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Pogacar masters the art of switching from disc to rim brakes and back again

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) switched between disc and rim brakes in 2021
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) switched between disc and rim brakes in 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Tadej Pogačar has mastered the art of switching between disc brakes and rim brakes for races, with the weight of his bike and not the weather conditions, the decisive factor for his final choice.  

The UAE Team Emirates rider used a rim brake-equipped Colnago V3Rs to win Il Lombardia while a few days earlier he made a long-range attack at the Tre Valli Varesine race on a Colnago V3Rs disc-brake bike. He won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the spring riding disc brakes but is happy to switch between the two technologies even during the Tour de France

Pogačar used a disc-brake bike when he attacked alone in the rain and won the mountain stage to Le Grand Bornand in the Alps but switched to rim brakes later in the Tour to win the mountain-top Pyrenean stage to Saint-Lary-Soulan in the dry.

He was back on disc brakes for the final flat stages, while his Colnago time trial bike has hidden rim brakes. He used rim brakes at the Tokyo Olympis but disc brakes at the World Championships.

Few other riders in the peloton have flipped between disc and rim brakes, especially during Grand Tours. Most teams have moved to disc brake bikes in recent years, following trends in the market and by their bike sponsors, with teams usually imposing a single technology strategy to facilitate the work of the mechanics and their in-race assistance for riders. 

However, Pogačar does not seem swayed by the pressures of his team, sponsors or his rivals to use disc brakes. For the Slovenian it is all about the weight of his bike, with the extra 300 grammes of a disc-brake set-up enough to make him switch to a lighter rim-brake set-up. Cycling's governing body, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), has long imposed a minimum weight limit of 6.8kg for race bikes

"The weight is important because on the climbs it is the strength to weight ratio of watts/kilogramme that decides things," Pogačar recently told Italian website BiciPro

"That's especially important for me because I'm not the lightest rider in the peloton. The weight difference of about 300 grammes is quite a lot. I focus on the details and that's one reason why I opt for lace-up shoes from DMT. Back at the 2019 Vuelta I was the only rider using them, now a lot more use them. They're superlight."       

"I'm happy to use both disc brakes and rim brakes. I opted for rim brakes at Il Lombardia because there were two two steep climbs in the finale, where I was perhaps going to make an attack. I realised that light weight wheels would be important and they're the lightest with rim brakes.

"The weather doesn't really affect my choice of brakes, I'm happy with both in the rain. For me, it's all about the weight"

Pogačar has no problem frequently switching between the rim and disc brakes, despite the difference in feel and technology.  

"There's a difference but switching is not a problem for me," he explained. 

"I've got a disc-brake bike at my home in Slovenia and a rim-brake bike in Monaco and instinctively switch between them. The important thing is to remember which one you're using but it only takes two lulls on the levers to get a feel for them and I'm fine." 

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