Friday, November 7, 2014

I Use My Shins for Brakes

At the end of a recent cyclocross race, somebody asked me, "what happened to your shin?"  

Standing there in my race kit, with my cross bike straddled between my legs, I looked down at the crimson and dirt-encrusted road rash that overtook a large part of my left shin. I was as surprised to see it as she was. But then I recalled choosing a bad line through a tricky, off-camber turn, and eating shit in a cloud of dust about a half an hour earlier. 

"I used it as a brake," I finally said.

Of course, my bike's cantilever brakes were a better option, it just that they weren't available at the moment. As I was crashing, that was.

Traditional cantilever brakes have been around for ages. They have wonderful stopping action and excellent mud-clearance, which are both especially important in cyclocross. The biggest criticism they draw is in setting them up. They're finicky. Get it off a hair and the brake chatter can sound like Godzilla when he's pissed. However, having upgraded to Avid Ultimate Shorty brakes this season, most of that maintenance headache is a thing of the past due to their elegant design.

Even better than cantilever brakes (or shins for that matter) are disk brakes. They have improved stopping action, and with the disk mount near the hub, aren't affected by mud. The problem is cash. Like lots of it. It's not that the initial setup costs any more than a traditional bike, it's that you have to replace all of your existing rim-brake wheelsets because they're not compatible with disks. The thought of purchasing a new bike(s) and multiple wheelsets makes me want to take a nap.

But they say that disks is where the industry is heading. It just may take a while.

At anyrate, it doesn't matter much to me. My cantilever brakes work just fine. And when they're momentarily unavailable, my shins do quite a job at stopping me, too.

Disk brakes aren't going to change that anytime soon.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

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