Friday 26th April 2019

Disc Brakes Will Debut at the Tour de France 2018

Disc Brakes Will Debut at the Tour de France 2018

Disc Brakes Will Debut at the Tour de France 2018
A detail view of the disc brakes on the bicycle of Alberto Bettiol riding for Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling during stage five of the 2018 AMGEN Tour of California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The 105th running of the Tour de France, the biggest race in road cycling, begins on Saturday. This year’s race threatens to be the fastest on record simply because some riders will be able to stop quicker than other. After the Union Cycliste Internationale amended its regulations on Jul. 1, disc brakes are now legal.

Disc brakes provide increased traction for riders compared to rim brakes. The affect is pronounced in poor weather conditions and on steeper terrains. Previously, there was widespread negativity across the sport because many felt that disc brakes they posed weight, aerodynamic, and safety concerns. (A trial run at Paris-Roubaix two years ago left one rider with a deep cut in his leg after a crash.)

The manufacturing changes aligned with three years of UCI testing have mitigated many of the concerns. The testing monitored the potential side effects of legalizing disc brakes by implementing trial usage in selected road races and mass participation events. Per UCI’s official statement, “[the decision comes] following nearly three years of tests, and in agreement with various stakeholders—teams, riders, mechanics, fans, commissaires, and the bicycle industry via the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry.”

Professional teams have been experimenting with disc brakes throughout the past few years, but many were hesitant to transition away from traditional rim brakes. The hesitation stemmed from widespread fear disk brakes would be ultimately outlawed.

Apart from increased stopping power, disc brakes offer bike companies greater design freedom. With the braking surface shifted inwards, wheels can be redesigned to be lighter, and ultimately that will help riders go even faster.

When riders depart from Noirmoutier-en-l’Île, in the Vendée department on the western coast of France, tomorrow, look out for the Trek-Segafredo, EF Education First-Drapac, BMC Racing, and Katusha-Alpecin teams. Their riders will all use disc brakes on various stages of the event.

“There will be a big difference in the rain but also when going down big descents with twisty turns. Riders [using disc brakes] can now carry more speed into the turn because they will brake better during the turn,” said Dave Dalton, a long-time cyclist and owner of 6fifteen Cyclery in Danville, Calif. Despite the Tour de France being a three week long race, the final standings are often separated by less than 30 seconds, which highlights how important disc brakes will be for the teams that use them.

SportTechie Takeaway

Disc brakes should begin to replace rim brakes on the majority of the bicycles on the professional peloton going forward. Improving a rider’s ability to brake can shave precious seconds off race times. Design changes have eliminated the weight, aerodynamic, and safety concerns that have long been associated with disc brakes. This should also have a large impact on cycling’s retail market in addition to the professional Peloton. Many recreational riders look to the professional Peloton for what kind of equipment they invest in for their personal use.

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