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Road Bikes Disc Brakes vs Rim Brakes!


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While recently selecting which frame type to go for, I researched a myriad of articles, videos and opinions from various sources from the internet. There were countless arguments for and against for both brake types!

At the risk of causing the world's cycling community to split down the middle, here is my 'opinion'.

This includes: 

  • disc brake set-ups still have 500 - 800 gr weight disadvantage, depending on group set and frame. Yes, disc weights might be coming down slowly but are not yet compatible with rims at the present time.
  • The rim brake installation instructions listed the bike frame and brake manufacturers manuals constituted of two pages; i.e. not really required but mentioned it for comparison sake. The disc brake equivalent was more than 20 pages! This included installation and mounting, aligning, filling the oil, bleeding (with some sort of kit and all kinds of special tools required), maintenance and so on. Rim brakes can be installed, change cables, replace pads and adjust within five minutes per brake. I can only guess how long this would take with discs.
  • Various considerations to consider when changing a flat/ wheel in a hurry.  I saw the various acts of drama that a number of riders and their mechanics had to go through when replacing a wheel during the recent GT's and classics races. Its great when a spare bike is ready for you when racing but not for us normal riders who have to struggle next to the side of the road. Quick releases rule here.
  • This includes the risks of bending the rotor disc when struggling to get the wheel out and the closing of the calipers when a wheel is removed for travelling. 
  • The incessantly annoying squeal of the brakes when being applied. 
  • Lastly, the need to change ones existing wheels when changing to discs. I was not prepared to sell five sets to now buy new ones.

The main 'for' reason for discs is stated to be the improved braking performance. Various comparison tests by a number of publications and bicycle sites have been performed and most agree that there is a slight improvement for carbon wheels in the rain, not so much in the dry. But dare I say that for 99% of us this increased performance is not required, unless you go 2-3 times a year to Europe and race down the various mountain passes in the rain. Even so, the four major WT teams Ineos, Jumbo Visma, UAE and Sunweb are all still choosing to ride with rim brakes. The performance of the newer direct mounts is not that far of that of discs.

Currently the score for the last six Grand Tours is : Rims Brakes 6 - Disc Brakes 0 !

 

Yes, there is a certain visual  'cool' factor with disc brakes but is that enough to fall into the bike/ group set manufacturers marketing trap that something that has worked for decades is suddenly not good enough anymore?

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While recently selecting which frame type to go for, I researched a myriad of articles, videos and opinions from various sources from the internet. There were countless arguments for and against for both brake types!

At the risk of causing the world's cycling community to split down the middle, here is my 'opinion'.

This includes: 

  • disc brake set-ups still have 500 - 800 gr weight disadvantage, depending on group set and frame. Yes, disc weights might be coming down slowly but are not yet compatible with rims at the present time.
  • The rim brake installation instructions listed the bike frame and brake manufacturers manuals constituted of two pages; i.e. not really required but mentioned it for comparison sake. The disc brake equivalent was more than 20 pages! This included installation and mounting, aligning, filling the oil, bleeding (with some sort of kit and all kinds of special tools required), maintenance and so on. Rim brakes can be installed, change cables, replace pads and adjust within five minutes per brake. I can only guess how long this would take with discs.
  • Various considerations to consider when changing a flat/ wheel in a hurry.  I saw the various acts of drama that a number of riders and their mechanics had to go through when replacing a wheel during the recent GT's and classics races. Its great when a spare bike is ready for you when racing but not for us normal riders who have to struggle next to the side of the road. Quick releases rule here.
  • This includes the risks of bending the rotor disc when struggling to get the wheel out and the closing of the calipers when a wheel is removed for travelling. 
  • The incessantly annoying squeal of the brakes when being applied. 
  • Lastly, the need to change ones existing wheels when changing to discs. I was not prepared to sell five sets to now buy new ones.

The main 'for' reason for discs is stated to be the improved braking performance. Various comparison tests by a number of publications and bicycle sites have been performed and most agree that there is a slight improvement for carbon wheels in the rain, not so much in the dry. But dare I say that for 99% of us this increased performance is not required, unless you go 2-3 times a year to Europe and race down the various mountain passes in the rain. Even so, the four major WT teams Ineos, Jumbo Visma, UAE and Sunweb are all still choosing to ride with rim brakes. The performance of the newer direct mounts is not that far of that of discs.

Currently the score for the last six Grand Tours is : Rims Brakes 6 - Disc Brakes 0 !

