On Sunday at the 100th Tour of Flanders, Lampre-Merida became the first WorldTour team to start a major event entirely on disc brakes. Riding Merida Scultura Disc bikes with Shimano hydraulic brakes, Lampre-Merida set out from Brugge amid the standard sea of rim-brake bikes.
Lampre-Merida had a few riders on disc bikes for a single stage of Three Days of De Panne, but the team went all in for Flanders, with not only the race bikes but all the spare bikes and thus all the spare wheels being discs.
The Merida Scultura Disc frame uses the RAT system launched by Focus, which combines the speed of a quick release with the security of a thru-axle.
“It is quick to change but it is also stiff,” Lampre-Merida mechanic Ralf Tiede said of the RAT system. “The stiffness is the most important thing, so the axle doesn’t move and cause noise with the rotor.”
The RAT axle slides through the hub, then locks into the frame with a quarter turn. Here, Lampre-Merida mechanics have greased the locking end of the RAT
The Pro Continental team Roompot-Oranje Peloton has been riding a mix of SRAM disc- and rim-brakes this season. At the Tour of Flanders, half the team was on discs.
“We made the decision this year to try,” said Roompot team director Michel Cornelisse. “There were some problems initially, as there always are with new things, but now things are good and the riders choose to use them.”
Roompot began the year testing 160mm rotors and has switched to 140mm.
Other teams at the Tour of Flanders said that logistics and the still-unclear UCI position on disc specifications are two big hurdles preventing them from making the switch.
For example, the UCI specified that 160mm rotors would be the standard this year, allowing neutral service and wheel and drivetrain companies to have a single setup to work with, but Roompot is running 140mm. At the Tour of Flanders, Shimano neutral support had a token second of spare disc wheels on each car — with 140mm rotors.
Roompot-Oranje Peloton raced a mix of SRAM rim-brake and disc bikes at the Tour of Flanders
Specialized sponsors three WorldTour teams with bikes. While the California company clearly has disc bikes, the logistical adaptation to a new standard isn’t a quick or easy one, said team liaison Gianpaolo Mondini. This goes beyond just the race bikes, back-up bikes and spare wheels on the car.
“At a race like Flanders, Etixx will have someone at every single sector of cobbles,” Mondini said. “There are only so many mechanics, so this group also includes soigneurs and even friends of the team. Since some of these people are volunteers, they aren’t yet ready to be quickly changing disc wheels. Plus, the UCI hasn’t yet settled on or at least enforced a rotor size.”
“As a company, we are ready. But we prefer to have happy riders,” Mondini said. “Right now it is too risky to change to discs.”
At Lampre-Merida, the team riders said it’s not really a big deal.
“It’s not that different,” Luka Pibernik said of his new disc bike. “We will see today.”
Be sure to check out Cyclingnews.com for complete coverage of the 100th Tour of Flanders.
Lampre-Merida is using 160mm Shimano rotors on Merida Scultura Disc frames