Editor's Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at [email protected]. And make sure to check out Kurt's previous columns.
Have you ever been riding down a wet, leaf covered road, approach a corner and think "Ooh, I better be easy on this corner, it's slippery." You gently apply the rear brake and before you can think "I'm falling", your backside is being grated like swiss cheese on the asphalt at 20 mph? In today's modern litigious society, nothing is our fault anymore. We have to blame something or someone. So who's to blame for you running out of talent on that slippery corner? How about that archaic caliper braking system on your bike?
All your friends are enamored with your new carbon fiber wheelset that you just dumped more coin on than your used Toyota Corolla. They look mighty fine, but hey, unless you want to try and pull a Fred Flintstone heel braking technique with your crotch on the top tube, don't dare ride them in the rain. Oh, and if you damage the braking track on those spendy carbon hoops, you might as well make some stylish earrings out of them, because that's about all they'll be good for. Again, it wouldn't be a problem without those blasted brake calipers.
These types of sleep depriving issues used to be the woes of even the hairy-legged caveman counterpart to the road biker; the mountain biker. But in the late 1990s, hydraulic disc brakes became all the rage, and have since become one of the greatest technological innovations in mountain biking history. Ask any mountain biker who's been riding disc brakes if they would ever go back to V-brakes or cantilevers, and the response would be a unanimous and deafening "Hell no!"
So why are we still riding brake technology on our road bikes that can be dated back to the days when Orville and Wilbur Wright were busy inventing flight? Much of it has to do with tradition. Roadies are hardcore about die-hard rituals, even when they seem absolutely ridiculous; just take wearing a bicycle helmet as an example.
It took nearly a century for the UCI to mandate helmet use in professional bike racing. Throw in leg shaving, embrocation, frame waxing, sleeping in an altitude tent and using a scale to weigh dinner as well as every part bolted to a bike, and you quickly begin to understand the mentality of the road world.
The hardcore traditional roadie will scoff at the though of disc brakes on a road bike, not only because they add weight and wind resistance, but also because they simply don't work. But what do they know? Have they ever even ridden a road bike with an adequately engineered disc braking system?