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Tour de France

Farewell rim brakes: Tadej Pogačar embraces disc brakes in Tour de France’s first mountain stage

The tech quietly slips out of the pro peloton as its last high-profile holdout modernizes.

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Tadej Pogačar winning a mountain stage of the Tour de France, as he did today on stage 7, is nothing new. Doing it on disc brakes? That is.

The current maillot jaune and favorite to win the GC for a third consecutive year was one of the last high profile holdouts on rim brakes, switching out his disc brake Colnago V3Rs for a rim version brake on mountain stages at last year’s Tour, and as recently as Tirreno-Adriatico in March.

The reason for the switch? Weight.

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“The rim brake is lighter,” Pogačar explained four months ago at Tirreno-Adriatico. “It’s important on such a climb like today. Three-hundred grams for me is a lot, so that’s why.”

This year at the Tour, Pogačar and his UAE Emirates teammates are testing a new “Prototipo” Colnago model that appears to solve one of that shortcoming of the V3Rs. The team struggled to make that older model hit the UCI weight limit of 6.8kg in its disc brake form, opting to haul around the rim brake version for mountain stages. The new bike likely hits that weight limit while also providing a superior aerodynamic advantage, although we won’t have complete details until the bike is made official, likely later this year.

Hydraulic disc brakes have been adopted at the highest level of cycling within a matter of seasons for their superior braking power and modulation. Secondarily, they also allow teams to fit in wider tires, sometimes 30mm or more, for more comfort on days like the stage 5 cobblestones earlier this week.

The full adoption of disc brakes also removes a small but still important logistical hurdle in accepting neutral service wheels, as every other team has moved on to disc wheels for their road bikes. The Ineos Grenadiers were the last major holdout to ride almost always on rim brakes, but have been on disc brakes exclusively since the introduction of the Pinarello Dogma F at last year’s Tour.

The final bastion of the rim brake in the pro peloton is time trial bikes. The highly specialized machines prioritize aerodynamics much more heavily than weight, and often end up far north of the weight limit. To keep weight down, some brands have kept rim brakes around. At the stage 1 TT last week, Team BikeExchange–Jayco rode the Giant Trinity Advanced Pro with rim brakes.

There’s also often an aerodynamic advantage cited for rim brakes over disc brakes, although Specialized says its latest disc-only Shiv TT bike is faster than it would be with rim brakes.

As more bike manufacturers push disc brakes, opting to not make rim brake versions of high end race bikes, rim brakes’ days are numbered on road and TT bikes alike.