It was back in June that the UCI quietly slipped through a change to its technical regulations to allow cyclo-cross bikes to be equipped with disc brakes.
But as the season gets in full swing, as yet there seems to have been little take-up.
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Scanning through pictures from local league races in the UK, we failed to spot a single rider to have converted. Even the top riders doing the cross event at the Interbike industry showcase in Las Vegas were still riding cantilevers.
The reason for the rule change is believed to have been the result of lobbying from certain manufacturers keen to sell new kit. But aside from the obvious financial drawback for riders, there are perhaps other reasons why many cross racers will not be upgrading this season.
“As things stand at the moment, I can’t see many people rushing to change over,” said top-level racer and CW tech guru Stu Bowers.
“You just don’t need that much braking power when you’re riding across a muddy rugby field – especially with the less technical courses nowadays.”
Although Bowers didn’t rule out using them in the future, he argued that the industry isn’t ready yet.
He didn’t know of any company that makes hydraulic STI levers or a cross-specific brake mechanism. “There’s just not enough clearance on current mountain bike models for the mud that you can get in cross.”
Bowers added that flimsy road forks might come under too much strain when disc brakes are used. “That was a problem when they started putting them on mountain bikes,” he said.
Even last year’s national trophy winner Paul Oldham, who’s sponsored and employed by components manufacturer Hope, isn’t riding on disc brakes.
“I really wanted to run them this year,” he explained. “I think they’d definitely make you quicker around a cross course. They’d be better for stopping on technical bits.”
He argued that mud clearance with discs is better than with cantilevers and there’ll be less clogging up.
So why isn’t Oldham riding disc brakes this year?
“It’s just been a matter of time, really,” he said. “The rule was only changed in the summer. Nobody really does a frame with disc mounts. Hopefully I’ll have one next year.”