Road Bikes: Rim Brakes Vs. Disc Brakes

 

rim-v-disc

The last decade or so has seen some massive changes for road bikes. The mainstream shift from aluminum to carbon fiber in the 2000’s marked the beginning of a new era in bike design, while the introduction of electronic drivetrains in the last 5 years or so has seen a fundamental rethinking of how bikes shift. But what about how bikes stop?

It started slowly. Very slowly, in fact. But in the last year or two, disc brakes on road bikes have really caught on, and are set to create yet another revolution. As always, there are fits and starts, and not everybody is on board (we’re looking at you, UCI), but like most changes, this one is gaining momentum.

Over the last year we’ve had a chance to test ride quite a few disc brake road bikes. Here’s how we thought they fared versus standard rim brakes.

STOPPING POWER

Disc brakes. There is no question about this. Disc brakes deliver incredible stopping power in pretty much all weather conditions. What’s more, that power is easily modulated, which means it’s easier to control how much brake you need at any given time. Often times no more than one-finger  is needed to stop the bike in a reasonable distance.

Rim brakes, especially with carbon wheels, can sometimes take a little bit to really bite into the rim and slow the bike. This is doubly true if your pads are worn or dirty.

The upward slant of the chainstay helps to minimize hits from bad roads, and helps perfectly position the disc caliper

Disc brakes provide superior stopping power and modulation over rim brakes

Shop for disc brake road bikes

COMPATIBILITY

Rim brakes—for now. Disc brakes are still going through growing pains, and in an industry where the term “standard” is pretty much meaningless, that can mean some headaches for consumers. Some disc brake bikes come with standard quick release wheels, some use thru axle. There are all different kinds of rotor sizes out there, and aftermarket wheel options are still fairly limited.

But these are actually fairly minor problems.

This year will pretty much guarantee a bumper crop of disc brake wheel options, and most of those will be interchangeable between QR and thru axle, making them more versatile for consumers.

ridley_helium_06

For the moment, rim brakes have fewer compatibility issues than disc brakes

Shop for road bikes

WET WEATHER

Disc brakes. This is a no brainer. No matter what is falling from the sky or laying on the roads, disc brakes don’t care. Snow, ice, and rain don’t have much of an effect on disc brakes—regardless of rim material.

Wet weather conditions can severely limit the effectiveness of rim brakes, especially carbon wheels.

DSC_0686

If you’re riding in wet weather, there’s only one way to go when it comes to brakes

Shop for disc brake road bikes

EASE OF INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE

Rim brakes. Frankly, these are pretty easy. Make sure they’re facing the right way, bolt them on, make sure they’re roughly centered and go. Every other year or so you change the pads.

Disc brakes…not so much. Mechanical disc brakes can be notoriously frustrating to install and get centered so they aren’t rubbing the disc rotor. Hydraulic disc brakes are easier to install, but maintenance can be an involved and time consuming, since you have to bleed the lines, replace hydraulic fluid, etc…

fenix_03

For all their benefits, disc brakes aren’t always as easy to maintain as rim brakes

Shop for road bikes

WEIGHT AND AERODYNAMICS

Rim brakes. Because of the simple design, rim brakes are currently much, much lighter than any available disc brake system.

And, because of where the brake is placed, disc brakes are also much less aerodynamic than rim brakes.

Bear in mind though that this is  likely to change in the next couple of years. As disc brakes become more widely adopted and pressure builds to use them in racing, the industry is likely to begin refining the designs to be lighter, and better incorporated into frames for improved aerodynamics.

fuji_altamira_sl_007

What they lack in stopping power, rim brakes make up for in weight savings and aerodynamics

Shop for road bikes

THE VERDICT

More than any other decision, this is going to be a very personal choice. Disc brakes offer unquestionably better and more consistent stopping power than rim brakes, but at a cost of weight and aerodynamics, and they are still not yet race-legal.

It’s all a matter of what’s most important to you—and we don’t mean stopping power (that’s important to everyone).

What we mean is that if you love racing, fast road riding, and having plenty of wheel options, then it might be best to stick with rim brakes for the time being.

If you’re just looking for a road bike to ride for the love of riding, like to explore gravel roads, bomb big descents, ride in an area that experiences frequent bad weather, or even for racers looking for a second road bike for training and base miles, then disc brakes are probably the better option.

Without question though, disc brakes are the way forward—so love them or hate them, odds are in the next 5 years, most road bikes will be equipped with them.

So tell us your thoughts. What do you think about using disc brakes on road bikes?

4 Articles To Get You Through The Holidays

Happy Holidays from Performance Bicycle! We hope you’re enjoying the time with friends and family.

But like you, we’re starting to crave some bike time. Realistically though, that’s not going to happen for a few more days. So we went back through the blog and found some of our favorite articles that got us pumped to start get out and ride…or at least some motivation to avoid the cookie tray next time.

1. 5 Tips for Cold Weather Riding

No matter how cold it is, follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy a ride outside.

fall_clothing_012

2. Cyclists Guide To Surviving the Holidays—2015

Family time, food, and booze. Follow these tips to ensure you start the new year in (close to) good shape.

Thanksgiving_17

3. Build a Home Gym On A Budget

Not feeling the outside riding? You can still get in a good work out, by building a complete home gym for as little as $250.

The foam roller is one of the best recovery tools available to any athlete

The foam roller is one of the best recovery tools available to any athlete

4. Alternative Road Bikes

Didn’t get the bike you wanted? Maybe this is your chance to get the bike you need. Today’s alternative road bikes are tough, faster, and more capable than ever.

