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Disc brake road bikes Road bikes are good for fast commutes (and weekend fun), and those with disc brakes let you control that speed whatever the weather


or many people who only have room for one bike in their lives, a sporty road model with drop bars is their choice because, although they might be mixing it in the maelstrom of motorised traffic Monday to Friday, come the weekend they want to get out and ride for fun – with teammates on a club ride, or at a sportive event, for example. Unfortunately, while it’s true that a road bike offers sharp handling and acceleration, which can be a bonus in the bustle of the bus lane, in other respects some road bikes can come up short for daily commuting. Without pannier racks, any daily must-haves need to go in a rucksack, which means you do the carrying instead of the bike. A more sporty or racy geometry than a ‘town’ bike or hybrid gives a less upright riding position, which also means your centre of gravity is raised, and that can upset the bike’s sharp handling. It’s less comfortable, too. You might not have such a good view of the traffic around you as you would get from the saddle of a more upright ride and, if your bike doesn’t have either room or the frame fittings for mudguards, you’re likely to arrive at work with a stripe up your back when the roads are wet. Fortunately, some bike builders are alert to this, and it is possible to get the benefits of a sporty bike while still having provision to fit racks and guards, to give you the best of all worlds. What many also have – and there are more joining them every year – is disc brakes. While mountain bikers have been enjoying the benefits of disc brakes for well over a decade, they have been slower to catch on with road bikes. Technology tends to trickle down from the top, and what is forbidden in the professional peloton is rarely seen in the bike shop; unfortunately, although earlier this year the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) – cycle racing’s governing body – had sanctioned the use of disc brakes in the pro peloton, an accident during the Paris-Roubaix race led to them being suspended. Nevertheless, for those of us not racing there are already plenty of options out there, and that number is only likely to increase. Hydraulic disc brakes are generally still too expensive to feature on road bikes coming in under the £1,000 mark, but cable-operated discs are pretty widespread and offer most of the same advantages – good moderation of braking power, less force required to brake, and good performance in the wet. They also mean that your wheel rims don’t get worn out by your brake pads. Cable-operated disc brakes do tend to need a little more care and attention than self-adjusting hydraulics. In particular, with most models you need to know how to set the distance between the pads and the disc to compensate for pad wear. It isn’t difficult, but it takes a bit of practice to get your eye in. The results are worth it.

Giant Defy 2 Disc £849 | £636.75 The Giant’s specification is similar to the Pinnacle’s, with the same Spyre brakes and Shimano Tiagra 10-speed transmission, but it offers a lower bottom gear which will appeal to those with a hilly commute or creaky knees. The frame and fork are fitted with eyelets for mudguards but not racks, though you can use a special seatpost clamp to adapt it to take a rear rack (see page 12). Giant’s Aluxx SL Aluminium frame is a thing of beauty, designed for comfort over long distances, which many will consider worth the extra £50 over the Pinnacle when the weekend comes.

Cannondale Synapse Alloy 105 Disc £999.99 | £749.99 The most expensive of our three bikes, Cannondale moves up a level by speccing a Shimano 105 transmission which gives 11 instead of 10 sprockets at the back. That means fewer steps between gear ratios, so you’re never groping around for a gear you haven’t got. Promax Render R disc brakes do a decent job of stopping, though they’re less sophisticated than the Spyres. It’s another aluminium frame with a carbon fork and Cannondale knows how to make some lovely alloy bikes. Though it doesn’t look like it, the Synapse has both mudguard and rack mounts to boost its appeal to commuters.

JARGON BUSTER Disc brakes With traditional rim brakes, the brake pads operate on the wheel’s rim. With a disc brake, the pads instead act on a metal rotor that’s attached to the wheel’s hub. All other things being equal, a larger rotor will slow you down faster than a smaller rotor.


Cycle Commuter #17  
Cycle Commuter #17