Disc brake debate reignites as CPA set to clash with UCI

Disc brakes may have enjoyed a successful reintroduction to the professional peloton this year, with Tom Boonen and Marcel Kittel both collecting victories on the new technology, but the issue remains a divisive one, and controversy is set to flare up again next week as Cyclingnews understands the pro riders' association is preparing to write to the UCI to formally set out its opposition.

The Cyclistes Professionels Associés (CPA) is the body that represents riders and they canvassed opinion and found that the overwhelming majority of riders – over 600 – are against disc brakes being used – at least in the same form as the first trial, which took place last year.

That was halted in April when Fran Ventoso suffered a deep gash to his leg and, when negotiating the 2017 reintroduction with the UCI and the AIGCP (the teams' association), the CPA set out three conditions, only one of which they feel has been met.

That relates to the 'rounding' of the discs to reduce the danger of cuts in the event of crashes – and Boonen and Kittel indeed both rode on updated Shimano discs where the sharp edges have been dulled.

However, the CPA also called for protective casings for the discs, to further reduce the risk of cuts, and also of burns (it is said the discs can become hot when used heavily), yet these are yet to appear. Cyclingnews understands the UCI has been involved in the development of prototypes and they should be available soon.

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The third – and the most pressing – consideration concerns homogeneity between braking systems in the peloton, with many riders voicing fears over a possible discrepancy in braking times between those on discs and those on traditional caliper brakes.

"It would have been better if either everybody or nobody uses them," Daniele Bennati told Cyclingnews at the Dubai Tour. "Discs allow you to brake much later before a corner and so there could be a danger due to the different braking times of riders."

One outcome of the negotiations for the 2017 reintroduction was that there would be a working group each month, with representatives from the CPA, AIGCP, and UCI, to monitor and discuss the situation, and the first of those was indeed held at the end of last month.

However, despite additional talks taking place, the CPA feels it is not being listened to and will raise the stakes early next week by addressing the UCI in writing and also issuing a public statement.

Boonen was all smiles when he held up his disc bike after a victory at the Vuelta a San Juan last month – a stunt that no doubt delighted his sponsors – but there could be some rather more choppy waters ahead in this debate that continues to rumble on.

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.