For months, the Association of Professional cyclists (CPA) had been sending letters to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) outlining the hazards of disc brakes and asking for their use to be suspended. That’s exactly what happened…but only after Spanish cyclist Francisco Ventoso was injured after running into another rider’s brake rotor during a race. The brakes cut Ventoso’s leg so seriously that he could almost see the bone in his shin.
In an open letter, Ventoso lashed out at the use of disc brakes, saying that the gear acted like “giant knives” after he ran into the back of a bike with disc brakes during a pile-up. He didn’t go down, but rode up against the bike in front of him. From reaction on Twitter and other social media sites, professional riders are clearly against the use of disc brakes. (You can read Ventoso’s full letter here: http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/injured-ventoso-blasts-use-of-road-discs_402394)
Which might make one wonder why disc brakes are still being tested? What’s the advantage? Well, the benefits can be dramatic.
Conventional brakes are clamps that grab onto the side of rim, guided by the calipers, connected by a thin steel cable.
Disc brakes are hydraulic. Instead of a cable, there is hydraulic fluid and a pair of cylinders. A smaller caliper clamps onto a dedicated rotor. These types of disc brakes have been used in mountain biking for more than 20 years because they provide better braking in wet conditions. Disc brakes have more braking power and are better in the rain than traditional brakes.
Professional road cyclists are questioning how important those benefits really are, and whether adding the option of disc brakes might make performance of other riders in a peloton or race unpredictable. Some pros fear chaos on wet roads, with some fellow cyclists braking faster or at different times than expected. The result could be more crashes and pile-ups. Hot discs also bring the risk of burn injures. And now, as Ventoso’s injury clearly illustrates, disc brakes can slice a cyclist’s leg open.
The question becomes, then, do the disadvantages and risks of severe injury outweigh the braking benefits? Most of the professional cycling community seems to be aligned against. The future of disc brakes in pro races is yet to be decided, even as they are becoming more popular with casual cyclists. Which way do you lean? Let us know!
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