I was on the phone with some folks at a bike shop today, and they asked what I thought would happen with disc brakes for road bikes. This happens to be a sore subject for me, and not because I dislike disc brakes, although I do. So many people at the shop level are trying to figure out what’s going to happen, whether the trend is going to take hold and birth a new sub-category.
Here’s my problem. I don’t know anyone who has experienced brake fade on a long road descent. I don’t know anyone who has blown out a tire from an over-heated rim. I understand that these things have happened, but that I don’t know anyone who has experienced them suggests that any statistically significant shift in the number of disc brakes on the road is an over-reaction to the few incidences of these things happening.
Yes, I have disc brakes on my mountain bike. Yes, I think a winter commuter is a good candidate for disc brakes, because snow and ice are real problems for those kinds of bikes. Discs are good, but are they good everywhere?
Someone smarter than I am told me he thought, in 5 years, half of all road bikes would be disc-equipped. Let’s not even get into the maybe-not-ready-for-primetime-ness of the current component options. Let’s just think about how much weight we’re adding to the machine at the end of a cycle of carbonification (my word) that drove grams out of the average bike like they were rats in a place called Hamelin. Now we’re going to pack them back on for a small percentage gain in braking power?
OK. I’m a Luddite. More often than not, I don’t see the point of the next technological leap. And there are consequences to each of the these “steps forward” for compatibility, upgradeability and long-term usefulness. I could go on and on, but I already did that on the phone this afternoon.
But it’s not for me to tell you what to ride, so this week’s Group Ride asks, do you want disc brakes on your road bike? Do you see the benefit for your riding? Do you plan to upgrade in the next year? Or are you just curious to see what they’re like? Am I crazy? You would tell me, right?
The bike industry has this funny habit of trying to sell me things I’m not sure I need. It is all change, all the time, and the trick of it is that some of the change is good and some of it is just expensive. I think of myself as a discerning consumer, but my parts bin will testify to some imprudent consumption throughout the years. It happens.
This year there are a couple trends that have me puzzling.
The first one is 650b mountain bikes, and let me come right out and say, I own one. In fact, it’s the only mountain bike I own. And it’s a single-speed, which makes it a lot like a unicorn in the mountain bike universe where everyone seems to be on a dual-suspension 29r anymore.
The conventional wisdom on 650b (or 27.5 for those of you who want the world to make sense) is that it combines the best of 26″ wheels, the weight and handling, with the best of 29rs, obstacle clearance and rolling speed. The new (actually old) wheel size is even being raced at World Cup level, so if there is some kool-aid drinking going on, it is not limited to a bunch of engineers in the parking lot of a bike company. This thing is happening.
At Interbike, Ritchey even displayed a 650b bike Tom built for himself, and raced, in the ’70s, perhaps just to confirm things we already knew such as, everything old is new again, AND Tom Ritchey is cooler than you or me.
Well, let me tell you, I have ridden 650b, and I like it. I’m not such a trail shredder that I will attempt to communicate in technical terms why it does what people say it does, but I do like it, and coming from a 26″ bike, I think it makes sense for my limited riding style and general propensity for impracticality.
The other trend, and this one is bigger and I’ll wager more interesting to RKP readers, is disc brakes on road bikes. Everybody’s talking. The big builders are rumbling as though this is going to be their next thing, but there are only a few market entrants at the moment. Volagi makes the Liscio (and soon the Viaje) and Colnago makes the C59 disc. Lynskey just announced one. Canyon showed one at Eurobike. And there are others, but chances are you haven’t seen them on the road yet. All current models are running mechanical discs while we wait for a really good drop bar shifter that will support hydraulics.
This week’s FGR is technical and wonky. Are these two trends worth our time? Do you see the value to 650b trail bikes? Will you go disc on the road? Why? Why not? Have you ridden either one? Share your experience. If the future is now, are you going along for the ride?