Rise of the Disc Brake

Is 2017 going to see them go mainstream …
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The disc brake has been on the fringes of BMX racing for what seems like an age now but after the traction they gained during 2016 it’s starting to look like 2017 could well be the year when the disc brake solution becomes mainstream.  You could argue that it was Switzerland’s Roger Rinderknecht who lead the charge for disc brakes, especially at the elite end of the sport. Rinderknecht started running them on his BMX after the Beijing Olympics, sometime around 2010, probably inspired by his adventures in mountain biking where they are widely used.

Rinderknecht  then got on the gate at the 2012 London Olympics sporting disc brakes and the debate began … slowly.

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Following on from his fellow countryman, David Graf fitted his bike with a disc brake back in 2014, working with Nicolai Bikes to produce a custom frame that was disk brake compatible.  Graf, not one to settle for the ‘off the shelf’ norm, was pretty vocal about the benefits when we spoke to him about it back in 2015 …

“I still believe the BMX scene will one day get on it, and realize there are just advantages. For example, in Rock Hill I saw Carlos Ramirez almost killing himself because he wanted to stop in front of the berm jump and and he couldn’t, so he jumped straight into the women’s corner. Same for Oquendo! And Barry bent his forks on the pro-section because his brake did not do its job. Then there is Yoshi telling me he has already broken three carbon rear rims because of the braking. I think it looks nice, feels great, is the same weight and most importantly … it works! One of the big brands should start doing it but they don’t have the balls!”

In the year since we spoke to Graf on the subject it’s starting to look like BMX manufactures are getting on board. Just recently Daylight Cycles have been showing off their impressive looking Arc c1 frame which incorporates a disc brake drop out option … are we going to see the current UCI SX World Cup champion, Corben Sharrah, running disc brakes during the 2017 season? UK set up, Urban Race Parts, are currently doing interesting things with their new Moto V1 frame which has the disc brake option built in and how could you ignore the ICE F-118 which has been getting huge amounts of interest this year. Other manufactures have been tinkering with the idea behind the scenes also, Thrill BMX, for one, have made a prototype ‘disc brake specific’ frame in the past.

As well as bike companies moving slowly towards the disc option you have plenty of high end hub manufactures, Onyx Racing & True Precision Components to name but a few,  making disc brake compatible hubs.

But if you are looking for the real driving force behind the use of disc brakes in BMX racing you need to go and talk to Scott McFarlin of rideMiSC, a south Californian company who have been building custom brake kits to fit standard BMX frames since 2014 …

I started making my kits a couple years ago and after many negative comments, this year (2016) people are finally ready to accept the idea of something better than a 20 year old v-brake design. My worldwide business has picked up dramatically this year.”

A quick Google image search, or a browse through the rideMiSC Facebook or Twitter feed shows that you can fit a disc brake to just about any current BMX frame. France’s Sylvain Andre has been rocking the rideMiSC solution on his carbon Redline for a while now and doesn’t seem to miss the v-brake.

Paul Hallett, manager of the Twisted Concepts Doublecross UK Team, told us they will have 5 of their riders bikes fitted with disc brakes for the 2017 season as part of his ongoing goal for …

Twisted Concepts BMX to be known for building the best, most trick & expensive BMX’s on the planet”

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So what are the advantages of the disc break over the traditional v-brake? Well there are many … for one you’ll be able to stop in the rain which is handy. Then there is weight, rotational weight to be specific … fit a disc brake and you can now use a front specific wheel on the rear as there is no braking surface required. It opens up new possibilities in the design of rear wheels too … thinner walls etc. By all accounts v-brakes do not work particularly well with carbon rims, which are becoming more and popular,  and of course, no more wearing away your rim finish with brake blocks!

Scott McFarlin of rideMiSC boils it down to …

“The main advantage is that it is a ‘set it and forget it’ brake. No fiddling around with any problems v-brakes have from one side dragging to cable issues, to non consistency of v-brakes due to weather conditions. The modulation and feedback the disc brake offers over v-brakes for scrubbing minute amounts of speed when needed, not to mention it is a consistent brake that allows you to go deeper into turns with confidence and can also save you from looping out in rain as quite a few have at recent Worlds races and some UCI Supercross races.”

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Of course there are issues with disc brakes, heat and the safety concern being the main ones. Currently, the UCI has a temporary ban on them for ‘pro’ road racing after Fran Ventoso claimed a disc rotor sliced him in a crash at Paris-Roubaix, although others have said it was actually the chain ring which caused the damage. Either way, the UCI are planning a trial with new ’rounded off’ disc’s during 2017. Discs have been prevalent in the MTB world for years now and no such incidents have been reported, or at least none we could find, and the UCI are happy for their use in that discipline … as well as BMX.

We can’t imagine that heat is a major issue with discs when used for BMX as the use is very different when compared with tearing down a mountain on a MTB. Either way, rideMiSC are in the process of scratching that one off the list with the development of Carbon Discs, and lets face it, who doesn’t want more carbon on their bike at the moment.

“Carbon discs work a little different … but in a good way, once you understand their characteristics … then there is heat dissipation, weight and the cool factor”

So to disc brake or not … there seems to be a lot of ticks in the pro column … and they do look cool!

Photos: rideMiSC | Scott McFarlin | Daylight Cycles | Shinichi Yoshimura | ICE In Case of EmergencyAkabanevisionfilm Ubu | David Graf | Pride Racing Parts | Kevin Koch | Twisted Concepts BMX | Chris Taylor