23 February 2017

His Stance On Discs

Nearly two years ago, a driver in China narrowly missed death when a runaway circular saw blade impaled the front of his car.

I was reminded of that today after reading about what happened to Owain Doull.

The Sky Team rider crashed with one kilometre remaining in the opening stage of the Abu Dabhi Tour.  Normally, that wouldn't elicit much attention--riders crash during races all the time.  What is causing controversy, though, is an injury he suffered and, more important, what he believes to be the cause.

When he was being treated for road rash on his back side, he pointed to his foot and showed a cut that was visible through a tear in his sock.  

It's unusual, to say the least, for  riders to incur that sort of cut on their feet.  Even if they are wearing flip-flops, they are unlikely to incur more than some scrapes, painful as those wounds may be. 

So what could have cut through Doull's shoe and caused such a wound?  He says that it was the rotor of a disc brake.  "If anything, I've come off lucky here," he said.  "If that'd been my leg, it would have cut straight through it, for sure."

In other words, by a dint of fate, he narrowly avoided--at the very least--the kind of injury Francisco Ventoso suffered last year in the Paris-Roubaix race.  The directeur sportif of Movistar, Ventoso's team, said "The cut was so deep you could see the tibia."

That mishap led to a temporary ban on disc brakes in the peloton, which was recently lifted "on a trial basis" according to the sport's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale.  Disc brakes were allowed on the condition that the rotors' edges were rounded off. Marcel Kittel, the only rider using disc brakes in the Abu Dabhi tour, was using rounded Shimano rotors after insisting he wouldn't use technology otherwise.

Doull was asked whether he has a stance on disc brakes.  "I do now," he said.  "In my opinion, unless there are covers on those things, they're pretty lethal."

Others have expressed the opinion that "everybody or nobody" should use them in a race.  Whatever one thinks of disc brakes (I have never used them myself, and probably won't unless some compelling reason presents itself.), I think it's fair to ask why Kittel or anyone else saw the need to use them in pancake-flat Abu Dabhi.


  1. I am a bit confuddled, the again it is 1:30 and I am soon to be asleep. Did I miss the bit where the only rider in the race crashed into this guy with a cut on his foot?

    Last year, after a forty year wait, I finally rode a bike with discs and they were great...

  2. This:


    (Sorry for the long link.) Seems the pros don't have a lot of love for the disc.
    However, they will ride whatever their teams and the sponsoring manufacturers tell them to ride, and countless Freds, having seen them in the pro peloton, will be wanting them, too. Call it marketing.

  3. i've ridden one disc equipped bike. The damn' things never stopped squealing. i saw no advantage and no noticeable improvement in braking. i'll keep my calipers and cantilevers, thank you very much.

  4. I need a new geared road bike. Gave my old one a friends son. I like Soma frames. Was thinking about building a bike around either their Double Cross disk or their new Fogcutter frame(but no polyester forks please). Both of these are disk frames with enough clearance for my favorite tire, Schwalbe G1's. This would be my first disk brake bike. Now I see in March they're coming out with a new frame called the Pescadero which has basically the same geo but is built for Paul's racer brakes. This may be enough to pull me back from the dark side. What would you do?

  5. Coline--The video isn't the best, and some are questioning whether Kittel had anything to do with Doull's injury. Still, I think it's worth noting--as Mike does--that there's little love of discs in the pro peloton.

    Mike--Your thoughts about brakes are mine, exactly. I am cynical enough to think that the UCI and other organizations will allow, and possibly mandate, discs because the manufacturers want to sell stuff.

    Phillip--I am willing to try discs--as long as I don't have to pay for the privilege. But I don't imagine that I--or, for that matter, most riders, even the pros--need them. Also, remember that with disc brakes, size matters--in the rotor, anyway. I have to wonder whether a rotor small enough to make sense (in terms of weight and mechanics as well as aesthetics) on a road bike would have any advantage over a good caliper or cantilever brake.

    So...if I were in your situation, I would go for the Pescadero. Fellow readers: What do you think?

    1. Philip, I agree with Justine, go with the Pescadero.

    2. Thanks for your input Justine and Chris. I'm leaning heavily toward the Pescadero. I only wish they would offer them with the direct mount pivots brazed on. It firms up long reach centerpulls a lot. I understand why they did it though, they don't want to preclude using other long reach centermount brakes. I suppose if I really liked the frameset I could braze the pivots on myself but it would require a repaint, something I definitely wouldn't attempt myself.