The Disc Brake Debate


We wade bravely (and briefly) into the disc brake debate. We’re sure this will end all arguments about the safety of disc rotors immediately and forever. It’s a veritable nu-uh, yes-uh situation in the professional peloton right now. Disc brakes are spinning knives of death, or so the CPA shouts. They’re fine, say the bike manufacturers. Tom Boonen has been the biggest advocate and one of the lone riders to stay on them after last week’s incident with Marcel Kittel. Even though video showed Kittel’s rotors never even came close to Team Sky’s Owain Doull in a crash at Abu Dhabi, Kittel went back to rim brakes after a lot of noise from Doull and some other riders in the race.

Last year, a similar incident saw Movistar’s Fran Ventoso claim he was stabbed by a rotor, only for doctors and his own team to later admit the injuries he sustained weren’t likely to be caused by a brake. Still, the UCI halted the disc experiment for the rest of the legitimate racing season, only bringing back the trial this winter.

Of course, rider safety should be the top priority, but as far as we’ve found, there just doesn’t seem to be evidence that disc rotors have significantly impacted the professional peloton’s safety. As some mechanics have said, the bigger impact might be wheel changes and creating a standard rotor sized for neutral service vehicles. At this point, disc brakes are looking to be just as dangerous as chain rings, cassettes, handlebars, and that inescapable asphalt in the event of a crash.

The Doull incident did spark a run of videos of people trying to cut things with spinning rotors. They were about as interesting as a Bass-o-matic sketch, but less exciting. They didn’t do much, and that’s actively pressing down on the rotor until it stops, not glancing off like what is more likely to happen in a crash. In defense of the national hero, Tom Boonen, a Belgian mechanic actually stopped a rotor with his BARE FINGER.

Convinced? Yeah, we didn’t think so. It’s going to be interesting to see how the interest of racers, team, races and manufacturers come together on the issue, and until then, we’ll keep shoving old shoes onto rotors, just for shits.



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