Originally developed for mountain bikes for superior braking power and control in muddy and wet conditions, disc brakes have become the trend on all types of bikes: road, cyclocross, and now even triathlon.
The real question for a triathlete is, do you need or even want disc brakes?
There’s a list of pros to having disc brakes, but the resounding top benefit is better braking control. What’s that mean exactly? It means that even in the rain, you have complete control over your bike, and won’t need to worry about slippage. When you want to slow down or stop, you slow down or stop. The brake modulation (control of the braking power and feel) is much better than with traditional cantilevers, especially when using hydraulic disc brakes, though even so too when using lower price-point cable-actuated disc brake.
So then why wouldn’t you want disc brakes?
For most triathletes, it’s all about: "Is it aero?" Having worked with one of the premier wind tunnel experts who tested caliper vs. disc brakes, the simple answer is: No, not in its current form. That said, the future generation disc brakes can and should be much improved. The current design uses a larger rotor than is needed and there has yet to be any dedicated design work on “covering” the disc calipers. Having seen a few future designs that integrate the caliper into the frame, the future systems will look vastly different than today’s version, and prove far more aerodynamic.
Another issue is wheels. Most triathletes have a cache of very expensive wheels at their disposal, none of which are suitable for discs brakes. So not only will you be purchasing a new bike, now you will have to replace all of your wheels. Not a cheap endeavor.
As triathletes, we are generally early adopters to new technologies and trends, but my opinion as of today is that the disc brakes may be beneficial for road and other bikes, but for triathletes, the upside isn’t quite realized yet.
* Note: The 2016 CEEPO Viper comes with optional front direct mount or disc brake. Learn more.
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