Bikes and Bits
- By Vin Cox
There is an argument around disc brakes. Cyclo-cross is the current battle field, but the stakes are high because the industry is just warming up for the big sell to the road scene.
There are some quite rational reasons to resist this development. If you’re happy with your regular braking performance, you’d be crazy to mess with it; particularly when a change of braking systems means replacing not only brakes, but also wheels, frame and maybe even gear shifters.
The industry see the chance to get excited about something new and sell not only the brakes, but whole bikes AND make your garage full of spares incompatible.
Some people assum
e I’m a disc brake fanatic. Certainly I was an advocate for the rule change which allowed discs to be used in races – really that was just resisting pointless rules though. I do have a long experience with ‘road’ discs: Shimano used my 2010 Guinness World Record in some publicity for discs, and I was winning domestic UK ‘cross races on a disc braked custom Ti bike back in 2006. My reasons for going disc weren’t performance though…
This is a step-change. To go with it means selling your old kit and starting again, expensively, and discarding hard learned knowledge and experience with the existing technology. So why would you? What is the advantage? Well, there are some, but not massive ones. It’s a case of the old ‘aggregation of marginal gains’.
- Consistent brake performance in different conditions.
- Your wheel rims won’t wear out.
- Rims could be made lighter, or of any material.
- Brakes still run smooth on wobbly wheels.
- Improved modulation and power.
- No brake gunk on your tyres or hands when fixing a puncture.
- Less grit and water ingress into cables.
- Reduced clogging in cyclo-cross. (This benefit has been overstated by some)
There are technical down-sides to the new brakes. Heat build-up causing total failures on road descents is a serious fear (which has happened, but only to a very few strange people with non-mass-production equipment). Other issues include:
- Poor aerodynamic performance.
- Wheels having to be built differently.
- A weight penalty.
- They are ugly – to some eyes.
- Technical unfamiliarity.
- And the stuff I said before about making all your existing kit obsolete.
Some people have been saying discs will rub more, or be slow getting wheels in and out. I’ve not found that to be the case. In fact it’s been the reverse – there’s an advantage of not having to fiddle with your brakes when removing or inserting a wheel. There is also a good point that you shouldn’t want consistent braking if your tyres will not be giving you consistent grip.
So why did I swap to discs, and should my reasoning affect you? Eight years ago I thought ‘like it or not the move to discs will come’. Deciding the change was inevitable made it obvious I should not buy any more non-disc ready equipment. My old bikes and wheels would live out their lives while disc technology developed and occasionally joined my fleet. Seven years ago I got a new ‘cross bike with dual mounts and started racing with discs. So the only real thing I saw wrong with rim brakes was them becoming obsolete.
Do you want to try and keep rim brakes alive or get on with cycling on new brakes?
- By Vin Cox
I just got an email about a “new” bike designed to load up with all sorts of stuff so you can transport more than just yourself as you pedal. That is a totally great concept, but it is NOT new, and it’s an odd design solution in my opinion. In fact, I recon the only reason any designer noticed that some people might need such a thing is because the average Joe in the western world has for generations been sold completely inappropriate bikes.
The new bike is the Donky Bike http://donkybike.com/ . It has front and rear racks either end of a sturdy hub geared bike with an integral lock – nice. I wish them luck, but I think they could have saved themselves the design and manufacturing effort if they wanted to really solve this problem the most efficient way possible, and imported bikes from India.
Bikes in India carry poor people and haul bulky goods everywhere. The rich and middle classes do NOT cycle, which means that a westerner on a cycle touring holiday in India is a confounding contradiction on wheels. That presents challenges and interesting situations; I found myself struggling to talk my way into some Indian hotels and restaurants because security guards had literally been told to keep cyclists away! Back to my point though – these hard working, practical, local manual workers need cheap, simple, strong, reliable, load-carrying bikes; and that’s what they have. At the very least the Donky designer should have taken more inspiration from the designs refined over the last century for load hauling across the sub-continent…. Oh, and then they shouldn’t have spammed my email
- By m@ttd351gn
“A very good version of normal”:
Bicycles reveal a lot about our personalities. I was reminded of this most recently when I built up my new cyclo-cross bike. I’ve raced in every cyclo-cross season since 1987, in Belgium, France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, the USA, and at home in the UK. If you cut me in two you’d see cyclo-cross written through me like a stick of rock. So you’d think I could relate to my own cyclo-cross bike easily enough right?
The new bike is mostly carbon-fibre, with electric gears. It’s shiny black and sleek, it’s a weapon, a racing tool, maybe a phallic metaphor. One mate said it looked “like flinkin Airwolf!!”. Problem is; I’m not Stringfellow Hawk. I’m more natural, artisan, understated, clean and simple rather than aggressive, shouty, lean and mean. It’ll be great to race the new bike, but I’d be embarrassed to train on it. I’ll have an everyday bike in more modest style.
It’s a bit like how people relate to commercial brands. They interpret values, aspirations and status of the labels on clothes, cars, sunglasses etc; and buy the products which reflect their own values or which match how they’d like other people to think of them. I want a bike frame to look like a very good version of a normal/old-fashioned frame, because I suppose that must be my own self-image “a very good version of normal”. Carbon fibre postures like a pre-fight boxer, disrespectfully and possibly naively claiming to be the best. I want the average person to hardly give me a second glance unless I’m actually doing something special. To promise nothing but deliver the exceptional is my aspiration. I suppose I’m valuing discretion.
What bikes and equipment do I relate to then? Well, my name is on the Genesis Day One Alfine 11 bike, and I’m not at all ashamed by that multi-purpose steel beauty. But if there is one product which is spot-on with my own values it’s the Brookes Swallow Titanium saddle. I’d partner the following words with that product, and (buy implication on this self-analysis) with me: tradition, innovation, performance, comfort, subtlety, and expense. I rode one of these saddles on my Guinness World Record Circumnavigation ride in 2010 and just can’t express what high regard I hold it in. I think my next dream bike will have to go back to a titanium frame and have a leather saddle. I’ll contemplate the other details and blog again when that bike materialises.