|Ahh...they seem to work just fine, but...|
But there is a big push for disc brakes in cyclo cross circles these days. (Notice- I didn't say just who was pushing for this.) So bikes like my Orange Crush BMC are sort of getting looked down upon. (See this post by BMC owner, Mike Varley on this subject.) However; for gravel races and riding, the disc brake is not a "slam dunk" idea. I want to give my thoughts on the matter here and maybe gauge your reactions in the comments to see just where everyone's minds are with regard to this.
The argument for disc brakes is that they work better...... There are different ways folks will end that statement, but it always goes back to "they work better" than cantilever brakes. Okay, you might believe that, and say you know that to be "true", but I know a handful of guys that would tell you a different story. The story of T.I.V6 where several riders burned through their disc brake pads within 50 miles of the start and their cantilever braked counterparts rode onward. So, in bad weather, disc brakes are not necessarily the cure. In fact, they could be a disadvantage.
|Disc or canti? On gravel?|
There is also the concern for control. On gravel, that may mean having brakes that are not necessarily the most powerful brakes. As anyone knows, a wheel that is skidding is a wheel that is out of control, and on the ball bearing-like surface of most gravel roads around here, you want to be very, very careful when using your brakes on high speed descents or in corners. It is super easy to skid on gravel, and losing control could mean that you may pay a big price in skin and machinery out there in the countryside.
This doesn't mean that you can not, or should not use disc brakes. Heck- I use disc brakes on my Fargo on gravel all the time. However; I don't need disc brakes for gravel riding. At least, I can not point to one instance where I thought having disc brakes on my gravel ride was an advantage over cantilevers. (I am assuming a well set up pair of cantilever brakes here, which is a whole 'nuther subject. Not too many folks are good at setting up canti brakes, and you gotta have that skill here.)
Finally, I have to wonder what one will sacrifice in ride quality with a frame and fork set up properly for disc brakes. Looking at what is being offered up for cyclo cross bikes with disc brakes, I am seeing a beefed up construction, that maybe is heavier, or not, but more importantly, needs to be stiffer. This is especially true with the fork design, since the forces at work on the fork are entirely different than with a cantilever equipped fork. Maybe I am wrong here, but I can't see how one can get a disc brake fork on a gravel bike that is reasonably light without sacrificing ride quality.
Maybe looking at things backward would help with my viewpoint. Say disc brake road/cyclo cross bikes came first. Then some guy invented a cantilever braked gravel road bike. It was lighter, had a more compliant fork for better ride quality, and sacrificed little to braking performance on off-pavement riding. What would you rather ride?
I know disc brakes are coming, and disc brakes "work", but at what cost? Hmm......and then maybe I'll be proven wrong, and some designer genius will get disc brakes on there and have greater rider comfort than my BMC bike. Maybe. I'm skeptical, but I'm not against disc brakes if they don't "harsh my ride". What say you? Hit up the comments and let's hear what you think out there.