TdF bikes with discs
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  1. #1
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    TdF bikes with discs

    I noticed on today's TdF stage (#18), Alaphillipe was using a bike with full disc brakes. On the downhill from the summit of Col du Galibier to Valloire, he made up a full minute from Quintana, passing and cutting-in for hairpin turns like a formula racer. I'm pretty sure his brakes were a major part of his downhill performance (Quintana's bike was using rim brakes, BTW, as were maybe 2/3 of the entrants).

    I used to consider discs on a road bike to be somewhere between an obscene amount of added weight to just extra frippery, but after riding a touring bike with discs for the last year, I've re-considered my prejudices. At this point, I will never buy another bike (road or otherwise) without them. I fully expect withing 5 years, nearly every road bike will have them.
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    I have a gravel ride I do regularly that has a few miles of descents/switchbacks on paved road. My gravel bike has hydros, and I can really approach the corners hard at speed with braking at the last minute, and I'm convinced that helps me.

    I don't think that Alaphillipe vs. Quintana downhill performance had much to do with the type of brakes, though. I think that it's 90% descending skill in that instance. Alaphillipe is a monster descending!

    I bought an Emonda SLR in May 2017. I said at the time, "I wish Trek would make a disk/thru-axle Emonda, but I know they never will". Five months later, it's available.

    I get severe numbing in both of my hands which makes braking hard, on both flat bars and drop bars. I'm getting the right hand corrected with surgery for severe carpel tunnel syndrome next month, but I experience the numbness the vast majority of the time.

    So I think that disk brakes can make a huge difference at the level I ride at (disregarding my numbness issue), but not so much difference at the pro level.

  3. #3
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    ''Full" discs? Compared to...?

    JA knows that descent like his own house, but he did make some impressive passes. The brakes might have played a small part in doing that.
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    I used to have a Ti mt bike, Avid BB7 up front and rim brakes at the rear, maybe the OP had a similar set-up.
    Either way JA is a great descender and likely would've made time on Quintana on the descent with rim brakes, probably even a coaster brake.
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  5. #5
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    Has anyone anywhere at any time laid eyes on a Pro Tour ridden bike w/ a disc in the front and a rim brake at the rear? No chance.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ogre View Post
    I have a gravel ride I do regularly that has a few miles of descents/switchbacks on paved road. My gravel bike has hydros, and I can really approach the corners hard at speed with braking at the last minute, and I'm convinced that helps me.
    I'm still unconvinced as to the value of hydraulic vs. cable.

    I don't think that Alaphillipe vs. Quintana downhill performance had much to do with the type of brakes, though.
    As hard as he was using his brakes, I'd think he'd have to worry about delaminating his rims, melting his tire cement, and risking a heat-induced tire blowout if he'd been using rim brakes. I mean, he made up a full minute over less than 10 miles.

    FWIW, what IS the weight penalty on cable-actuated discs over rim brakes? Taking into account all the variables; lighter rim for disc models, heaver hub for disc hubs, heavier fork, hardware, etc?
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    I was surprised how few of the TdF riders/teams are using disc brakes. It seems to be somewhere around 15-20%?

    Weight's not really a penalty for these guys, right? I mean, when there's no budget, a 15lbs disc bike seems more than doable.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldZaskar View Post
    Weight's not really a penalty for these guys, right? I mean, when there's no budget, a 15lbs disc bike seems more than doable.
    More than doable. Pretty standard.

    Emonda Disc is 14.16 lbs. And that's with tubeless wheels/tires. Pro teams swapping them out with tubulars are probably sub 14lbs.
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    I don't think the advantage is heat, those guys are not dragging the brakes. That's for criusers.
    I thought that all the disk talk was hype too, until I got a hydro break road bike. Now I am a believer. The precision and relyable response of the disks are simply just on another level, no comparison.
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    Quote Originally Posted by duriel View Post
    I don't think the advantage is heat, those guys are not dragging the brakes. That's for criusers.
    I thought that all the disk talk was hype too, until I got a hydro break road bike. Now I am a believer. The precision and relyable response of the disks are simply just on another level, no comparison.
    If you are passing a group downhill, then need to cut in to the middle of that group to make a hairpin, then yes, you ARE using the brake, and heavily as well.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by No Time Toulouse View Post
    If you are passing a group downhill, then need to cut in to the middle of that group to make a hairpin, then yes, you ARE using the brake, and heavily as well.
    Using and dragging are different things. Pros don't do dumb **** like dragging their brakes. And, any rim brake can stop a descending rider just fine. Again... pros.

