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Why do I want disc brakes?

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Why do I want disc brakes?

Old 07-10-20, 04:15 PM
  #1  
bmcer
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Why do I want disc brakes?

The more I see of them in use by "regular" riders in the neighborhood, the more intrigued I've become. A lot of people site a number of reasons for liking them, "more stopping power", "better modulation", better performance in the wet", etc. While that certainly piques my interest, I've got to ask, "Is the different in braking performance worth the cost of n+1?" As far as braking "power", I can lock up both wheels easily with my existing rim brakes and since I'm a fair weather pavement rider almost exclusively, performance in adverse conditions isn't much of a concern.

Mind you, it's been a looong time since I've bought a bike and the idea does excite me. So go ahead... Convince me
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Old 07-10-20, 04:22 PM
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For me it was more about modulation than the ability to lock up a wheel (which I hope to avoid), and the greater confidence it gives me on prolonged, steep descents, as well as reducing hand fatigue from prolonged braking.

They are more expensive, more finicky to adjust and maintain, and in my case at least, I chew through pads and rotors fairly frequently, and the cost adds up.

If you have carbon rims, they are probably almost a necessity. If you ride off-road a lot, they are very reassuring to have. If you ride under wet conditions frequently, they are probably a safer option.

But remember, Occam's rotor can slit your throat.
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Old 07-10-20, 04:24 PM
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Personally, the only reason I would want discs is so the wheel rims don't get worn out. It seems like I'm wiping down rims fairly often to clean the rim eating grit off of them.
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Old 07-10-20, 04:25 PM
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rotors not only look cleaner, but I've found it easier to buy parts for that setup than the rim brake stuff. There seems to be a variety of rim brake styles that if you need a bracket, unique screw, or other fastener on short notice from servicing the pads & you drop something onto the grass, you might not be so lucky to find it locally.
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Old 07-10-20, 04:30 PM
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Disc brakes prevent your rims from getting worn out, especially when riding in dirty, gritty, wet environment such as gravel, dirt and snow. They also provide better braking when riding in winter weather when it's icy and snowy...Other than that there aren't really any advantages. If most of your riding is done in nice weather on clean pavement you don't need disc brakes. A properly adjusted rim brakes with good quality pads stop just as well as disc brakes.
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Old 07-10-20, 04:40 PM
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Another thought. If a spoke breaks and your wheel goes out of true, it would seem that a disc brake wouldn't be affected by this situation. While with a rim brake you might have to back off the adjustment (or remove a pad) just so you can ride back home.

Just speculation as I don't have disc brakes, but I have broken spokes.
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Old 07-10-20, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
Another thought. If a spoke breaks and your wheel goes out of true, it would seem that a disc brake wouldn't be affected by this situation. While with a rim brake you might have to back off the adjustment (or remove a pad) just so you can ride back home.

Just speculation as I don't have disc brakes, but I have broken spokes.
Truth. Broke a spoke on a disc brake bike and didn't even realize it till I got home about 30 miles later.
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Old 07-10-20, 05:29 PM
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As someone who has disc brakes on all the bikes that I currently ride, I can say that you don't need them for fair weather pavement riding.
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Old 07-10-20, 05:38 PM
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Because it's 2020 and you want another bike.
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Old 07-10-20, 05:43 PM
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"Why do I want disc brakes?" hahaha! to ensure the service department at your lbs stays busy! This week I have bled 5 hydro brakes, replaced 6 sets of pads, and replaced 4 brake sets due to the OEM being pieces of crap from the start. I hate them and love them at the same time as I make more money working on them, but they take a whole lot more time to work on than good ol' rim brakes.

Me? Had disc brakes once, no more.
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Old 07-10-20, 05:47 PM
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Why do you want brakes that are heavier, less aero, uglier, don't stop your bike any faster, more expensive, and that will squeal like a stuck pig? Good question.
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Old 07-10-20, 06:01 PM
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Another advantage of disc brakes is being able to swap wheel sizes. I swap between 700c and 650b wheels on my gravel bike. The smaller wheels allow wider tires and slightly lower gearing for rougher trails.

