Friday, August 25, 2017

Rims Vs. Discs

Since I started this blog, I've written about the disc brake vs. rim brake arguments a bunch of times, but it's been awhile, and think of how much has changed on the subject just in the last couple of years. In 2013, disc brakes were rapidly taking over on mountain bikes, but on road bikes, discs were still in their infancy. Today, it's beginning to look more and more like the days for rim brakes are numbered, including for road bikes. Even Campagnolo recently launched their own disc brake system. The professional teams are still debating whether or not to make the switch, but they're still doing "trials," enduring some protests, and going through a few growing pains. But on road bikes for the non-professionals, we're starting to see discs gain the upper hand, and I figure it's only a matter of time before discs supplant rim brakes on road and racing bikes entirely. I'm still not convinced that's a good thing, but I believe it's inevitable.

I saw a post on the Velo-Orange Blog a couple of months ago about The Great Brake Debate. I'm a fan of V-O as being a good source for practical and proven components and gear for non-racers - and I'll bet a lot of Retrogouch readers are probably in the same camp. Well, V-O now offers a couple of their very practical frames with accommodations for disc brakes. The "Debate" post was a brief look at some advantages of the two systems and didn't really pick sides - but there are a few dozen comments on the post where people weigh in on the systems. Opinions seemed pretty divided.

Okay - now here's a shocker. I've recently been trying out a decidedly non-retrogrouchy bike equipped with disc brakes -- kind of a long-term trial (long story - don't ask for details, 'cause it really doesn't matter). I'm trying to decide if it's going to become a permanent part of the fleet. I had rented bikes with disc brakes a couple of times in the past and been underwhelmed, but now I've had a chance to get some more meaningful experience with them. For the record, I currently have bikes in my stable with vintage (70s - 80s era) single-pivot sidepulls, modern dual-pivot sidepulls, vintage centerpulls, traditional wide-profile cantilevers, low-profile cantilevers, U-brakes (basically a type of brazed-on centerpull -- as mounted on my tandem) and V-brakes (aka direct-pull cantilevers). That means I get to use and compare pretty much every type of brake that's been used on bikes over the past 50 years or more right out of my own garage. I should note that any vintage brakes I use have been updated with modern brake pads, which is something I highly recommend.

I still don't have a final verdict on discs - but so far I haven't found anything to really change my mind. Here are some observations:

Wide profile cantis.
Wet weather: Without a doubt, the main advantage of discs comes with wet road conditions. That's not really a surprise. With rim brakes in the rain, there can sometimes be a brief sense of panic when you pull the brake lever and there's a moment where it seems like nothing is happening. I'm sure we've all been there. It lasts roughly the distance it takes for the wheels to make a full revolution - or about the circumference of the wheel, but it can feel like forever. The brake pads essentially have to "squeegee" the rim before they can really get a grip. The phenomenon is much improved with good aluminum rims compared to old chrome-plated steel rims of the past - but it can still be a little scary sometimes. Discs obviously aren't affected by rain as much since the disc brake surface isn't sloshing through the puddles, and the pads can clear water off the disc much more quickly than with rim brakes. Score one for discs.

Dry weather: I honestly don't really sense a big difference in braking when it's dry. It's really hard for a lone person to measure things like stopping distances precisely and do side-by-side comparisons, but it really feels to me like any difference in stopping distance is small enough to make no appreciable difference at all. If you never ride in the rain (or at least, never intentionally) then it still seems to me that disc brakes don't really have an advantage here.

Stopping power: That's something that gets thrown around A LOT by disc brake cheerleaders -- that disc brakes have "so much more" stopping power. "Superior stopping power." "Incredible power." "It's an indisputable fact," they say. People make the claim and repeat the claim so much that it seems to be accepted without any proof (or perhaps even despite proof). It's a "begging the question" fallacy. The fact is, today's rim brakes - whether we're talking about side-pulls, center-pulls, cantilevers, or V-brakes - all have the power to lock up a wheel easily. The braking is probably affected more by the type of rim and the brake pad than by the particular brake design. That is, chrome-steel rims are pretty lousy brake surfaces (but then again, they're also really rare nowadays) and every report I've seen on carbon fiber rims says that they're not a whole lot better. But with aluminum rims and decent brake pads, even inexpensive brakes can lock up a wheel. It's a basic fact that once a brake locks up, it has met and exceeded the maximum braking power possible. You can't exceed "locked up."

So what the hell are all these disc cheerleaders talking about? I think what a lot of people describe as "superior braking power" is a misinterpretation of the sensation between the input or force they apply to the brake lever, and the perceived stopping action they get from the brakes. Disc brakes seem to be able to apply a lot of stopping power with little effort or force on the brake lever. It's not really that there's more stopping power (there can't be), but rather, that one can get that power with less effort. I suppose this would be a good advantage for someone who has smaller hands, or whose hands aren't as strong.

