Supposedly the biggest Google trend thing in cycling on the internets is road disc brakes. I would have thought that "will Cav be able to get his behind over the Poggio in time to sprint for the win in the rainbow bands this weekend" could be the biggest, followed by "despite the near frightening mediocrity of his recently tested threshold, why is it so likely that Dave will get dropped at Black Hills?" Alas I would be wrong, people are talking about road disc brakes.
There was a pretty telling report in Bicycle Retailer magazine about disc brakes at the Taipei Bike Show (which is the most important bike thing you've probably never heard of). In it, a bunch of people including Cervelo co-founder Phil White and American Classic founder Bill Shook, gave their takes on the situation. No one had their poker faces on.
Phil White, whose company's bread and butter is aerodynamics, is somewhat dismissive of discs for road bikes. He is bullish on hydraulic rim brakes. This makes perfect sense, since one of the knocks against Cervelos has been that the tortured cable runs they allow in the pursuit of aerodynamic superiority make for uninspired shifting and braking. Hydraulic brakes allow you to run the hoses however you could possibly wish with basically no deterioration in brake performance, so long as you don't kink the hose. His company has also just launched their P5 which uses proprietary hydraulic rim brakes, which they co-developed with Magura - presumably at considerable expense. Disc brakes, on the other hand, are (according to Cervelo's initial research) an aerodynamic fiasco. So having spent valuable resources making aerodynamically advanced bikes, enjoying the perception that his company does in the realm of aerodynamics, and having put together this hydraulic rim brake thing, you can see why he's not exactly evangelical about discs.
Bill Shook has been vocal about the shortcomings of full carbon clinchers. American Classic offers a 58mm aluminum/carbon clincher, but other than that does only tubulars in carbon. They have developed a pretty popular range of road hubs that won't work with disc brakes. To American Classic, discs are superfluous because the worst liability of carbon, they have solved through the aluminum/carbon rim (albeit at great expense of weight). They also face the prospect of having to invent the same "awfully darn good" mousetrap of a hub for road discs as they have for current road wheels, or face the potential loss of that revenue stream.
Nothing too earth shattering here, news-wise. It makes perfect sense. I just wanted to illustrate how people's positions make sense in light of the stake they have in the game. These are both good companies with deserved reputations for innovation, and I'm sure that however the game gets played going forward, they will play it well. There is also likely a very large nugget of "you know, I really don't think we need that/that's the best solution for cyclist" sentiment behind their positions. They care about the whole issue - as both a business and as a pastime. I believe these guys are earnest in their thoughts, and respect their approaches (although inevitably someone will read this and convince himself that I am "hating" on them).
We're ahead of the game in figuring out how to put the parts and pieces that now exist in the world to effective use in a disc brake setup. Although one of the principals of the company personally building and testing different disc wheel setups over a period of about half a year doesn't cost enough for some people to call it "real R&D," we've got wheels ready to go that I can give no higher statement about than "I'd ride them (and already have)." You can buy them from us today. But there's a lot more to our perspective than that.
Since I'm at that magical word count where eyes start to roll backwards and heads start to bob, I'll close this installment. There's a lot left to discuss about this topic and how November fits into the whole discussion, which I plan to discuss in the next episode.