The issue with pro racing is...

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Bear in mind that I write this while having my coffee on a morning when a significant task on hand for the day is to keep testing the current Range disc wheel pre-production rim. Our product lineup is a reflection (we hope) of what people want to buy, and not what we are "pushing." You're absolutely kidding yourself if you think we have the market presence to push. About the furthest we can go with pushing is to encourage people to try tubeless (I've said it a million times, I'm done with tubes. I've also said a million times that it might not be for you). So we have a dog in the disc fight, but we also have a dog in the not-disc fight (if you race with rim brakes and don't use Rails, it's your fault). In that aspect of the business, we are agnostic and happy to try and supply the best solution for whatever path people wish to pursue. 

Long preamble, huh? Okay, so Francisco Ventoso got his leg sliced into pretty badly in a near-accident on Sunday at Paris-Roubaix. The apparent (and really we've got no reason to doubt it) implement of this cut was a disc rotor. As a result, the use of disc brakes in the pro peloton has been suspended. You can't use discs in UCI pro races until further notice. 

This highlights two situations that I'd like to briefly explore. The first is best introduced by a quote from an article that Caley Fretz posted on VeloNews yesterday:

“We’re always going to follow demand,” Yu says. “In the past it was, ‘You race on it on Sunday and sell it on Monday.’ But nowadays more people are into experience and adventure. So the goal now is producing a bike that is optimal for the job. Sometimes that’s racing. More and more often it’s not.”

The "Yu" in question is Chris Yu, an aerodynamicist who works at Specialized. The sentiment he expresses - that riders take their equipment cues less and less from what pros race on - is something with which we absolutely agree. Whether it's backlash from years and years and years (and years) of doping, or just that the UCI can't respond to things as quickly as the market wants what it wants, or something else, I can't say. The UCI has a tough-ish job there, I'm not calling them a lumbering beast though they might be that - I really don't know. My point is that when you're trying to reconcile the needs and wants of the many-headed Hydra that is pro racing, you have to consider more than any individual has to worry about for himself. And when I say "himself" I mean a gender neutral "him." We love and respect women here at November Bicycles. Seriously.

The other issue is highlighted (highlit?) by a commenter someplace on the internet, who writes about this incident:

It's time for a union and for the UCI to do its job and resist industry profit pressures.  

The problem with this, kind sir, is that industry profit pressures are the reason that pro road racing currently exists. Cannondale, Lampre-Merida, BMC, Giant-Alpecin, Trek Segafredo - all teams sponsored primarily by the industry. Remove the endemic sponsors, even the ones that aren't top-line team name sponsors, and pro racing ends tomorrow. The sport has failed to execute a revenue model that allows it to exist without being little more than a promotional vehicle for the products used within the sport. 

This is the issue that I have whenever discussions of minimum rider salaries or whatever arise. There's no economic justification for them. The economics of pro cycling are more or less the economics of patronage. 

Don't misunderstand me, though I dislike pro sports in general, I enjoy watching bike races. After I raced Sunday, I watched a replay of P-R with friends and though it was great. And as regards said race, a guy crashed mere inches from me when he failed to pay attention at a moment when he should have been paying attention, but was futzing with his bottle instead. Should bottles be banned? But the other channel was showing The Masters. Want to talk about a legitimate economic model? 


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  • Richard McIntyre on

    I've been riding road bikes recreationally for 40 years and so far I still think disc brakes are a solution in search of a problem for road bikes. When I clamp down on my Rail 52s, the bike stops. The industry can make their profits by providing solutions of value, like electronic shifting. And that bottle analogy is pretty lame, Dave ;-)

  • Sean Y on

    Joe – There is one big difference between chainrings and discs: when a rider crashes, they stop pedaling. Thus the chainrings stop as well. Wheels, and therefore discs, just keep spinning, and at a much higher rate than cranks can ever go.

  • Ryan on

    Well…you guys pushed me to tubeless on the road bike, with a shiny new set of rails. I thank you for that, seriously. As for discs…well, my newly purchased bike doesn't use them but if I were to purchase a second road bike, I would most probably purchase something that can take a bit wider tire and disc brakes for those roads that my current setup doesn't do so hot on. I could really see riding a disc brake road bike if it were my only one too and I wasn't jammed into a racing peloton (I don't race). They do have a positive feel when braking and seem to work well and they work great with wider tires where you don't have to squeeze the tire into a short-armed caliper. The slicing and dicing issue seems to be only an issue related to racing, so it just doesn't make a difference to me. There are a lot of things pro racers do that don't cross over into my kind of riding, like riding without a saddlebag full of co2 and tire changing tools.The disc cut danger thing really seems like an engineering problem anyway. Figure out a way to cover the majority of the disc up and the issue is solved. Good luck on the Range and if/when I get that second bike I will be getting a set.

  • Joe Bond on

    I' m surely not the only rider out there with a "cut on the dotted line" chainring scar, and chainrings are far more exposed than disc rotors are.

  • Joe C on

    I've had discs on my last 2 cross bikes, and they were great. Really good on gravel. This was probably not the last time a guy gets cut in a bike race… if the UCI wanted to do something to prevent more injuries, how about full face helmets? Hardly a race goes by someone doesn't get their face rearranged. But it's really not about safety, it's about perception. Personally, I think you machine a round edge on the disc, and the cut argument goes away.



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