Disk Brakes & Oval Chainrings – my (admittedly different) roadie setup

Given that my riding style (and thus my bike) is some weird and wonderful combination of cyclist and triathlete, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about how it’s set up and why I’ve set it up in this way!

First off – disk brakes! They’re a godsend, especially for nervous descenders like myself. Disk brakes certainly won’t teach you how to take the right line into a corner, or compensate for you taking a bad line, but they’ll allow you to slam on your brakes a lot later than you would need to on carbon rim brakes – which means that you can:

  • spend less time actually braking
  • not have to worry about locking up your wheel (disk brakes have greater modulation than rim brakes)
  • actually head out in wet weather with carbon wheels and not have to worry about braking delay (disk brakes perform uniformly in both wet and dry conditions!)
  • spend less time focusing on having to brake (being a psychology student, I know that even such a small advantage such as being able to mentally switch off more than the next guy you’re racing will give you more mental energy for later in a race)

Disc brakes are the future!

On my Giant Propel, I use 140mm Dura Ace centerlock disc brakes paired with Ultegra brake calipers. Being relatively light, I can get away with 140’s on both front and rear, but most people I know who use disc brakes have a 160mm rotor on the front paired with a 140mm rotor on the rear. As most people brake with their front brake first, this makes sense as a larger rotor will give them more ‘bite’ aka stopping power.

My variation on this is that I use metallic brake pads on the front caliper and resin ones on the rear. Through a fair amount of trial and error I’ve found that metallic brake pads result in really good stopping power – so if you live in a fairly populated city (like Auckland where I do) then having a bit more stopping power can be great (or if you’re racing and want to not crash into the guy in front be more in control then it’s good to keep this in mind).

Metallic pads heat up the rotor surface relatively quickly, which can result in decreased stopping power; in addition, they brake down the rotor surface faster. On the other hand, resin pads stay cooler for longer and don’t brake down the rotor as much – but don’t give you the same amount of initial braking power as metal ones.  Using a set of metal brake pads on the front in tandem with resin brake pads on the rear allow for a great combination of good stopping power with not too much extra heat build-up.

As noted before, I’m using Dura Ace rotors and Ultegra calipers. I’ve resisted the urge to move to Dura Ace calipers for two main reasons – they don’t offer any real benefits over Ultegra other than weight (and even this is only about 40 grams, so not a deal-breaker) and Dura Ace calipers significantly more expensive. Given that there is no real performance enhancers, I can’t quite convince myself to make the leap to Shimano’s top-tier brakes. However, moving from any level of rotor to Dura Ace ones make a big difference! The cooling fan technology that Shimano added to their top-tier rotors are significantly better when it comes to dissipating heat, which in turn allows for better quality braking!


An absoluteBlack 50t chainring. I’m lucky to have this!

I’ve recently made the move to 1x (removing my front derailleur entirely). I’ve dabbled with this in the past, and found that while I struggled with not quite having the low-end gears I might’ve wanted on the uphills it worked pretty well. Having gone back to a double chainring setup for a reasonable amount of time I found that I wasn’t putting out the same sort of power I was hoping for!

Given that I use my road bike for training – with the goal of putting out as much power as I can with as little mechanical difficulty as possible – a 1x setup is ideal for me. It forces me to stand going uphill when I would rather click into an easier gear and just spin in an easy gear until I get to the top of the hill. I figure that only having a front chainring forces me to be in a bigger easier gear than I would be with a small chainring as well – which forces me to put out more power than I probably otherwise would with the little chainring! I did this during my second winter season as a triathlete, and noticed a significant improvement in my power over the course of 4 or so months. I’m looking forward to having a similar improvement again this winter season!

The main change I’ll have in my 1x setup this season will be using an absoluteBlack chainring! Instead of being a standard round ring, it’s ovalized. This means that you have more efficient pedaling motion. Without explaining the science behind it, oval chainrings give the rider increased power to push down on the pedals, and less wasted watts – two things that are vital when it comes to racing!

If you fancy reading about the science behind oval chainrings, check out absoluteBlack’s website (https://absoluteblack.cc/why-oval/) to see just why oval chainrings are better than round ones! I’ll be writing about my experience during my first season using oval chainrings as I use them – for now I can only say that they look super slick, but I’ll be updating this impression soon!

for disk brake post - ns wheel

The new disk brake Negative Split wheels are so cool!

I’ve been working with Negative split since their inception. They produce some of the finest wheels available, and are actually affordable (not mentioning anyone here…). I’ve been using their rim brake wheels on my TT and road bikes, and will soon make the move to disk brakes for a racing wheelset for the road bike. I’ve used the rim brake version of Negative Split wheels in both 60 and 80mm depths over the course of a few races and been blown away by them. Negative Split’s rim brake carbon wheels even have phenomenal braking performance! Considering that races are won or lost on small margins, I’m looking forward to being on some of the best race wheels around for the foreseeable future! If you’re after a fast pair of wheels at a great price, check out https://www.nscarbon.com/ !

So that’s the main points of my road bike setup for the upcoming 2019/2020 season. If you’ve got any questions flick me an email, comment below or check out my fb/insta page and DM me!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s