When Chris Froome reviewed the Factor Astro VAM he will ride in 2021, the short video quickly devolved from a media stunt to a rant on disc brakes. It’s probably not quite what new team sponsors Israel Start-Up Nation had in mind. It could also be Chris Froome’s most relatable moment yet.
While Froome is fast, with seven Grand Tour wins to his name, he is not always the most relatable figure in cycling. With his performance-focused personality, he can come off as distant or reserved. That distance is somewhat justified, as Froome’s faced a barrage of media – positive and negative – since sinning his first Tour de France in 2013.
In taking time out of his review to quibble about the merits – and mysteries – of disc brakes, though, Froome shows he’s just like the rest of us.
“Not 100 per cent sold on them yet, myself”
Until transferring to ISN, Froome’s Pinarello Dogma team bikes at Sky/Ineos were outfitted with traditional rim brakes, some of the last such bikes remaining at the World Tour. With the switch in teams, and switch to Factor bikes, Froome can no longer avoid the future. And he does not seem happy about it.
Things start positive. “”I’ve been using them for the last couple of months and, performance-wise, they’re great,” Froome says. “You always stop when you need to stop. In the dry, in the wet, they do the job. They do what they’re meant to do.”
From there, and with a wry smile, Froome dives into a laundry list of complaints.
“The downsides … the constant rubbing, the potential for mechanicals, the overheating, the discs becoming a bit warped when you’re on a descent for long enough – five, ten minutes, with constant braking. Personally, I just don’t think the technology is quite where it needs to be yet for road cycling.”
The WorldTour pro does have some legitimate technical complaints, but they quickly devolve into the type of conjecture we’ve all heard, and likely shared ourselves, at the local bike shop.
“I think the distance between the disc and the rotors is still just too narrow, so you’re going to get that rubbing, you’re going to get that one piston that fires more than another, you’re going to get these little issues. I don’t think the pistons quite retract quite the way they’re meant to be, all the time.”
Then, in a moment that likely signals doom for bike mechanics everywhere, Froome validated so many rider’s secret theory: that disc brakes seem to magically develop a rub even after the perfect tune. Like Masters road racers everywhere, Froome seems to pre-empt his season with the caveat that, if he doesn’t win, it’ll be because he swears he can still feel his disc brake start rubbing after the race started.
“Quite often it’ll work on the stand, it’ll work when the mechanic sorts it out. Then once you get onto the road it’s a different story,” the ISN star rants, before quipping that “I accept that that’s the direction the industry wants to go in, and we as bike riders are going to have to adapt and learn to use them.”
Inevitability of the Disc Brake Illuminati
Clearly, Froome is a die-hard, if not inked member of the Rim Brake Conservation Society. Still, even he acknowledges that in the great brake battle, the Disc Brake Illuminati may have the upper hand.
“I think if you’re not on disc brakes already it’s only a matter of time until you’re made obsolete in a way and forced on to them.”
If WorldTour team mechanics can’t keep Froome happy, what chance to the rest of us have? And if a Grand Tour winner can’t stop the tide of disc brake bikes, no one can.
We may not be able to avoid disc brakes. But now we have the word of a seven-time Grand Tour winner on our side when we go into the shop and confidently proclaim, “I think my discs are rubbing, again.”