 

Yes, there is a certain visual  'cool' factor with disc brakes but is that enough to fall into the bike/ group set manufacturers marketing trap that something that has worked for decades is suddenly not good enough anymore?

Its now down to personal preference. Looking at getting another new road bike this year, looking forward to the rim brakes hopefully. 

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I've heard it said that the pro's are exactly the wrong users for disc brakes on road bikes, unless it's raining

 

all the drawbacks that you'll find for discs are directly applicable to mountain bikes too, apart from the rapid wheels changes in a road race, so not really all. I'm not sure how many mtbers out there wish for rim brakes... perhaps do a poll?

 

personally, i think i bike looks nicer with discs, esp those with hidden cables. YMMV, and as long as your mileage makes you smile, it doesn't matter to me how you stop.

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When I first bought full carbon wheels long ago I knew they would squeak but I didn't care because I really wanted them. 

 

I suspect this is the same choice. Nothing to do with science nor practicality. (Unless you live on the side of an Alp)

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I was thinking about these threads on the second half of a ride yesterday.

 

I was riding with a chap who is running carbon rim brakes. I have discs.

At one point we came up to a round about, there was a car coming from the opposite side and was not singling to turn, we had signaled that we would be. Needless to say, at the last moment the driver decided to turn into the round about and right in front of us. We both slammed on brakes, I came to a stop right next to the passenger door, with about 30cm to spare, and a dirty chamois, the other chap who was to my right and managed to come to a stop behind the car about 3m further than me. It was not wet but it was most definitely damp.

 

No doubt discs stopped me from having an accident yesterday. 

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Mine (Ultegra discs on a Scott Foil) very very rarely squeals. This is the Flat State though, so never braking for a sustained period of time.

If they squeal "incessantly" when being applied, maybe there is something else wrong?

 

The thru-axle is quite quick to remove as well. I do agree on the ease of bending the rotor, more difficult maintenance, and replacing wheels though (but, my dad or wife can inherit my Argents, so that is not the end of the world)

Edited by HdB
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sounds like you dont like disc brakes. Cool, use what you prefer.

Hi Ouzo,

Not a question of dis/liking one or the other, just the issues of one over the other. I actually wanted to prefer the discs as I tend to fall for new technology when it comes out, however this time the case against discs is far stronger than for (in my opinion)!

But I also accept that there are others out there that want discs, so live and let live.

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I was thinking about these threads on the second half of a ride yesterday.

 

I was riding with a chap who is running carbon rim brakes. I have discs.

At one point we came up to a round about, there was a car coming from the opposite side and was not singling to turn, we had signaled that we would be. Needless to say, at the last moment the driver decided to turn into the round about and right in front of us. We both slammed on brakes, I came to a stop right next to the passenger door, with about 30cm to spare, and a dirty chamois, the other chap who was to my right and managed to come to a stop behind the car about 3m further than me. It was not wet but it was most definitely damp.

 

No doubt discs stopped me from having an accident yesterday. 

 

What made you first choose your bike with disks over rim brake?

 

(Good example above though)

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  • The rim brake installation instructions listed the bike frame and brake manufacturers manuals constituted of two pages; i.e. not really required but mentioned it for comparison sake. The disc brake equivalent was more than 20 pages! This included installation and mounting, aligning, filling the oil, bleeding (with some sort of kit and all kinds of special tools required), maintenance and so on. Rim brakes can be installed, change cables, replace pads and adjust within five minutes per brake. I can only guess how long this would take with discs.
  • Various considerations to consider when changing a flat/ wheel in a hurry.  I saw the various acts of drama that a number of riders and their mechanics had to go through when replacing a wheel during the recent GT's and classics races. Its great when a spare bike is ready for you when racing but not for us normal riders who have to struggle next to the side of the road. Quick releases rule here.
  • This includes the risks of bending the rotor disc when struggling to get the wheel out and the closing of the calipers when a wheel is removed for travelling. 
  • The incessantly annoying squeal of the brakes when being applied. 

 

  • Replacing pads and bleeding the brakes takes about 20-30 minutes but you honestly only have to do it every year or two (depending on how much you ride) so it's hardly a large issue.
  • Eh, most of them are running TA's without a built in or attached lever to save weight. If you don't have a support car you just leave the lever attached. Also if you are not in a race does an extra 2 seconds really matter?
  • Again, taking your time would solve the bent disc problem and you get brake blocks that clip in between the pads for travelling to prevent exactly that.
  • Can't say my discs have ever squealed unless they have been wet or muddy.

