Disc brakes slice and dice the peleton

Disc brakes have become an issue in the pro peleton.

Disc brakes have become an issue in the pro peleton.


I’ve heard about some strange accidents in my day, but now there’s one more to add to the list — disc brakes slicing into legs.

Fran Ventoso abandoned Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix with a serious cut on his lower leg, now confirmed by multiple sources. He wasn’t the only rider injured by a disc brake. His open letter is posted on Velonews.

The photos are the kind best viewed by medical personnel used to seeing ugly injuries.

I’ve never used disc brakes, but people who do swear by them. They stop better in wet weather, no argument there. They’re becoming the norm on mountain bikes and now the pro peleton is using them.

The peleton will quickly decide whether or not they continue using disc brakes. So far the warning signs are dire. Not only are cyclist being cut, they’re being burned. In a crash, and there are more than a handful in races, riders have touched the hot rotors.

Another concern was pointed out by Jobst Brandt years ago — wheel separation. The front caliper is behind the fork, not in front as with all side-pull caliper brakes. It is not unheard of for a disc brake quick release, left loose, to loosen to the point that it doesn’t hold the wheel in place. When that happens, the wheel goes flying as the brake is applied.

Another potential drawback of disc brakes is hydraulic failure.

So why do disc brakes continue to gain in popularity? Some of it is marketing inertia. All industries are looking for the next big thing and disc brakes have sex appeal. They’re high-tech and they work better in the rain.

Another advantage is that now rims can be made lighter and will last longer since pad wear has been transferred from the rim to the rotor. Rim wear is a concern for people who ride lots of miles in the mountains. A rim can be worn to the point of failure. Jobst Brandt could attest to that.

I’m not interested in having disc brakes because I like to maintain my bike and dealing with hydraulics is just one more complication.

Disc brakes can be made safer and I’m sure they will now that the word is out. This injury reminds of the squirrel-caught-in-wheel stories that sprang up about a decade ago, around the time 16-spoke wheels became popular (Google it).

Yes, squirrels can become lodged in the front fork as they try to leap through the wheel. It has happened to more than one cyclist. It’s an ongoing concern for anyone riding 16-spoke wheels.

7 Responses to “Disc brakes slice and dice the peleton”

  1. Mike B Says:

    Pretty gruesome but I would venture more likely to do something similar with a chain ring than the disc brake

  2. Mike B Says:

    As an aside, back in the day I recall more than one occasion on my mtb at my weight when the rim brakes literally could not slow me on a down hill, or when I had to stop repeatedly just to rest my forearms from braking, wore through more than one rim. But these were not with hydraulics either

    discs arent perfect either just lessens the same issues

  3. Ray Hosler Says:

    The worst brakes I ever had were Shimano cantilever, 2005, on a road bike. I tried different brake pads but that wasn’t the problem. They had no stopping power. I finally had to remove them for long-reach side pull.

  4. George Mount Says:

    The bigger problem no one is talking about is that mixing the two types of brakes, especially on wet descents, will make for different braking and cornering profiles. Whatever they do, they should pick one type of brake and make everyone use it. Clearly Discs are better in the rain, but I never had issues with my old Campy brakes in road racing.

  5. Sourav Says:

    Regarding disc brakes causing wheels to slip out of the dropouts, the few people that I know with disc brakes do not use QR anymore, probably for the same reason.

    Here is one from someone who owns a Cannondale Slate “gravel” bike: http://imageshack.com/a/img923/1362/ADCg2p.jpg

  6. Sourav Says:

    Regarding disc brakes causing wheels to slip out of the dropouts, the few people that I know have bikes with disc brakes do not have QR’s, probably for the same reason.

    Here is one from someone who owns a Cannondale Slate “gravel” bike: http://imageshack.com/a/img923/1362/ADCg2p.jpg

  7. Nigel Says:

    Ray, having ridden for decades with every variety of rim brake, I find disc brakes to be lower maintenance by far. No need to adjust pads as they wear, no need to true in pad, and pad replacement is accomplished in but a few seconds. No brake is perfect, but disc brakes are in my view certainly less on the maintenance front.

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