There is a huge debate over disk brakes in road cycling. I believe in disk brakes and here is why:
- You do need better braking. There is no debate about the superiority of disk brakes over rim brakes in wet weather. I will not ride my carbon rims in wet weather because braking is terrible but with disk brakes the story dramatically changes. In dry weather, disk brakes still provide better modulation and reliability for quick, sharp adjustments which are common in city traffic. Dry roads will not see as much of an improvement as compared to wet roads but it is still an improvement.
- Separating the brake track from the rim is a massive step forward. Many carbon wheelsets have been compromised by the need to build stronger, thicker and more durable brake tracks on the edge of the rims to ensure that they do not wear down quickly due to braking. Ever had to tap your brakes when descending with rim brake wheelsets to avoid massive heat build up on your rims which could lead rim damage and even inner tube blow-ups? This issue is now of the past. This also puts an end to the never ending discussion on which brake pads to use. The rotor is a replaceable brake track. Brake pads for disk brakes are cheaply replaceable. Disk brakes protect your expensive rims and are better value for money.
- Weight and aerodynamics penalties are small and will continue to decrease. There is roughly a 400g penalty with disk brake bikes largely due to groupset differences. This will gradually be reduced in the next generation. As if now, you can build an excellent disk brake bike below 7.3kg and at a good price (check Canyon’s models). Aerodynamics wise, the current claimed difference is 8 seconds over 40km. This is extremely tiny and does not consider the use of smaller rotors. Expect the gap to narrow as well.
- The whole talk of the pros not needing one is not valid for non pros. We do not have cleared roads and we need to brake a lot more often in unforeseen circumstances largely caused by traffic. The pros’ other issue deals with wheel changes. Swapping to disk brake wheels means that they need to change their entire stable of wheelsets and groupsets. It also means that they no longer comply with the neutral service car. The second point can be critical in a pro race. But all these do not apply to us non pros.
- Just because rim brakes work fine for now does not mean that you do not push technological advancement. Any industry will gradually disappear if it has a “good enough” mentality.
What does this mean for my N+1? Well, that is for another day.