The broken spoke advantage is real, especially when touring. Nice not having to disconnect a brake to keep riding. discs provide better mud clearance. Discs make wheel changes quicker as well, no worry about releasing the cable to clear wide tires.

I honestly don't understand the comments about disc brakes being high maintenance. I have TRP Spyres on the gravel bike and BB7's on two others. The Spyres are the easiest brake I've ever set up, bar none. None of my brakes squeal. You do have to be careful to not get oil, even from your fingers, on the rotors. But that is not very limiting.

I don't think the discs stop any better than the rim brakes in dry conditions. Wet is a different matter.

Last edited by Pop N Wood; 07-10-20 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 07-10-20, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
I don't think the discs stop any better than the rim brakes in dry conditions. Wet is a different matter.
I think they absolutely stop better on long, steep descents. At the very least, I feel much more confident going down a steep hill at 40+ mph with good hydraulic disc brakes than I do with any rim brake I've ever had.
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Old 07-10-20, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Jimmy Wisdom View Post
I think they absolutely stop better on long, steep descents. At the very least, I feel much more confident going down a steep hill at 40+ mph with good hydraulic disc brakes than I do with any rim brake I've ever had.
I love hydros. But those give a better feel, not necessarily more stopping power.

I have V brakes on an ebike. Bike hits 40 mph on the level, weights over 300# with me on it and the V brakes have zero issues dragging me to a halt. I tend to not brake much going down hill, like to save the battery
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Old 07-10-20, 06:34 PM
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i dont miss the days that it seemed like I was always adjusting the rim brakes every other ride. Rotors, maybe once in a couple of years? I don't ride the brakes like some might. I try to plan ahead to limit unnecessary braking.
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Old 07-10-20, 06:42 PM
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Why you'd want 'em:
1. you swap between 650b and 700c wheels
2. You ride in wet weather
3. You ride in dusty, muddy or otherwise gritty conditions with carbon rims
4. You do long mountain descents and want to keep your speed down with long braking efforts
5. You think it will help resale if you decide to sell the bike later
Why you wouldn't:
1. None of the above apply
2. You want the lightest bike possible
3. You want to spend less
4. You don't want to deal with hydraulics or learning maintenance on a new system
5. You ride rim brakes in the conditions you'd ride disc brakes, and you're happy with rim brakes
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Old 07-10-20, 06:42 PM
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If you ride descents, there's a good case for disc breaks right there.
If you have carbon rims, there's another reason.
If you ride flats at moderate speeds, the difference in the the performance of disc brakes and rim brakes is less pronounced.
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Old 07-10-20, 06:59 PM
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If you wait another year you may not have to decide....
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Old 07-10-20, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by bmcer View Post
I've got to ask, "Is the different in braking performance worth the cost of n+1?"
My previous bike had rim brakes and I was completely happy with the braking performance. I wanted to get a gravel bike with a carbon frame, and there was no option. So, I have disk brakes. I don't know if they are worth the price, but given what else I wanted in a new bike, every bike from every manufacturer came with disk brakes. Could be that lots of people who have disk brakes have them for the same reason. In a certain category of bike, rim brakes are not an option.
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Old 07-10-20, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Random11 View Post
My previous bike had rim brakes and I was completely happy with the braking performance. I wanted to get a gravel bike with a carbon frame, and there was no option. So, I have disk brakes. I don't know if they are worth the price, but given what else I wanted in a new bike, every bike from every manufacturer came with disk brakes. Could be that lots of people who have disk brakes have them for the same reason. Isa brakes are n a certain category of bike, rim brakes are not an option.
As far as I can tell disc brakes are preferred by some gravel riders because of the increased clearance in the forks you get without the rim brakes / calipers limiting your options for tire size. I think it's less of a concern on road riding because the range of tire sizing doesn't vary as widely for road riding as it does for offload riding.
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Old 07-10-20, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by bmcer View Post
The more I see of them in use by "regular" riders in the neighborhood, the more intrigued I've become.
"Regular" riders have their own experiences with bikes. Many if not most of them have ridden bikes with low quality rim brakes that were never in good condition or adjustment since the day they brought the bike home. I've had people swear to me that disk brakes are so much more secure and reliable that it's like night and day, and they don't feel safe on a rim brake bike any more. This is with both mechanicals and hydraulics. All of the technical arguments go out the window. If I assure them that my rim brakes work just fine, they don't believe me and assume that enthusiasts put up with a lot of modern inconveniences for the sake of a hobby. Many of these people are engineers. Many people are skeptical of enthusiasts. Have you ever tried to get straightforward advice from an enthusiast, on a camera, or a stereo? You know what I mean.

