|C-59 Disc (Image courtesy of Colnago)|
In reality, several things will need to be figured out before the dust settles and we have the bikes figured out and who they will appeal to.
Racers: All along the mantra for road disc has been that it will make road biking safer for Pro racers and those who make road racing a high priority activity. Why? Because the now standard carbon rimmed wheels are not very good at dissipating heat, which can cause tubular tire failure, and blow clincher tires off as well. (See Joseba Beloki whose accident in the '03 Tour is held up as the "poster child" for road disc brake safety.) Road disc brakes take the heating from the rims and put it on the rotors. No chance for heat related tire failures. Okay, so that's good, right? Well, maybe. The argument goes that rotors on road bikes will be smaller and thus less able to deal with heat and will fade and/or warp more easily. We'll see in the end, but that is a valid concern.
If you look closely at the Colnago information, you will note that they had to "beef up" certain areas of the frame and they made an entirely new fork to deal with the new forces of disc brakes. More weight? Yes, probably, but that isn't a big deal, since anybody's road bike at the Pro level can easily be built far below the weight limit set by the governing body, the UCI. A bit of extra added beef to handle disc brakes just means they won't be able to run the power crank. No, the real issue here is ride quality. The necessary reinforcing done for disc brakes will, for now, come at the expense of ride quality. Think about the newly revealed Trek Madone ridden to victory last weekend by Fabian Cancellara. That new design wouldn't be possible with disc brakes. Maybe we'll be seeing disc road bikes for racing in the mountains only?
Enthusiasts and Commuters: Some hub-bub is being made for road disc brakes and commuters. The thought here is that a light-weight bike could be designed for all conditions. Cyclingnews.com and Bike Radar tech editor, James Huang seems to think this is where road disc can make the biggest impact. He also emphatically says that road disc brakes are not about more power, but better modulation. I agree with the latter, but I'm not sold on the former. Upper tier enthusiasts may benefit, and in reality, these may be the only early adopters, considering the high price of entry, (which I'll get to in a minute), so my thoughts may not even matter here. But I do know that the "average" road cyclist we help at the shop equate disc brakes with more power. When they find out it is about modulation, I think the sexiness of disc brakes on a road bike will be slim to none. But I could be all washed up on that one. The other side of this coin is that commuter/practical bikes aren't road racing bikes and having disc brakes on a road racing bike won't matter to commuters anyway.
|Room for Hydraulics|
Collateral Effects: One of the main reasons that road disc brakes never materialized earlier is that a hydraulic caliper couldn't be developed with a hydraulic lever and have that lever do shifting duties like we have in mechanical brake/shifter set ups. Well, Shimano unwittingly, (or maybe not), opened that door wide open with Di2. Since electrical impulses are not proprietary to any one source to operate Di2, outside sources saw that they could develop triggering mechanisms that could be housed in lever bodies that could then be freed up to do hydraulic duties. This meant no clunky adapter boxes under the stem, as is common in cyclo-cross hydraulic brake set ups.
Formula did the Colnago brakes, and TRP also is showing a similar lever at the Taipei Cycle Show, which is closing soon. Both companies expect to be delivering product by late summer. Obviously, using a Di2 dependant lever will make the price of entry to road disc brakes high, so until the mechanical calipers that are rumored to be in development show up, the "common cyclist" like need not be bothered just yet.
Finally, one has to wonder if road racing bikes really need to have disc brakes for the average cyclist. Why? Because the road racing bike isn't really the right bike for most people anyway. In the meantime, bicycles that do work for average cyclists already are available with disc brakes. Now.
Of course, racing breeds development, and development may be done that benefits the average cyclist eventually, so having road racing bikes with disc brakes may be a great advantage at some point, but my opinion is that for now, it is a curiosity that needs to be waited out until everything gets sorted.
And there is a lot of sorting to be done yet.
Have a great weekend. I'm ditching out for a bit to go on a vacation, so posts may be a bit hit and miss next week. Stay tuned for updates from the road.