Disc brakes make 2016 racing debut in Qatar

For the first time this season, a team is using disc brakes in a professional race — the Tour of Qatar. Reactions to their use are mixed.

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DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Cyclists are using disc brakes for the first time this season at the Tour of Qatar, but questions remain about their safety.

The UCI gave teams the green light to use disc brakes instead of the traditional rim ones in all races for 2016. Last year, some teams, including Sky and Trek – Segafredo, tested them in limited races in a two-month window.

In Qatar, Dutch Pro Continental team Roompot – Oranje Peloton is using SRAM discs on its bikes. They are the only riders doing so in a peloton that is slowly adapting to the innovation amid safety concerns.

“The braking is so good, a lot better than the normal brakes,” team Roompot rider Berden De Vries told VeloNews. “I’ve already had other riders coming up to me and noticing the new brakes. The problem is that in cycling, innovation is slow. Maybe in five years everyone will be on disc brakes.

“It needs to be all or nothing for their use. You can brake faster, your reaction is the same, but you brake faster and the guys on normal brakes are sometimes surprised. That’s the only problem so far.”

So far, only SRAM and Shimano have tested disc brakes in races. Italian manufacturer Campagnolo has yet to do so. Even those teams with SRAM and Shimano groupsets are slowly trying the new road technology.

American and Dimension Data rider Tyler Farrar, whose teammate Mark Cavendish is leading the Tour of Qatar after two stages, wants the manufacturers to consider the safety issues of the brakes themselves.

“We have to be open to new technologies, but there are a few issues that need to be addressed,” Farrar said.

“I think that there’s a giant issue, we are basically adding spinning knife blades to our bikes. I don’t think it’s impossible to create a little shroud for it that protects the disc, but none of the bikes that have been given to test have that shroud on it. If you see the mass pileups that we have sometimes, I don’t think that we need spinning knives on our bikes.

“If we can address those issues, then we will see. At the end of the day, though, stronger breaking ability doesn’t improve our tires’ griping ability. Most crashes you’ve already locked up your brake and it’s your tire that lost traction, not that you couldn’t slow down fast enough with your actual brakes.”

De Vries explained that another issue is wheel changes in races. He said it is slower to change a disc wheel than a normal one and that if the wheel is inserted incorrectly, it must be straightened to correct the pads rubbing the discs.

The rule allows for a season-long test in races from the classics to the Tour de France. It is unclear if that may change. Gianni Bugno, president of the riders’ association CPA, told VeloNews it is “crazy” that cyclists are using different brake types and that the UCI is allowing such equipment tests in the big races.

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