And I've serviced bikes with cheap rim brakes, so I'm not shocked by their stories.

I think it's important for enthusiasts to get a glimpse of how the "other half" lives. Now, why do you want disc brakes? That's a whole nother story. Again for most people, they buy a bike that they like at a cost the're willing to pay, and will use whatever brakes came with it.

Last edited by Gresp15C; 07-10-20 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 07-10-20, 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by ljsense View Post
4. You don't want to deal with hydraulics or learning maintenance on a new system
Disc brakes also come with fully mechanical option!

Then there are $100 brand new MTBs with hydraulic disc brakes on them. It makes you think why would hydraulic disc brakes would come standard on $100 bikes!
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Old 07-10-20, 08:46 PM
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Many thanks to all who contributed!! I've had some time to think this whole thing through a bit more carefully. Truth be known, the Canyon I'm looking at has more going for it for me than just the brakes. It does offer both the low end gearing and the relaxed geometry more appropriate to my age group, what I get out of riding,, and frankly, my current abilities. It does so at a price point I can stomach on a fixed income. I'm still coming off a significant pelvic fracture, so there's time to consider options. Again, thanks y'all!
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Old 07-10-20, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
"Why do I want disc brakes?" hahaha! to ensure the service department at your lbs stays busy! This week I have bled 5 hydro brakes,
That's why I run BB7.
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Old 07-10-20, 09:04 PM
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being that you can get thousands of miles of use out of a standard rim brake setup and a well set up rim brake still performs exceptionally well, you don't neeeeed disc brakes. but upgrade-itis can be powerful. since everyone has outlined all the benefits, i'll just add a list of cons that i've had to deal with from experience on the mtb side.
  • brake squeal - when you get oil on your rotors or pads you'll get a high pitched squeal any time you brake. for this reason, you should keep things clean with alcohol after every few rides. even oils from your sweat can contaminate. it's easier to clean oil off of rotors and harder to clean oil off your pads. brake squeal is also more common with higher metallic pads. brake performance is minimally affected, but the sound can get annoying.
  • rotor true - probably less likely on road riding as there aren't risks of bashing your rotor against rocks or roots or crashes, but your rotors are subject to getting bent and then have to be bent back into shape. this will affect braking performance.
  • bad bleeds - if you get air, foreign materials or water trapped in your hose line from a bad bleed, your braking performance will go to ****. cleaning a compromised line is a headache, but completely necessary if this happens.
  • pad lock - if you take your wheel off for any long period of time (storage etc.) you need to remember to shim your pads or else they will lock closed and you'll spend an hour cussing as you work to reset your pads before your next ride.
that all being said, i love disc brakes. i've had and maintained disc brakes on my mountain bikes for a decade. the braking performance is just so much better, even given all the hassles mentioned. all my road bikes are rim brakes but if ever i purchase a new road bike it will be disc compatible. part of this is also because i see the industry phasing out rim brakes in the future.
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