But again, as everyone has said, ride what you prefer.

Edited by Jehosefat
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I was thinking about these threads on the second half of a ride yesterday.

 

I was riding with a chap who is running carbon rim brakes. I have discs.

At one point we came up to a round about, there was a car coming from the opposite side and was not singling to turn, we had signaled that we would be. Needless to say, at the last moment the driver decided to turn into the round about and right in front of us. We both slammed on brakes, I came to a stop right next to the passenger door, with about 30cm to spare, and a dirty chamois, the other chap who was to my right and managed to come to a stop behind the car about 3m further than me. It was not wet but it was most definitely damp.

 

No doubt discs stopped me from having an accident yesterday. 

I was thinking about this during my deliberations as well. Your brakes can only work and slow you down as well as the traction/ friction between the tyres and the road surface. So if the road is damp/ wet, how would a higher brake force impacting on a wheel (discs) stop the wheel more quickly and not lose traction, as a good set of Swisstop pads will also easily be able to lock a rim brake? 

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What made you first choose your bike with disks over rim brake?

 

(Good example above though)

 

It was a similar experience.

 

At the time I had a C60 with Bora clinchers. I was coming for Spook Hill in Somerset West towards the High School, there is a 4 way crossing, it was raining, I was doing about 45kmh, about 100m out I pulled the brakes and nothing happened, well not much. I ended up going straight over the stop street at speed and right there I decided it was time to move on. 28c tyres and discs.

 

There was also another scenario where we descending Stelvio and my mate had discs and he smoked the rest of us by minutes. We had arm pump, while he was having coffee in Bormio :D

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I was thinking about this during my deliberations as well. Your brakes can only work and slow you down as well as the traction/ friction between the tyres and the road surface. So if the road is damp/ wet, how would a higher brake force impacting on a wheel (discs) stop the wheel more quickly and not lose traction, as a good set of Swisstop pads will also easily be able to lock a rim brake? 

That is not the only factor though, else we would all still be driving with drum brakes on our cars, as even those can lock the wheels of cars. 

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It was a similar experience.

 

At the time I had a C60 with Bora clinchers. I was coming for Spook Hill in Somerset West towards the High School, there is a 4 way crossing, it was raining, I was doing about 45kmh, about 100m out I pulled the brakes and nothing happened, well not much. I ended up going straight over the stop street at speed and right there I decided it was time to move on. 28c tyres and discs.

 

There was also another scenario where we descending Stelvio and my mate had discs and he smoked the rest of us by minutes. We had arm pump, while he was having coffee in Bormio :D

 

These two examples show where discs are better than rims - in the wet and on long descents. For the majority of riders, especially in South Africa, the case for disc brakes isn't great as we will never use them to their full design potential and the additional weight that they add outweighs the additional performance (I am a fair weather rider and try avoid riding in the rain).

 

That being said...

 

Would I love a bike with disc brakes - hell yeah (they look fantastic!)

 

Am I going to go out and buy a bike with disc brakes - hell no (too expensive)!

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These two examples show where discs are better than rims - in the wet and on long descents. For the majority of riders, especially in South Africa, the case for disc brakes isn't great as we will never use them to their full design potential and the additional weight that they add outweighs the additional performance (I am a fair weather rider and try avoid riding in the rain).

 

That being said...

 

Would I love a bike with disc brakes - hell yeah (they look fantastic!)

 

Am I going to go out and buy a bike with disc brakes - hell no (too expensive)!

 

Yes and no, in my opinion.

 

For the average SA rider, the weight should not matter, most of us as MAMILs, take a pee if you must. I agree, if you are living in a mostly dry place, good ol aluminium rim brakes are plenty good. Its when you start with carbon wheels that I think it discs should become a consideration. 

 

They are more expensive though, I had to get a bleed and new pads for the back only on the weekend, the fluid came out :huh: , and it was £60. New pads is £15 and could be done at home. 

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I was thinking about this during my deliberations as well. Your brakes can only work and slow you down as well as the traction/ friction between the tyres and the road surface. So if the road is damp/ wet, how would a higher brake force impacting on a wheel (discs) stop the wheel more quickly and not lose traction, as a good set of Swisstop pads will also easily be able to lock a rim brake? 

 

As well as - size and surface area of the brakes.

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