Things You Don’t Need

Like any good sport, cycling gets hung up for weeks on end (or months) about the latest tech innovation or race strategy or scandal or whatnot. Usually, it’s a lot like the football world blathering on and on about Tim Tebow. There’s an awful lot of hype, but in the end there’s no substance. (Or passing game.)

The buzz during ‘cross season was disc brakes. “My next ‘cross race bike must have disc brakes! I need disc brakes. Better stopping! Better modulation!” and so on. Nevermind the fact that tires play a bigger role in cornering and stopping than brakes. We must have disc brakes!

As an example, think of the last snowstorm you saw. The majority of the vehicles in the ditch were probably four-wheel-drive cars and trucks. I’m sure their brakes were awesome, but without traction, they had nothing.

Now that we’ve hit spring, the disc brake discussion has moved onto road bikes. And it’s the same thing all over again: “Must. Have. Disc. Brakes.” I’ve seen a number of people tweeting and ranting about the whole being not about more power, but more control — better modulation.

For those who have ridden one of the top three groups from either Shimano or SRAM in the last three years, I ask you this: at what point have you found your brakes to be lacking so much that you need to buy yourself a whole new bike to get the performance you’re looking for? Do any of these groups, when properly installed and tuned, lack control and modulation?

I’ve ridden everything from Dura-Ace brakes to Tiagra brakes to SRAM brakes of different stripes. I spent my first two seasons racing a bike that had non-branded Tektro brakes. Never did I say, “Man, if I had disc brakes, I’d be such a better racer.”

What did make a difference was getting the right wheel-and-tire setup. Better grip in the corners, more confidence and no hands on the brakes. And riding lots. Racing lots. Neither of those requires a new bike … unless you wad up your bike in the process.

Besides, disc brakes for road bikes, for all intents and purposes, really don’t even exist yet. Sure there a few companies out there with jerry-rigged setups, but in terms of production-ready, let’s get this disc-brake bike built-style kits, there are none. It’s not unlike the long-threatened Garmin Vector pedal-based powermeter. First announced in 2009, it still hasn’t hit the market. This, after Garmin purchased Metrigear, its developer, and threw the heft of a much larger company behind it.

The current ETA is this summer, though past ETAs have included March 2012, fall 2011 and “sometime soon.” I’ll believe it when I see it.

As for the disc brakes on road bikes, you’re welcome to jump on board as soon as they’re available. You will, of course, have to ride something that looks like this:


I’ll go ahead and use my money for things that will actually make a difference on the bike, rather than things that add weight and require new equipment that 99 percent of the shops in the country won’t have in stock when you really, really need it.

How’s that for more control?

2 Comments to “Things You Don’t Need”

  1. rc 11 March 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    The one big advantage with discs is a reduction in rotational weight of the rim (200-250 gm rims anyone?). Otherwise rim brakes are superior.

  2. Velo Jones 12 March 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Is a lighter rim and questionably better braking worth an entirely new bike, though? Probably not.

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