To Disc or Not to Disc

Do you need a disc brake cyclocross bike this season?

Well, it’s only the end of June and already everyone’s talking about cyclocross. And, the hot topic this season is disc brakes. Personally, I am going to be going to use disc brakes on all of my cyclocross bikes. I think it is the future of the sport and I want to embrace the technology and help push it forward. Do I think disc brakes are going to make me a faster cyclocross racer? Sometimes. In many situations it will be an advantage to have disc brakes. In a muddy race, a gnarly steep descent and sharp turns are where disc brakes are going to be a huge advantage. Do I think disc brakes will ever be a disadvantage? Not really. There are so many factors in cyclocross racing that adding a little bit of weight to your bike is not that much of a disadvantage.

So, who really needs a cyclocross bike with disc brakes? I have a few answers. I think if you’re beginning racer and you’re about to purchase your first cyclocross bike, you should get a disc brake bike. You’ll really appreciate the stopping power and it will give you much better control on technical terrain. One of the biggest complaints I hear about cyclocross bikes is the poor and inconsistent braking performance. With disc brakes on your bike, you’ll feel much more confident, especially if you’re new to the sport. Plus, since it’s your first cyclocross bike you’re basically starting from scratch and you don’t already own a quiver of race wheels for cantilever brakes.

Now if you been racing cyclocross for several years and you already own multiple sets of wheels for racing, the decision to go to disc brakes is a tough one. Basically it means your going have to get rid of your current frame and wheels and start over. So, if you’ve got a nice bike and a good selection of wheels it might be better to stick with what you have and wait until you’re ready for your next new cyclocross bike. But also remember if your archenemy is on a bike with disc brakes and you’re battling each other in a muddy race, he or she is going to have an advantage over you because of disc brakes.

Every company that makes relevant cyclocross bikes will have a disc brake option this season. Most wheel companies will have wheelset options with disc brake ready hubs. As this article was written, there are no fully integrated hydraulic disc brake lever and shifter options available for cyclocross bikes. I do know they are in the works. I imagine some of the top racers will have hydraulic disc brakes this season. These brakes may not be available to the public this season. Personally, I feel the Avid mechanical disc brakes are a fine option for cyclocross racing.

It’s only a matter of time before all cyclocross bikes and road bikes come with disc brakes on them. You’ll just need to decide whether you want to be an early adopter. One last thing to consider is if you have a 29er mountain bike and the rear hub spacing is the same as the cyclocross frame you’re considering, you may be able to use those wheels on your cyclocross bike to give additional options!