“As a company, we are not coming out with anything right away, but think back to when disc brakes first came on the scene in mountain biking,” Scott Bikes PR man Adrian Montgomery told me at Sea Otter. “Right away people were going faster with disc brakes because they could brake later and with more consistency. The same thing could certainly be true for road biking. And in my personal opinion, I think the UCI legalizing disc brakes would really be in the best interest of the riders. I think a lot of the crashes you see on high speed descents may be due to rims heating up the glue on tubulars and having them roll off.”
Montgomery’s “safety” angle is perhaps the best argument for road disc. By moving the braking interface away from the rim, you free riders from many of the associated concerns of overheated brakes – primarily when those riders are running carbon wheels in the rain.
Instead of worrying about a hot spot on your carbon rim causing your inner tube to explode, or stressing about wet roads rendering your rim brakes useless, you can relish the fact that heat dissipation at the rim is no longer an issue, and that disc brakes work well wet or dry. And because disc brake rotors are smaller in diameter than wheel rims, disc-brake pads need to squeeze with roughly 1,000 pounds of force before lock-up occurs. Conversely traditional rim brakes need only about 200 pounds of applied force before skidding commences.
This wider “braking window” equates to better braking modulation and more control of braking force. Anyone who’s ridden a disc-brake equipped mountain bike with 180mm or 200mm rotors understands the confidence boost that comes from knowing you can bomb a downhill, but still quickly scrub speed in a safe and controlled manner.
“I rode some of SRAM’s disc stuff throughout last year’s cyclocross season,” explained multi-time U.S. national champ Tim Johnson. “Part of that time was riding hydraulic and it worked great. Going into corners you could brake later, which meant an overall increase in speed. But a lot of people are still skeptical, wondering why they’d need it. Well when you ride it you realize that you don’t just use brakes to lock them up. If you can brake safer, it’s going to improve the quality of your ride.”