Professional riders and team representatives give their view on the use of disc brakes in top-level road races

Disc brakes will replace traditional calipers in cycling’s professional peloton, according to insiders. After a two month test this summer in select races, they say it is “only a matter of time” until the right system is developed and the governing body allows their use.

This August and September, the UCI allowed professional teams to test disc brakes in two races of their choice. Several riders did so in the Eneco Tour, including Sky’s Bernhard Eisel. Sky’s Ben Swift also rode them in the Tour du Poitou Charentes. Team Roompot and Trek Factory Racing riders tested them as well.

The UCI has yet to specify a window for their use and testing in 2016. It should because the feeling is that cycling is rapidly moving towards discs.

>>> Disc brakes in the WorldTour: are they necessary on road bikes?

What the riders and teams think

Bernhard Eisel (Sky)

“It will take some development. The quick release is not an option, it takes too long, and the riders are concerned about big crashes with the possibility of cuts or burns. I didn’t have problems with heat, I felt the 120 or 140mm disc was big enough, but we need to test them on the big descents in Pyrenees when it’s 40°C out.

“The braking is definitely better in the rain, but everybody has to use them. You can’t have the bunch with disc brakes and the other half with normal ones, that would cause carnage because the braking points are different.

“There will be a lot of work to do in the next one or two years. I’m guessing everyone will be on them by 2018, earliest 2017.”

Bernhard Eisel used disc brakes during the Eneco Tour

Bernhard Eisel used disc brakes during the Eneco Tour

Berden De Vries (Roompot)

“I used them in the Eneco Tour: on cobbles, on climbs, flats, in the rain. We tested all the conditions.

“The only problem is the sound. When you brake, it’s not good. I hope in the next years that can be improved. There’s a lot of sound when you brake, it’s unbelievable. I found on the downhill, in the rain when braking, the noise was so hard on your ears.

“The problem now is just when you flat. The wheel change takes too long. That’s the only problem. All the rest, is great.”

Carsten Jeppersen, team Sky’s head of technical operations

“The feeling I get is that the industry really wants it and is pushing hard. It’s a pro sport, it’s going to come or not weather we want it or not. Instead of being negative, I want to embrace it. At least be ready for it, or be ready for it on a decent level.

>>> Five best disc brake bikes of 2016

“It’s easy to take an old-fashioned approach and say a quick release needs to look like this. I think you can make something specific to a disc brakes wheel and fork. With a little bit of development, this can move forward. As it is now, you would not use it in a race environment. The risk is too high for mechanics changing wheels in a stress situation.

“It’s up to the UCI and the manufacturers. It needs a lot more development, but we can get there if that’s what we want.”

Discs

As disc brakes are becoming more commonplace on consumer bikes, interest is growing

Stefano Cattai, BMC Racing’s team liaison from BMC Switzerland

“BMC is not ready to market this bike until April or May, so until then, the riders won’t race it. It’s not an urgent matter for the road teams. Cycling is traditional, before changing, it takes time. It’s new and needs time. But it is only a question of time until we see everyone on them because it’s an improvement.


Watch: Top five disc brake bikes of 2015


“It’s not dangerous anymore than what we have now. We have 100 different rims, brakes and brake pads and different uses. Crashes will happen, but not because one is using disc and another not, it’s about how the riders use them. This opens the door, having them for competitive use. Suppliers will make leaps ahead in development.

“Downsides? I don’t think so. If anything, you want disc brakes. If you make a long descent in the wet, you want them. Aero? There is no difference. In all the tests we did, we didn’t see an issue. Many competitors are already designing time trial bikes with disc brakes.”

  • gdjfudge

    The worst thing is that having weight behind the fork affects the balance of the steering. The steering is fine till you take your hands off the bars.

  • Martyn

    I am wondering what disc brakes do to the forces at the lower end of the forks and if this affects the wheel base and the bike’s performance in any way? Obviously with cantilevers the forces are nearer the frame. These forces are more important for road bikes which travel at greater speeds compared to other disciplines. Specifically, I wonder what happens when braking at speed whilst cornering?

  • CanSomeoneTellMe

    Excellent idea, Dave.

  • Stevo

    I agree. I am unsure though what the above poster is getting at saying you don’t know how to “set up” a brake. Fitting and adjusting brakes is not exactly difficult.

  • Mike O’Hanlon

    I’ve been setting up bike brakes since 1964, so I probably know what I’m doing. I’m comparing 105 with Centaur & Xenon. The Campag brakes work better. Not prejudice, simple experience.

  • Josmabones

    After riding both mountain bikes and road bikes for 10 years. Many brands of both my verdict is rim brakes are woeful. Thank god change is coming.

  • Ardbeg

    I have been using Shimano XTR Disc brakes since 2004. Initially the pads (mine are composite) do squeak an awful lot until they break in…I always sand them a little when they are replaced this eliminates any noise from the start. If you take the time to set up the disc brake properly (alignment, bleading through and the afore mentioned sanding of the pads prior to instalation) there is no problem with noise or performance ….Mine are silent, along with smooth gear changes on the Dual control levers.

    The only issue I can see that will cause trouble for Road racers, is the wheel change……it will take longer to get the disc break wheel changed over a conventional v break system; Maybe the Road bike industry could lead the way here by improving the system all round with a solution?

  • DaveS

    I have said this before and been shot down, but in my view, the first development should be solid tires. I am sure that with modern technology a solid tire could be developed that was close enough in performance to pneumatics, and if they were mandatory for racing, it would be a level playing field. Then so many problems go away. No concerns about how long it takes to change a wheel, so no concerns about using disc brakes. No riders chasing back or being dropped due to a stupid puncture, better safety, less team car involvement, it goes on and on.
    The advantages for the rest of us are obvious. Then frames could be designed with greater fork integrity and disc brakes would be much more acceptable. It’s sad that just now the impetus is not there, and no, I don’t think tubeless is the answer. That’s just another version of the current problem.

  • Jwiffle

    You’re three first person I’ve ever heard say Shimano brakes don’t work well. Dura-ace are regarded by a great many as the gold standard for braking. Likely you just don’t know how to properly set up a Shimano brake. Even more likely, you don’t want to like them because you’re a campyphile. (Nothing wrong with loving campy, just not at the expense of thinking other products are crap just because it’s not campy)

  • Mike O’Hanlon

    I noticed a huge difference in braking effect between my bikes. Two bikes braked perfectly adequately, the third braked so badly that I was reluctant to ride it. The difference was simple and obvious; Campag brakes work well, Shimano brakes not so well. It’s interesting that Shimano are leading the development of disc brakes.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    The pro riders will say and rightly so what their sponsors want them to say.

  • Nigel Rue

    It’s progress, but it is a shame improvements seem to happen at such a glacial rate.