Riders at the Tour of Qatar have their say on some teams using disc brakes in the pro peloton this season
Despite the UCI legalising disc brakes in road races, Team Roompot Oranje Peloton are the only professional team committed to using them on all their race bikes this season.
There were trials in races last year, but so far none of the top teams have used them in action. However, the Dutch team debuted their bikes this week at the Tour of Qatar and will be using the technology on all their bikes all season.
Once the decision was made, the team received considerable assistance for SRAM whose hydraulic system they are using.
Though they have been using them for some months in training, this week they gave the riders their first opportunity to try them out in anger, and the riders like what they see.
“You can brake really fast, especially in the rain,” Ivar Slik told Cycling Weekly.
“In the race you can out-brake other riders. Yesterday (Monday) there was a lot of wind so it was very nervous and there were a lot crashes. We had a real advantage, two times I avoided a crash because of the brakes.”
Team mechanic Jean-Pierre van Dongen told us he has had no problems either setting them up or with wheel changes during a race. Riders know not to squeeze the brake lever during a wheel change and none has got it wrong yet. Even if they did, to get the bike back on the road Van Dongen reckons he can just force the callipers apart again.
While Roompot’s riders may have no problems, others racing in Qatar have expressed their own concerns.
“In the dry it’s fine,” Manuel Quniziato (BMC) told us. “When it starts raining guys on normal brakes are going to need more space to brake, that is fine because we are used to it, but guys with disc brakes can brake a bit faster.
“For me it has to be all or nothing, Everyone uses them or no one. I don’t think it’s safe to have people with different braking technology in the same bunch.”
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Tyler Farrar of Dimension Data is more open, but his concerns remain.
“I think we have to be open to new technologies,” he told us. “There’s a giant safety issue that we’re adding spinning knife to our bikes. You see these mass pile ups that we have sometimes? I don’t think we need spinning knives on our legs.
“I don’t think it’s impossible to protect it, but none of the bikes tested have that shroud on it. Also, stronger braking doesn’t improve the our tyres’ gripping ability. Most crashes you’ve already locked up and it’s your tyre that lost traction, not that you couldn’t slow down with your brakes.”
Briton Mark McNally, riding for Wanty-Groupe Gobert is more circumspect.
“I don’t whether they’re necessary,” he explained. “I’ve never had a problem braking, but I think we’re all quite adaptive to change.
“Occasionally you see the odd disc which can be a bit menacing, riding along and there’s a blade whizzing round, but it’s more of a fact that it’s new and everyone’s not used to them yet.”
The only problem Team Roompot have had was less to do with brakes and more to do with concentration.
“One time there was a problem,” Slik told us, “but that was a teammate; he rode into my back wheel and he crashed. You have to be very attentive.”