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    Quote Originally Posted by No Time Toulouse View Post
    I'm still unconvinced as to the value of hydraulic vs. cable.



    As hard as he was using his brakes, I'd think he'd have to worry about delaminating his rims, melting his tire cement, and risking a heat-induced tire blowout if he'd been using rim brakes. I mean, he made up a full minute over less than 10 miles.

    FWIW, what IS the weight penalty on cable-actuated discs over rim brakes? Taking into account all the variables; lighter rim for disc models, heaver hub for disc hubs, heavier fork, hardware, etc?
    Have you ridden with hydraulic brakes? To me, the difference between cable actuated disk brakes and hydros is night and day, and that's my experience with both drop bar and flat bar brakes.

    I've heard tales of tires/wheels failing due to melting tire cement, but not rim delamination nor heat induced blowouts at the pro level. As others have said, those guys (pros) know what they're doing and while they're putting their equipment to extreme tests, they're not being stupid about it. Those guys have been making those descents in the Alps and Pyrennes for decades, and they've done fine without disk brakes.

    As I said before, I think that while disk brakes give a significant advantage to mere mortals, the gain for professionals is marginal, although I think they do get an advantage as well.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldZaskar View Post
    I was surprised how few of the TdF riders/teams are using disc brakes. It seems to be somewhere around 15-20%?

    Weight's not really a penalty for these guys, right? I mean, when there's no budget, a 15lbs disc bike seems more than doable.
    I'm not surprised at all. They're pros; they know how to brake and descend, so little advantage. Weight's not an issue but aero-dynamics, wheel changes/compatibility, brake dragging, etc. all are.

    FWIW, I was VERY briefly convinced of the whole "late braking" thing on a trip to the Dolomites recently when one our our guides with disc brakes blew past me. In reality, he just knew the descent well. Once I was following him, I was able to keep up just fine with rim brakes. I did brake differently, but we were equally fast.

    For Alaphilippe... 100% skill and balls. If you look at the lines he takes, there's not a lot of braking involved!
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldChipper View Post
    I'm not surprised at all. They're pros; they know how to brake and descend, so little advantage. Weight's not an issue but aero-dynamics, wheel changes/compatibility, brake dragging, etc. all are.
    I agree on the pro thing. But their sponsors are trying to sell us disc bikes. If there's no penalty - weight, aero, wheel change - then you'd think they'd all be on discs.

    So, clearly there is a penalty. Is it aero? Or, the wheel change speed? Both?

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    Quote Originally Posted by OldZaskar View Post
    I agree on the pro thing. But their sponsors are trying to sell us disc bikes. If there's no penalty - weight, aero, wheel change - then you'd think they'd all be on discs.

    So, clearly there is a penalty. Is it aero? Or, the wheel change speed? Both?
    Good point/question.

    I wouldn't totally rule out there being a little traditionalist/luddite factor involved. Although in the case of using 23mm tires at super high PSI for way to long lack of knowledge may have been the case. I don' think there's any lack of knowledge with disc brakes.

    Wheel change certainly makes sense especially considering that eliminates any help from neutral support (I think). But if that's what they are thinking why would 'some' riders have them and especially the yellow jersey. If you care about wheel chance for anyone it's certainly him.

    You got me. I can't imagine any traditionalist/luddite feelings being strong enough to leave any perceived advantage on the table. So maybe they just don't perceive an advantage?
    Aero? Probably no need to care about that tiny amount with climbing and twisting descents.

    Or maybe disc brake bikes manufacturing cost/sales price turned out not to be as profitable as hoped so sponsors pushing them isn't the reality.

    I don't know. I've never used them so can't really comment on if they are leaving anything on the table by not using them.

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