Picture me - 1991 and living in Sheffield as a student. I loved my bikes and had just really started getting into mountain biking after a few years of time trialling and the odd road race. Living in such a great place back then for off-road cycling made it very easy to go out on my MTB. But races for mountain bikes back then were few and far between. I'd watched the three peaks and knew people who'd ridden it, but knew I couldn't afford a cyclocross bike on my pretty meagre existence (actually I could have - I just needed to connect "beer" to "pouring money away"). But then it happened. I saw a bike with wings.
It wasn't a common sight, but someone rode past me on the road on a Vitus cyclocross bike with Mafac cantilever brakes on. The brakes back then on MTBs were all cantilever but these huge great things sticking out of the frame at 90 degrees were a big statement to me. They looked functional. I really knew then I wanted a cyclocross bike. That's no exaggeration - it was the lo-fi wonderful looking brakes and their massive straddle wires that hooked me in. I liked the look.
20 years on. I still love the look of a pair of TRPs or Froglegs sitting and making their cyclocross statement on the upper portion of a pair of forks. That's what's made the decision to move to disc brakes a bit slow for me. And maybe for the rest of the world.
The UCI's unbanning of disc brakes for cyclocross in 2010 didn't open the flood gates, though it's fair to say that a crack appeared in the dam that is widening day by day. But there's some nagging resistance to the move to disc brakes and it's across the board from club riders to professionals and also in manufacturers and the industry.
It's hard to see why, in many ways. Cyclocross is more suited to disc brakes than you'd think.
But to counter all that, I still have a fondness for the cantilever brake.
That last point is an interesting one. My first experience of disc brakes on a 'cross bike was last spring and I struggled with the Avid BB5 cable-disc brakes. At the time I put this down to 'cable discs' as a genre. I was slightly disappointed and wanted to like disc brakes. I thought I was going to have to wait a while for the hydraulic option to trickle down to affordable / obtainable status... and for this year's three peaks I even Heath Ro
But a strange sequence of events lead to my being lent a bit of a dream bike. The On One "Dirty Disco" was being demo-ed around the country and the sample bike found its way to me via the wonders of social media and the generosity of On One man Brant Richards. In so many ways the replacement bike three days before the 3 peaks was a distraction, but the cable discs this time were Avid's bigger brother, the BB7. A simple bit of physics dawned on me - the pads on the BB7s covered 3 or 4 times the area on the rotor when braking. The issue hadn't been cable discs at all - it was simply that the BB5s were designed for hybrids and commuting bikes and simply weren't up to it. BB7s were.binsoned a solution (right) to give a 13 stone man the braking power he needed.
The experience changed me. The bike itself is everything I wanted but most importantly it stops when I say stop, has clean lines and should stay pretty mud free. Significantly, it's stopped me wanting to faff around looking for a sensibly priced hydraulic brake solution. (Those will come over time, but they can wait now!)
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