Most bike enthusiasts and professional bikers tend to get stuck when the brake design is to be decided. They usually end up asking “Which is better?” Or “Are disc brakes on road bikes worth it?”
Yes, but it depends on your preference. Bike riders that aren’t too concerned with speed are usually inclined to choose the disc brakes over the rim brakes. This is due to the precise weather-proof stopping power it provides. Rim brake on the other hand is a viable alternative. That appeals to speedsters due to their light and aerodynamic design compared to the heavy disc brakes.
Another fact is that rim brake bikes tend to cost less and it’s also easier to fix. So bikers with little Budget are also inclined to buy rim brakes instead.
Disc vs Rim For Road Bike: Which Brake is Best??
There are various reasons why the disc brakes are hot cake in today’s market. And there also reasons why not everyone chooses them. Here are the facts:
Benefits of Disc Brakes:
Compared to rim brakes, the disc brake generates a more powerful and precise stop. This enables you to have more control of your speed as you tread on both flat roads and descent downhills. This is possible due to where the braking force is applied on the road bike wheel which is the rotor.
Also, the disc brake offers such a powerful stop that it requires minimal effort from you (hand strength) to completely stop the wheels from moving.
Note: you can customize the power of your disc brake by changing the braking disc rotor size. The larger the disc rotor, the stronger the stop. And vice versa.
Disc brakes solve one of the most common issues experienced with the rim brakes and that is consistent braking. How? If you’ve ridden a bike as a child, you should remember how strenuous it was for your hands. As you’d have to squeeze the hand brakes along with the handlebars just to end up with inconsistent braking.
It is different from the lever-equipped disc brake, as it provides consistent braking with less effort. Thus making it easy for you to judge and decide the amount of force you need to apply while you tread.
- Less Wear or Tear
Rim brakes may require lots of friction to fully stop the wheels from moving. In turn to this, more heat is generated on the rim and thus the inner tube of the tires begins to wear. The disc brake does not allow this. Because the point of braking is on the rotor instead of the rim. This means it’s far away from damaging the tire.
- Offers More Options
A rim braking system requires the use of calipers on the side of the rims. This feature affects the tire size you wish to implement on your bike. Disc brakes, on the other hand, works for all tire sizes. Thus giving you the freedom to choose any tire size you desire.
- Great for wet conditions
Another advantage that the disc brake has over the rim brake is the ability to remain effective under wet conditions. You could be treading under the rain or tread over a deep wet puddle, the disc braking will not fail you.
How? The disc brake stops the wheels via the rotor. Where it is also self-contained from wet weather conditions.
This prevents the delay in braking which usually occurs in a rim braking system. Where it requires the brake pads to eliminate water from the rim before a frictional force from the braking pad can be applied effectively.
Cons of Disc Brakes:
Acquiring disc brakes can be heavy on your budget as it usually charges 3 times the price of rim brakes. Apart from its initial price, maintaining the disc braking system is quite expensive as well. Not to mention very difficult to replace.
It Weighs More
If you’re looking to make your bike light enough for speed, then the disc braking system isn’t a suitable option for you. Why? It adds more weight to your bike.
Difficult To Maintain
Take the hydraulic disc braking system for example. If air bubbles are present in its sealed system then some problems such as inconsistent braking or total brake failure may arise. Fixing such a system is very difficult and expensive.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a rim braking:
They are Lighter and more aerodynamic
Rim brakes make bikes a lot lighter and easily maneuverable than disc brakes. You can find them installed in most mountain bikes.
Easier to fix
Compared to disc brakes, the rim brakes are a lot easier to fix. As the braking system consists of calipers and braking pads fixed on the outside of the wheels. Which can be easily replaced after wearing out or getting damaged.
The cost of rim bikes is very low, compared to the disc bikes for many reasons.
The rim braking system may require a significant amount of hand strength to stop your bike, depending on the where and how you tread. It could require a lot of force from you, especially when you descend. In the end, you’ll be unable to effectively judge when and how to apply the brakes.
The rim braking system takes a little more time and effort to stop the wheels from moving. Thus, making the rim brakes a lot harder and uncomfortable to ride with when descending.
The rim braking system consists of calipers that attach braking pads to the bike rims via calipers. The calipers are a fixed part of the bike that fits certain sizes of tires rather than just any size. So your choice of tire size is bound to be restricted.
Wear and Tear
Another regret with using a rim brake is the occurrence of wear and tear. It can happen in the brake pads which is normal as it’s caused by long term use. It can also happen within the rim, where the inner tubes of the tire will wear out. Which is a result of excess heat build-up by friction caused by the brake pads.
How Does a Bike Disc Brakes Work?
To clearly understand how disc brakes work you need to know the simple working principle of a road bike braking system.
How does it work?
A bike braking system is a hand-lever operated system that activates the brake pad to create adequate friction upon a braking surface for the purpose of stopping a wheel.
Disc brakes work in a similar manner but with a significant difference such as the position of the braking surface (rotor). Which is located at the center of the wheel, instead of the outer edge of the wheel (rim brake).
Also, the disc brake uses pistons to push the brake pads onto the rotor. Which is why disc brakes require little hand-strength from the user.
What Are The Types of Disc Brake?
There are two main types of disc brakes and the difference is how the force is applied via the lever is transferred onto the rotor.
We have the:
- Hydraulic disc brake
- Mechanical disc brake
Hydraulic Disc Brake
This is considered the best out of the two as it ensures more consistent braking. This is possible due to its sealed filled fluid system used to apply the braking pads onto the braking surface (rotor). Causing less friction.
Mechanical Disc Brake
This type of disc braking system makes use of a steel braided cable to control pistons. It enables timely contact between the braking pad and the rotor in order to stop your bike
How Do You Maintain Disc Brakes On A Bike?
Disc brakes may not need that much maintenance, especially the hydraulic disc brake. This is so because the sealed hydraulic braking system consists of a hose that moves the hydraulic fluid straight to the caliper that controls the braking pad.
The hydraulic brake can be faulty and it’s most likely due to the air bubbles in the sealed fluid system. Fixing it will require getting rid of the air bubbles. And it’s done by bleeding the system out of its fluid and refilling it.
The mechanical disc brakes are different as they consist of steel-braided cable connected to pistons. The cables are more likely to get clogged up by dirt or get broken.
Fixing such will require cleaning up the built-up dirt and grimes or totally replacing the cable.
Which Brake Is Best?
At the end of the day, the best braking system for you depends on your preference. If you’re looking for speed, low cost of maintenance, and a cheaper system, then the rim braking system is for you. But if you aren’t into speed and you’re just looking for something easy to brake with, then the disc braking system is for you. It is more powerful and responsive than the rim brake.