Tim Johnson has been riding and racing bikes that use disc brakes for four years and he was thrilled to learn that the UCI and the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) have decided to start testing them in professional road racing this summer. The former US cyclo-cross champion believes that over time they will be accepted as the better, safer brakes on the market.
"I'm really happy that they are going to start testing them in the peloton on the road, finally," Johnson told Cyclingnews. "I think that in the end there is going to be a wide-spread acceptance and that it will be coming from riders who are seeing the benefits of what disc brakes can do, and how they ride differently, their durability…
"Honestly, a lot of it would be a safety aspect of having disc brakes, because having been a rider through a time period where it was aluminum rims with rubber pads to carbon rims with all kinds of different compounds in those pads…
"There is a massive change in what happens when you go to a disc brake but once people really start to see it, they will understand. It just so happens that over the last few years, as we saw in 'cross, the people that are most against them, honestly, are the ones who have never tried them. It’s a non-issue for someone who has been on them for a long time."
Disc brakes have been used in mountain biking for around a decade and the UCI approved their use in cyclo-cross for the 2010-11 season after recommendations from the Cyclo-Cross Commission.
Although a ban on their use in road racing has been in place, the UCI will lift it for August and September in professional road racing so that teams can test them during two races of their choice. The testing will continue through 2016 at all events on the UCI professional road calendar, and if the results are satisfactory they will be officially introduced to the UCI WorldTour in 2017, according to a statement from the sport governing body on Tuesday.
"I think in the peloton it's different because of the safety side of potential incidents and crashes, and those will have to be worked out over time, and that's probably why they have waited so long to be tested," Johnson said with regard to various concerns including the use of two different braking systems in the peloton, particularly the riders' safety on wet descents whereby those with disc brakes might be able to stop quicker.
Johnson believes there are more benefits to disc brakes than rim brakes, pointing out that, "Disc brakes are better all around, you have better modulation, better stopping distances, you can actually use your brakes on something that is slippery because they don't lock up the brake.
"I think a lot of people who get on a disc brake road bike for the first time, they expect to be able to lock up the brakes all the time, but really, the point of what a disc brake does is it modulates better so that you don’t ever have to lock it up."
When asked if he thinks that disc brakes will pass the test on the road this summer, enough to be introduced into professional road racing for the long run, Johnson said. "Absolutely, as soon as I started riding them (in 2011) and started to see the difference from testing them on a 'cross bike, in training and just riding around, they are better all around.
"Road racing is positioned well because all the issues have been worked out in mountain biking and cyclo-cross, so now hopefully on the road bikes, it will be more about just racing."