Sharp Edged

So the first incident of maiming by disc brake rotor during a road race occurred this past week. What may be worse than the physical injuries Francisco Ventoso sustained in the crash, however, may be the slings and arrows fired at him by the internet crowd simply for speaking his mind about this "new" danger. There seems to be a widespread belief that Ventoso should just keep his mouth shut. That's logic for you - not only do you see a problem and the first-hand experience to go with it, yet the wittiest of the gathered audience believe you should just keep quiet.

Then there are another group of spectators who contend that disc rotors are no more likely to cause injury than any other part or component protruding from a bike frame. You know what? They are right. Chain rings are a definite hazard; for my own part, pedals and cranks have been responsible for an unusual amount of broken skin, bruises, and unusual lumps. None of which, really, carries any relevance to the argument. Were all the usual road bike appendages a danger during mass crashes before the introduction of disc brakes? Certainly. By introducing another sharp edge to the equation are they now more dangerous? Very likely.

Is this going to be another wedge, driving people away from racing and other mass start events? No, or at least I doubt it. Since my own road racing days are a thing of the past I have been ambivalent about the whole "to disc, or not to disc", debate - I don't have that personal connection any more. I certainly don't see the necessity of them, though I, and at the same time recognize their advantages. What I am less ambivalent about is the appearance of the corporate hand pressing down and forcing the issue - road bikes were the last avenue of market expansion - disc brakes had already become widely established in mountain, cross, and touring, while trackies and the fixed-gear gangs, lucky dogs that they are, sit back and wonder what all the yelling and name calling is about. Too often prudence takes a back seat to profit - you need look no further than the automobile industry, who continue to introduce more, unnecessary, and added-cost distractions into their products

As bad as Ventoso's injury may be, there is something even more ugly to be seen here. It is the backlash against him speaking out. I can't help but see the same faces who shout the old "American, love it or leave it" invective at those others who dare to notice flaws, inconsistencies, and outright problems, or at least the potential for them, and who then suggest that a reexamination may be in order.

*And as you may have already read from any number of sources, the UCI has decided to suspend the use of disc brakes in road races pending a second look.


  1. I wondered how long discs would last on road racing bikes. Maybe on cross bikes and definitely on tandem touring bikes. I guess I'm old fashioned. Gino

  2. It is too bad they didn't think this through earlier, before so many people / teams invested in new bikes.


Post a Comment