Disc Brakes In BMX? Interview with Liam Phillips

Tech developments come and go all the time, and BMX is no different – moreso in racing, where serious riders are looking for bike advances to simply win more races. Lighter, faster, longer, better… a few new developments were brought to the track and pretty much immediately discounted as nonsense: suspension forks, 2-speed systems, and bolt-on frame back ends to name a few. Clip-in pedals seem here to stay. But what about disc brakes? A couple of bikes are rocking up to the gate with them on – and even GT Olympian Liam Phillips has just set up disc brakes on his custom GT Speed Series bike. Time for an interview.

Gate time. Photo: @liamphillips65

“I’m always challenging and chasing gains in all areas. I’ve been making changes and modifying my bike parts for years.” – Liam

Showing the inside of the custom dropout, fitted.

So, what made you first think about running disc brakes?
I first thought about it a couple of years ago when I started using a carbon rim at certain races. I hated how my brake felt using carbon pads and the noise they make if not set-up correctly! You have to have the blocks toed-in and then it leaves you with a spongy feel which I don’t like. I haven’t switched sooner because I didn’t want to change my rear hub from Chris King which I’ve used since 2005. But then I realised this year that I can use my 110mm BMX axle, BMX internals and just switch out the Chris King hub-shell to a ISO shell!
Have you come across anyone else riding disc brakes? Who else is riding them?
Yes – David Graf has been running a disc for awhile.
What do you think will be the advantage or improvement here with discs, versus v-brakes?
Personally, I haven’t switched for any specific performance advantage. I don’t see any advantage in regards to braking. However, I do believe it will allow me to run a carbon rim all year round which I haven’t wanted to do in the past due to the braking issue.
Is the advantage worth it?
Time will tell!
Specifically what frame and brake system are you running?
I’m running my GT Speed Series. The guys at GT have made me a few frames without the brake lugs and made a new dropout/disc adapter. It looks class!
Is this development something that has come from working with the guys at British Cycling? Are they for it?
No… unfortunately the BMX programme is somewhat of a ‘low priority’ shall we say. I’m always challenging and chasing gains in all areas. I’ve been making changes and modifying my bike parts for years.
What kind of comments have you had from people about discs?
Due to injury, I’m currently not able to ride my bike. Therefore, nobody has seen it!
Do you think it’ll become more popular?
Not sure. I think some people will take it on, but not everyone.
So how the injury recovery going?
It’s been tough – I won’t lie. I raced a lot in 2015. Then focused my 2016 season around the Olympics and broke my collarbone eight weeks before. I had a packed out 2017 schedule, with loads of racing and I was super excited about it. To get injured at the first race of the season isn’t ideal!
When are you back racing then?
To be perfectly honest – it’s still somewhat unknown. I am doing everything I can to return as soon as possible. I’ve got great medical support so hopefully sooner rather than later!
Are you going to be racing more overseas in the US this year?
I’m targeting the World Championships which are held in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Then I’ll stay in the US and race in Colorado the following week…

So – to conclude: the performance gain here isn’t necessarily about stopping quicker on a BMX bike. It’s more about being able to use the lighter carbon-fibre wheelsets and avoiding using rim brakes on a carbon rim – watch this space.

The custom GT Speed Series disc-mount dropout.
Liam’s GT Speed Series – V-brake version. Photo: @liamphillips65

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