The great disc brake debate - our option

Image: Sean Hardy

Progress is inevitable, change can be hard to accept - the future can be difficult to realise. Culturally road cycling is steeped in tradition, it’s heritage and that of the bicycle are easily traceable but any innovation doesn’t happen over night.

The advent of clipless pedals, handlebar gear shifters and more recently electronic wireless groupsets and the introduction of carbon as a frame material have been acknowledged as genuine innovative improvements. They have improved cycling without interfering with the traditional appearance of the bicycle.

Mountain biking, as we are aware, has none of the restrictions associated with road cycling, it openly welcomes technological advances - enter disc brakes centre stage. Greatly improved stopping ability, zero rim wear and no tubeless glue meltdown surely heralded the next generation in road bike innovation - no. In reality both the Pro peloton and the UCI remain divided about embracing this latest form of stopping. The latter’s indecisiveness to commit either way has left the road bike world divided.

When it comes to going down hill it’s paramount to any cycling discipline to know they have the ability to slow down and stop in the most efficient effective manner possible. Until recently this has been provided solely by rim brakes - pressure applied via a rubber block/pad placed directly in contact with the rim of a wheel. Disc brakes still rely on friction and pressure but use technology passed down from motorcycles via mountain bikes in order to stop via a hub mounted disc. Each form of braking has it’s pros and cons:

Rim brakes:
- Traditional aesthetics
- Work well in the dry
- Lighter than discs
- More aerodynamic than discs

- Rim wear
- Not so good in the wet
- Potential to heat up and melt tubeless adhesives
- Not as efficient as disc brakes

Disc brakes:
Greater stopping ability than rim across all weather conditions
- No rim wear
- Minimal pressure needed for braking
Mountain/motorcycle aesthetics
- Potential disc heat on flesh in pile-up/crash situation
- Lack of manufacturer standardised formatting
- Higher maintenance
- Heavier than rims
- Less aerodynamic than rims

Without the UCI’s seal of approval we see this debate raging on for a long time. If the Pro peloton commit to one braking format the guesswork will be over. If discs get the vote then manufacturers will then have to come up with one standard disc size for ease of application.

As for the everyday rider, especially the commuter cyclist, we believe it makes sense to go the disc route – for those riders fortunate to have a ‘best bike’, the one that never goes out in the wet, the decision remains entirely up to you. Bear in mind though that rim brakes could in time become yesterday’s tech and the resale value of your bike could suffer as a consequence of your brake choice.

Up close and personal

Image: Sean Hardy

Image: Sean Hardy

Sometimes, a brand simply catches your eye. Something about the products - their performance and style - strikes a chord; so it is with Simpson and POC. Aesthetics are more than a passing concern at our London headquarters, and certainly so in an elegant red brick and glass building in downtown Stockholm.

POC is many things to many people. Striking? Certainly. An acquired taste? Perhaps. Divisive? Emphatically so, as is the case with any brand truly worthy of the accolade ‘disruptive’. Many aspire to such a status. POC has made it a matter of routine.

So it is that we find ourselves with not only one despatch on the Scandinavian purists, but two, and in close succession. Recently, we brought news of the forthcoming Ventral Air helmet. Today, we’re pleased to publish a detailed exposition of the CHPT3 x POC Ventral Devesa Spin, with insights from industrial designer Magnus Gustavsson, leader of POC’s hard goods team, and a certain David Millar. 

Our thanks to Gustavsson and to Millar for their time in describing the process that has led to the first POC product to bear a pattern. And our thanks to you dear reader for your understanding of a schedule that has made this recent arrival of POC-themed articles not unlike that of London buses. We trust they will bring greater enjoyment.

Jarno Saarinen: Our hero and inspiration

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The digital era has allowed history to be instantly accessible, the need for libraries and books lessened. Periods in time: decades of data, facts and figures laid bare in readiness for us to digest. We are reminded of the winners and the heroes of past sporting eras but also developments in engineering, material technology and standards of safety - how a combination of these aspects have improved the sports we follow today.

Underlying any event of a competitive nature lies man’s primeval desire to compete, to test, to challenge oneself against others. Some are born with this spirit, this talent to achieve greatness. As spectators we are left to marvel at the drive of such individuals - every generation has its gifted protege.

Motorcycle racing has always been an integral part of this publication’s DNA. It’s that heroism, that driven desire to win between man and machine we respect, acknowledge and wish to share. Back in the 70s the sport had moved on from ‘Pudding basin’ helmets and all-black leathers -the advent of full face helmets and multi-coloured, sponsor ladened leathers now ruled the day. Race bikes too had progressed they were now quicker more powerful machines no longer derived directly from their street bike ancestry.

