Disc brakes have been around on mountain bikes since the mid 1990’s, however it is only recently that they have started to make an appearance on bikes with drop handlebars. It was firstly on cyclocross bikes, but even skinny tyred road bikes are starting to get them.
But why has there been a slow uptake on them being fitted, and why would you want them anyway?
The initial slow uptake will be a lot to do with the UCI not allowing them in the pro-peloton. Fear of pile ups caused by some having stronger braking power, people burning themselves on the rotors, or slicing fingers in crashes have all been talked about. The issue of the extra weight is also a problem to the pro racer, where every gram counts. However, this can be compensated by the rim of the wheels being able to be produced lighter as there is no need for a braking surface.
Personally I’ve been using disc brakes on my mountain bike for years. They offer greater stopping power in the wet and mud, and I am not worried about wearing out my rims from this. I have also recently changed to disc brakes on my drop barred commuter bike, again, there is a bit more stopping power, and so confidence for when that bus pulls out in front of you, or car driver doesn’t see you. The downsides I have found from having them on the commuter bike, and because it is my work horse, is that the brakes are a bit more of a fiddle to set up and keep running so that they are not rubbing, but I am happy to keep on top of this for the benefits that they give.
However, on my road bike, for the moment in time I have no interest in going to a disc brake, and I think a lot of this is tradition (and I am not even a diehard road cyclist). There is much more choice in wheels, though I know this is changing, and I just think that a bike with ‘normal’ caliper brakes looks cleaner. Wheel manufacturers such as Mavic and Shimano though are starting to produce road specific disc brake wheels, and I think that this may start more and more people changing over to a road bike with disc brakes. For the time being though, everyday cyclists can be riding bikes that even the pros can’t use, and normally it is the other way round!
What will Ribble do? Will we ever produce a drop bar bike with disc brakes? Well I think it is a case of watch this space and see!