The last decade has seen significant innovations in the road bikes. Carbon fiber frames have become mainstream, and the gear shifting has gone all electronic. Innovations like these, which improve the speed and performance of the bike, are more popular with the buyers. On the other hand, the stopping power of the bike does not get its due attention. Yet, there have been some strides made in this area, and disc brakes are slowly, but steadily gaining mainstream acceptability. So, if you are buying a new bike and wondering whether to pick disc brakes or rim brakes, then this comparison guide will help you make a better decision.
There are no two ways about it. Disc brakes are unmatched in their braking performance. No matter what conditions – wind, rain, snow, mud etc. – disc brakes provide awesome stopping power. Moreover, the rider does not even have to exert much power. A single finger is often enough to bring it to a halt within a decent distance. On the other hand, rim brakes do not work quite well in wet conditions, and also require the rider to exert considerable force.
The initial investment into only disk brakes is not significantly higher, but there are other costs that come with it. A bike that has disc brakes requires sturdier forks as they put more stress on one side, and also requires higher quality rims. When rim brakes wear out, the cost of replacement is minimal. When disc brakes wear out, the cost of replacement is comparatively higher. Disc brakes make up for all this by offering some unique advantages. Unlike rim brakes, disc brakes do not wear the rims. Also, they do not heat the rims and cause tire blowouts during long descents. On the overall, it is clear that disc brakes cost higher in the long run.
Installation and Maintenance
Installation of rim brakes is a breeze and hardly requires 5 minutes. The brake shoes are properly fitted and pointing in the right direction. Even if there are minor faults in its position, the brakes work just fine. When they wear out, changing them is easy as well. But, mechanical disc brakes are a different category altogether. Firstly, they are a pain to install. Even minor faults during installation are not allowed and everything has to be perfect. Although hydraulic disc brakes can be easily installed, their regular maintenance is extra work. They will need frequent cleaning, changing of hydraulic fluid, and so on.
Right now, rim brakes win on this factor hands down. They can be fitted on practically any type of road bike without much fuss. The wheels of such bikes can be replaced easily, without worrying about the brake. The same is not true of disc brakes. As disc brakes sit in the center of the wheels, the wheel design plays a role too. Bikes that feature disc brakes either have quick release wheels or thru axle wheels. There are a variety of disc sizes in the market too. All of this puts a lot of limitations on aftermarket options in the wheel department, if the bike has disc brakes.
Disc brakes sure look a lot cooler than rim brakes. But, whether they are actually desirable on your vehicle, depends on how much time and money you are ready to spend on them, and how much braking power you really need.