The circuits at which they raced were becoming faster more established, more organised money making opportunities that capitalised on the draw of increasingly larger crowds. Unfortunately safety standards had not advanced at the same pace, many dangerous high speed sections still displayed only the rudimentary straw bales and car tyre barriers native to their airfield roots.

The name Jarno Saarinen appeared with the greatest motorcycle racers of the 70s - hailed by many as the sports ‘Golden Era’. He was his own man, he did things in a peculiar yet unique way: a driven individual in the same mindset as Tom Simpson. From humble Finnish origins he became the country’s first and, to date, only World Motorcycle racing Champion. Termed by most as the greatest up and coming rider of this generation, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of multiple World Champion Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read while also doubling up as his own mechanic. Often winning races against larger capacity machines by sheer skill and domination - his achievements speak for themselves.

A modest man with era defining good looks, a beautiful yet dedicated wife and above all a works contract - the world lay at Jarno’s feet. You’ll see the images of him always smiling, always relaxed, in charge of his destiny and at peace with life. He would have been 74 this year - his riding talent like his legend will always live on.

Time Trial: a film reviewed


Cycling has long held a symbiotic relationship with art. The poetry and pain of the sport inspires artists working with almost any media. From the early days of flighty prose to sell newspapers, through books endeavouring to describe its suffering and salvation, to the cinematic art of Jørgan Leth, cycling has few rivals, in the sporting world at least, as a source of inspiration; even musicians are inspired by the humble bike race - none more so than Kraftwerk.

Finlay Pretsell joins this long tradition with Time Trial, his exploration of David Millar’s life in cycling, and his final season in particular.

As the trailers finally finish, the first thing that confronts the viewer is the BBFC certificate... 18. What? For a film about cycling... why? Seconds later, it becomes obvious why this is an adult film. Millar, and those around him, don’t censor themselves. Why would they? This is a brutal sport, and the film contains many brutal moments. Races and riders are fucks, shits, and, on one memorable occasion, glove-stealing cunts.

That’s not to say that there is no beauty in this brutal world. Pretsell obviously has a wonderful eye for the tiny moments of wonder, and shot after shot, whether capturing suffering or glory, is beautifully produced and edited. Although the influence of other artistically-minded sports documentaries is at times apparent - films like Zidane and Senna, not to mention Leth’s oeuvre - Time Trial is a unique, modern film that feels as though it could only have been made now, with a rider like Millar in total cooperation.

Time Trial is more than just a pretty face, however. Nothing this beautiful has any right to be so informative... I have consumed cycling media in all its forms for many years. I’ve watched, read, listened, and streamed, not to mention raced, but I’ve rarely felt this immersed in the world of professional cycling. From tiny vignettes within the peloton, to bare-all hotel room footage, and warts and all interviews with the man himself, Pretsell gets deep under the skin of his fellow Scot, at times even to Millar’s evident discomfort.

Parts of the film make genuinely uncomfortable watching. A lot of this is down to the sound design and score, which use atonality and dissonance to unsettle the viewer and underscore Millar going deeper and deeper within himself. In particular, a wickedly tough climb at Tirreno Adriatico, and the frozen and washed out 2015 Milan-San Remo are stark antidotes to any Sunday rider who fancies the life of a pro.

The darkness is both literal and metaphorical - at his lowest ebb, Millar the cyclist is entombed within tunnels as Millar the man, shot against a black backdrop, bares his soul.

There is no easy redemption here and Pretsell won’t allow us the simple ending of Millar punching the air. His is a cleverer and deeper film than that, and is all the better for it. Having been so deeply immersed in the peloton, finally we are allowed to come up for air… and given the narrowest of hints that perhaps there is life, and maybe even happiness, beyond cycling. 

Time Trial is in cinemas now, and is also available on iTunes, Sky Store, Amazon Video, or Google Play.

Why not organise your own club screening at


A ride in the making: Simpson CC 2018


We're busy putting the finishing touches to our latest CC ride. It takes place north of Ipswich on Sunday August 19th, starting from the iconic roadside café The Kesgrave Kitchen. Avoiding main roads it'll take you deep into the heart of the Suffolk countryside. You'll discover villages with no name, myths, folklore, wild untamed skies and of course the sea.

We plan to stop for lunch at the Eel's Foot Inn, an undiscovered gem of a pub dating back to 1533 tucked away in the hamlet of Eastbridge. With Adnams beers on tap and numerous food awards to it's name, this venue rightly gives the ride its title.

Covering approximately 70 miles at a pace of 15+ mph our ride policy ensures no-one will get left behind - it's not a race, it's a social ride so you'll need to feel comfortable riding at this pace as this is a non supported event. For everyone's convenience the route will be circular. Please ensure you come prepared.

In order to keep rider numbers manageable we operate a first come, first served policy. If you fancy joining us we'll need you to confirm no later than Thursday 19th July.

We look forward to hearing from you at

Simpson CC, the best way to be taken for a ride.