The performance benefits of disc brakes in mountain biking and Cyclo-cross are undeniable. They give riders greater speed control and of course raw stopping power, but what advantage would they offer a 200 strong high-speed peloton?
The International Cycling Union (UCI) now wants to answer exactly that question, announcing a limited test in selected 2015/16 road races.
"The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) announce that, following numerous consultations with different stakeholders, tests will begin this season with a view to introducing disc brakes to professional road cycling in the future.
During the 2015 UCI professional road season, all teams will have the opportunity to use bikes with disc brakes at two events of their choice during August and September. The testing will continue in 2016 at all events on the UCI professional road calendar and, if the experience is satisfactory, disc brakes will be officially introduced to the UCI WorldTour in 2017. The aim is to eventually introduce disc brakes to all levels of road cycling".
“Although disc brakes have been used for around a decade in mountain biking and for the last two years in cyclo-cross, their introduction to road cycling must be carefully studied in collaboration with all those who are directly concerned, UCI president Brian Cookson said. "That includes riders, teams and manufacturers. This step is part of the UCI’s desire to encourage innovation in order to ensure cycling is even more attractive for spectators, riders, bike users and broadcasters.”
Professional road cycling is a different beast to the largely solo pursuits of mountain biking and cyclocross and a number of technical hurdles need to be navigated, including seemingly mundane issues like neutral race support.
Some riders like BMC's Phillippe Gilbert remain wary of the brakes, ironically citing safety concerns. The 2012 UCI road world champion cited the difference in stopping power compared to caliper brakes as just one example.
“You need to have everyone ready at the same time, because you could not have some on disc brakes and others not,” Gilberttold Velonews in January. “The braking distance on a disc brake might be 10 meters, and on other brakes, 20 meters. With 17 WorldTour teams, and the Professional Continental teams, do you think everyone could be ready at the same time?”
But we already know the brakes offer better performance in difficult weather and racing conditions. It might take two years to come to a decision but as with all earlier cycling technology we can expect to see the brakes on the bikes of the professional peloton sooner rather than later.