Chris Froome’s move to Israel Start-Up Nation marks the first year in many that he won’t be riding a Pinarello Dogma – the machine that’s been raced to victory in seven of the last ten Tour de France editions.
Instead, the four-time yellow jersey winner will ride the Factor Ostro VAM – and it will be the first time he’s raced disc brakes.
Based on his video review of the Ostro VAM, the change from rim brakes to discs is not entirely welcome. In fact, Froome spends over 20 per cent of the five minute video explaining his gripes with the tech, concluding: “I think if you’re not on disc brakes already it’s only a matter of time until you’re made obsolete in a way and forced on to them.”
The UCI approved the use of disc brakes in the pro peloton indefinitely in 2018, and this year only UAE Team Emirates (Colnago), Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert (Cube) have a choice of rim/disc, and Ineos (Pinarello) remain exclusively on rim brakes.
Having discussed a move to the Hammerhead Karoo computer, dropping his famous Osymetric chainrings whilst recovering from injury and the use of a Ceramic Speed bottom bracket and rear mech with a longer cage to help stabilise the chainline (and save a handful of watts), Froome moves on to his next topic: stopping.
In a video overview of the bike, he said: “Disc brakes. I’m not 100 per cent sold on them yet, myself.”
What follows suggests that this is somewhat of an understatement.
“I’ve been using them [disc brakes] for the last couple of months. Performance-wise, they’re great… [I] always stop, when I need to stop. Dry, wet, they work. They do the job. They do what they’re meant to do,” Froome begins. And of course, it’s always reassuring to know that your brakes will stop you.
However, he then moves on to look at the cons, and the list is somewhat longer.
“The downsides to disc brakes… the constant rubbing, the potential for mechanicals, the overheating, the discs becoming a bit warped when you’re on a descent for long enough – five, ten minutes, with constant braking.
“Personally, I just don’t think the technology is quite where it needs to be yet for road cycling,” he adds, stating, “I think the distance between the disc and the rotors is still just too narrow, so you’re going to get that rubbing, you’re going to get that one piston that fires more than another, you’re going to get these little issues. I don’t think the pistons quite retract quite the way they’re meant to be, all the time.
“Quite often it’ll work on the stand, it’ll work when the mechanic sorts it out. Then once you get onto the road it’s a different story. I accept that that’s the direction the industry wants to go in, and we as bike riders are going to have to adapt and learn to use them.
“And I think if you’re not on disc brakes already it’s only a matter of time until you’re made obsolete in a way and forced on to them.”
Of course there are counterarguments for all of Froome’s criticisms – overheating and warped discs can be compared with delaminated wheels and rim wear. However, it has been noted that many pros are running Shimano XTR and not Dura-Ace disc rotors, though heat dissipation has not been stated as a reason – rather, weight with the mountain bike version being lighter.
The suggestion that disc brakes rub is usually countered with set-up and maintenance advice – though it’s probably fair to say Froome has all the maintenance support he could need, much more than any amateur club runner.
Froome’s video review continues with a look at the bike itself, Froome states: “Out on the road, the Ostro handles incredibly well, I love the straight lines… the power transfer on it feels great. Get up, out the saddle, it feels like your power goes directly through the bike and propels you forwards.”
He does note some flex at the handlebars, adding: “I hear from the guys over at Factor that they’re working on those.”