………………


My next new bike WILL have disks, but I'm in no rush. I have AL tubeless-ready A-23s on one bike, and Campy Zondas on the other. The Campy bike is my preferred bike. I don't need anything past Chorus or Ultegra — those two groupsets are true bargains.The thing is, with a pair of Rail 52s, tubeless tires, and disks, I see no reason those wheels wouldn't last forever. The only thing that would kill them is abuse. I'd have to crash them HARD, or run the car over them, or ride around in water up to the hubs and never clean them, to kill them. But Carbon rims are so strong, I don't think there'd be a way to kill them under normal conditions. Once you move the heat to the disk, all fears of tube blowouts or rim warping are gone.On the other hand, both of my bikes brake quite well, so I'm in no hurry. What will speed my transition is the lack of availability of 10-speed parts.The only area where I'm not with you is in-race support. It's not as much that they'll be hard to change as it is that the iterations of groupsets-brakes-wheels will increase, and we'll need more support vehicles. Right now, the motos drive around with 2 rear wheels, and one front, and everyone's covered. I can't see these motos driving around with 8 rears and 4 fronts to make sure everyone's covered. No, there will be 3 times as many motos, and I do think that's an issue.


Been riding in Seattle commuting and racing cross on discs since 08 I think. I've used shimano CX77 single side pivot brakes, TRP Hy/Rd 1st generation and Shimano hydro and original Avid BB7's. For cross, Shimano hydro are by far the best brakes I ever used. The ability to quickly scrub speed, much later than before is unparalleled. I hated the Hy/Rd's. You still have the hassle of contaminated cables and the pad clearance was terrible. Supposedly the 2nd gen of these are better but I'm not willing to try them again. For commuting I would happily use hydros if money was no object but have been using the shimano CX77's with no real issues. It obviously rains here a ton so pad wear is something you have to stay on top off. I, probably weekly, make minor adjustments to the pads either at the caliper or with inline barrel adjusters. I would agree that keeping rotors clean and straight makes a huge difference to cutting down on noise, but I've also learned to live with it as I sometimes can't be bothered day to day. Braking power is definitely less than hydros but I sure don't miss having to cringe every time I would put the brakes on with rim brakes and imagining the aluminum loading up the pads and the cost of replacing a wheelset every year on my commuter. I typically use organic pads for better bite but have used swissstop metallics a lot with good luck. One grip with these brakes, the inside pad adjustment is a 3mm and the outside is a 2.5mm. Really shimano?! For road machine it's rim brakes that I swap between a set of Rail 52's with carbon pads and some narrow shimano's with alloy pads. As far as the pros riding discs, honestly I don't care. As far as I can tell they ride what they are paid to ride. My main interest is in some standardization or how disc wheels attach and axle diameter so we can all stop wondering if some new wheelset will be obsolete in 6 months when they decide 11mm through axles are somehow the vastly superior to 12mm or 15mm, etc. Cheers.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.