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

The GT Grade is one of the most exciting gravel bikes yet

2015 Exclusive Bike Preview

Just in time for the holidays, we’ve managed to get our hands on three new bikes that just showed up at our headquarters. Two road offerings from Ridley and Scattante, and a brand-new mountain bike from Charge. These bikes are all exclusive to Performance, so you won’t find them anywhere else.

 

RIDLEY ORION

First up we have the Ridley Orion. The Orion is one of Ridley’s most successful bikes ever, and was the foundation for what would become the pro-level Ridley Fenix. Built with 24-ton high modulus carbon fiber diamond-shaped tubing for incredible strength and rigidity while riding, the Orion is bike that’s been proven again and again on the cobbles of Flanders and Northern France (it even has a sticker that says “Tested On Pave”—and they really mean that).

The Ridley Orion—exclusively available from Performance Bicycle—is outfitted with 11-speed Shimano Ultegra 6800 shifters and rear derailleur, with a new 5800-series 105 front derailleur. FSA supplies the crank, and Ridley’s own 4Za brand supplies the stem, handlebars, seatpost and saddle.

This is a great bike for an aspiring racer, a club rider, or someone who wants one bike that can do it all. With a race-proven pedigree, high performance parts, and an all-day endurance geometry, the Orion is a bike that will provide a smooth, comfortable, and fast ride.

 

 

 SCATTANTE CFR ELITE

Next up we have the Scattante CFR Elite. Classic black and a touch of what we’ll call future-blue; the Scattante CFR Elite features a balanced Shimano 105 11-speed build on a gorgeous carbon frame set. The frame furnishes a tapered head tube for added control and stiffness and internally routed cables offer clean, modern style. A full carbon fork and steerer simultaneously lightens the front end and dampens road vibration.

Outfitted with Shimano’s new 5800 11-speed 105, you know you’ll get great, race-proven performance in your shifting. Descended from the pro-level Dura-Ace 9000 and Ultegra 6800 groupsets, 5800 brings updated ergonomics and functionality at an outstanding value. The ScMT CFR LE frame provides a stiff, stable, and lightweight ride platform that make the miles fly by while keeping you comfortable on those long rides.

The Scattante CFR Elite is perfect for the rider who’s looking for high performance at a great value.

 

CHARGE COOKER

Finally, the all-new Charge Cooker is one of the best aluminum 29er’s we’ve seen in a long time. Charge is always keeping classic and stylish, but the 2015 Cooker—exclusively from Performance—takes their signature flair to a whole new level.

The Cooker rocks a lightweight and durable 6061 Series butted aluminum frame with a tapered head tube that is rigid enough to withstand any trail, and the RockShox 30 GOLD TK fork assists by offering 100 mm of travel in the front to give you confidence during descent and features Solo Air technology that allows you to fill both the positive and negative air spring chambers of the suspension through a single Schrader valve, making fork adjustments a cinch.

The Cooker drivetrain also consists of handpicked Shimano components, including Shimano SLX shifters to filter through the 20 gearing options. A Shimano Deore front derailleur and Shimano XT Shadow Plus rear derailleur promote responsive shifting by sucking up slack and preserve the pivots for greater durability over the long-term. The Shimano BR-M355 hydraulic disc brake system is reliable in all weather conditions, provides control in the corners, and excellent stopping power when obstacles get a little too close for comfort.

Simplicity is the name of the game here, so you’re a seasoned pro looking for a durable, do-it-all aluminum 29er, or a newer rider looking for a bike that’s lightweight, stable, and can brush off a crash or two, the Cooker is the ride for you.

 

CX ’15 Preview #1: Van Dessel Aloominator

Smell that? That’s right… ‘cross is coming*. And if you don’t know what to smell for, it’s the scent of crisp fall air, mud, french fries (a.k.a. frites), tubular glue, embrocation, and post-race Belgian beer. While most of us may feel like summer just got here, many riders are already looking forward to crisp autumn days when they can ride their bikes around a muddy field while people ring cowbells and yell at them.

*If you’re not sure what cyclocross is or what all the fuss is about, check out our article here.

And to help get you even more pumped, we’ll be giving you some previews of the hottest new cyclocross bikes and technology for this upcoming season. Everything from Van Dessels that were handmade in Portland, Oregon U.S.A., to SRAM CX 1, to the newest high-tech Ridleys fresh in from Flanders.

van_dessel_aloominator

First up, we’re taking a look at the Van Dessel Aloominator.

Van Dessel is a small operation out of New Jersey, run by former racer (and real life Belgian) Edwin Bull. Like most guys who raced in Belgium, Edwin developed an undying love for cyclocross, which has seen him spend the last decade or so pursuing the ultimate CX machine. His earlier Gin and Trombones and Full Tilt Boogie bikes quickly become ‘cross classics, and to ride one was to experience ultimate performance.

The essence of what sets the Aloominator apart is the frame. Each and every Aloominator is made in Portland, Oregon—arguably the homeland of American cyclocross. Finding a production frame that’s made in the U.S. is a rarity these days, but it’s something that Van Dessel felt was important, and they’ve worked hard to make something special that performs well under the worst conditions, and that’s also affordable.

The Aloominator has a durable powdercoat finish so you don’t have to worry about chipping the paint, and comes equipped with an Easton EC90XD disc-brake fork. Of course it would be a shame to build up a Made in the U.S. of A. frame anything but the best parts, which is why the Aloominator comes equipped with FSA SL-K stem and seatpost, FSA Energy handlebar, FSA SL-K CX crankset, Prologo Scratch Pro saddle, and Shimano Ultegra 11-speed components.

Check out more in our gallery below, and check back soon to see more CX ’15 product previews.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 186 other followers

%d bloggers like this: