Disc Brakes have been used on road bikes for some time now, on both amateur bikes and those riding professionally. Rim brakes do remain popular with many cyclists, especially traditionalist road cyclists - and rim brakes are in no way on their way out, they are quite rightly here to stay.
In this post, we look at the advantages and disadvantages of using disc brakes on road bikes, as well as looking at the benefits and disadvantages of using Rim Brakes.
Difference between Disc Brakes & Rim Brakes
All bike brakes work in the same way - a pad is applied against the surface of the wheel. Rim brake pads apply pressure to the rim of the wheel, whilst disc brakes apply the pad to a rotor in the middle of the wheel.
Disc Brake Advantages
Wet Weather Performance
One of the biggest areas where disc brakes out perform rim brakes, is their performance in wet weather. Disc Brakes provide a much more consistent and reliable performance compared to rim brakes. Another advantage of disc brakes, is that riders do not have to listen to the squelching and gritty sound of a wet rim brake.
As well as being more effective in wet weather, less pressure has to be applied to the brake levers thanks to the efficient performance. This means that there is less fatigue and effort required.
Disc brakes also eliminate the slight delay that rim brakes have when riding in the wet, where the pad displaces water on it before gripping the rim of the wheel.
Disc Brakes provide a far greater brake force output compared to normal rim brakes - meaning less pressure has to be applied to the brake levers - which is really useful on long descents where braking needs to be carried out almost constantly, in order to remain at a safe speed.
A higher braking performance also means that disc brakes can also be used later than rim brakes, meaning that a rider can spend more time travelling at a higher speed, which creates better times.
Less Wear & Tear
Rim Brakes cause greater wear on the rim of a bike wheel, compared to disc brakes. This wear and tear is accelerated during the winter months, where the rim pads pick up dirt and grime from the surface of the road. Disc Brakes are away from the rim of the bike, meaning that there is less heat and friction of the wheel, which means there is less likelihood of damage to the tyre of the bike.
Vulnerability to Damage
If the bike rim is damaged when out riding, rim brakes are immediately affected when the wheel is bent out of shape - requiring immediate repair for effective braking. Disc brakes, away from the rim of the wheel remain unaffected in the event of wheel damage. Disc brakes continue to work when the wheel is slightly bent out of shape.
As a disc brake bike does not use the bike rim for braking, a wider tyre and wheel can be fitted and used - providing advantages to the rider, including increased comfort and grip. The increased clearance of disc brake equipped road bikes also means that mudguards can be fitted easier.
Rim Brake Advantages
Rim brakes are lighter than disc brakes, making them a popular choice for those looking for the lightest possible road bike. Although this is not a huge issue for most recreational riders, for those looking for the fastest possible times - this can make a difference.
Rim Brakes are far cheaper than disc brakes to replace, and even though they are worn out quicker than disc brakes, they remain the cheaper option.
Although disc brakes require less day to day maintenance, if something goes wrong with disc brakes - they are costlier, and more difficult to fix and replace.
Mixed Use & Requirements
If you ride on a road bike with disc brakes, but ride with others in your group with rim brakes - riding with them can become dangerous, with different bikes providing different braking speeds and effectiveness, potentially causing an accident.
Should I Choose Disc Brakes or Rim Brakes
As with anything - what you choose to use on your bike is personal preference. Many riders have traditionally used rim brakes on their bikes and see no reason to change this - finding rim brakes more than capable of providing all of the braking performance they need, with the added benefit of being cheap to replace and easy to maintain.
Having said that, disc brakes when used on road bikes certainly have an appeal - their reliable and powerful performance provide extra security for the rider, especially in wet weather conditions. In our opinion, the extra performance provided by disc brakes, more than outrank any negatives.
In the shop and online sales, we see our customers sticking with disc brake road bikes once they first take the plunge.
Disc Brake Road Bikes Online
At Westbrook, we stock and supply an excellent range of Disc Brake Road Bikes - all of which have been handpicked from the world’s leading bike brands. You can view the full range here, and as always - if you have any questions about the range, or what bike best fits your requirements - please do get in touch and we will be more than happy to help.