These old Campy brakes will lock up
the wheel, but it takes some effort to do it.
The thing is, however, that this isn't just a "rim vs. discs" phenomenon. One can experience the same kind of difference between different types of rim brakes. For example, the old single-pivot sidepulls I have on some of my vintage bikes can still stop the bike perfectly well and in a hurry if necessary. But most of them tend to require more force on the levers than the modern dual-pivots. The modern dual-pivot sidepull brakes can stop the bike with a lot less effort - even with hands on the tops of the levers. V-brakes have so much mechanical advantage that most of them require special brake levers (they have to match the amount of cable pull, or else the lever can bottom out against the bar before the brake pads hit the rim!). If I had to rank the brakes in my stable from "hardest" to "easiest" in terms of effort, I'd say that the old Campagnolo side pulls take the most effort, while the V-brakes and the disc brakes are the easiest. I've seen where Rivendell's Grant Petersen even puts V-brakes ahead of discs in that regard, but to me (at least with the examples I've tried) it's kind of a toss-up. The modern dual-pivot side pulls are close behind those, and the various cantilevers are somewhere in the middle.

Another thing I notice is that centerpulls and cantis can offer good power and modulation - but there are some factors in setup that can affect it. Centerpulls, especially long-reach ones that mount with a center bolt above the wheel, can flex quite a bit. U-brakes, or brazed-on centerpulls, will flex less, wasting less energy. But with both of those, as well as with cantilevers, flex can still crop up either through the extra cable used (the yoke and straddle cables, for instance) or even at the cable stop (some cable stops are pretty wimpy, whereas a thick forged one can firm up braking a lot). That flex can make the brakes feel a little bit spongy under hard braking -- but again, they still offer all the stopping power necessary.

Adjustability and Maintenance: This is one area that doesn't get talked about as much - but from a retro-grouchy perspective, I think it's huge. Disc brakes are much more "finicky" about adjustment and maintenance than most rim brakes. In getting rim brakes set up, one needs to get the pads installed so that they line up on the rim properly - which is quite easy to do, and once set, shouldn't really change much through the life of the pads. Second, one needs to set the brake arms so that the pads are the proper distance from the rim. Too close and they'll rub, too far apart and they might not be able to reach the rim before the brake lever runs out of travel. In-between those two extremes of "too close" and "too far" is a "just right" sweet spot, and yet there is a pretty wide tolerable range that will still work fine. As the pads wear down, the distance to the rim increases, and it is necessary to re-adjust them which takes only seconds and usually requires no tools. Just turn the little barrel adjuster a bit every couple of months. But even if a person is terribly lax in that little bit of maintenance, it can still take quite a while before it gets to be a serious problem. In that way, rim brakes can be very forgiving of indifferent maintenance.

Disc brakes are harder to adjust, and less tolerant of neglect. Disc brake pads are by design set much closer to the brake disc, and there's a very small margin for variance. It's not unusual for the brake pads to drag slightly on the disc, even when the brakes are released. I've encountered plenty of people who say that the little bit of drag is just something you get used to with disc brakes. Try to adjust them so they don't drag, and they can be too far apart for secure stopping - and if a person can find the "sweet spot" it doesn't last long because the pads (which are typically a lot thinner than rim brake pads) wear down quickly and need to be re-adjusted or replaced more often. If neglected, it doesn't take long before the brakes can become totally ineffective. This is one point where hydraulic brakes may be better than mechanical ones (the hydraulic system is supposed to self-adjust as the pads wear) - but the pads still wear more quickly than rim brakes and they don't tolerate neglect.

It ain't all that pretty, but it's still very functional -
and easy to keep it that way
For people who keep on top of maintenance, these may not seem like problems - but consider how many people these days are either inept or simply indifferent about maintenance. I don't just mean people who ride rusted second-hand clunkers because they can't afford anything else. There are a lot of people out there riding $10,000 bikes who can't even change a flat tire! Now just try to imagine today's state-of-the-art bike as tomorrow's second-hand clunker. That old rusty mountain bike locked to the parking meter might not be pretty, but its cantilever brakes will work a long time without maintenance. Will the same be true of disc brake equipped bikes in 10 or 20 years? Will the correct parts even still be available?

And that gets me to the next thing. Rim brakes are well established, mature technology. Compatibility for parts is wide ranging. If a bike is equipped for cantilever brakes, then pretty much any brand of cantis and V-brakes will work as well as any other. If a bike is built for caliper brakes, pretty much any brand of sidepull or centerpull will work. Brakes from different brands are overall pretty similar to one another in design and function. In other words, most sidepull brakes all work pretty similarly regardless of brand. Most brands' V-brakes are functionally similar to the other brands. There aren't a lot of proprietary designs and unique standards. There are only a couple of different "standards" for brake pads, so as long as someone knows if they need "threaded" or "smooth" posts, compatibility shouldn't be much of an issue.
There are 25 unique styles of pads in this one picture alone.
Good luck figuring out which one you need. And don't get mad
if the local shop only stocks a few of them.

Like so much of the latest technology for bikes, disc brakes make the idea of "standards" something of a joke. There are several different mounting styles, and numerous adaptors that may or may not make one compatible with the other. There is a plethora of different styles, sizes, and shapes of pads - some being proprietary to a particular brand or even to a particular model of brake. It's not even enough to say "I need pads for Shimano disc brakes" because different models in the Shimano lineup might use completely different pads. Same goes for most of the other brands, too. How many unique types of disc brake pads is a local bike shop likely to keep in stock?

Wrapping this up, it goes without saying that disc brakes are obviously taking over. The time will come when only the cheapest bikes -- maybe some childrens' bikes perhaps - will come with traditional rim brakes. Keep in mind that disc brakes are even being featured on bikes at Walmart selling for barely more than $100. Whatever kind of disc brakes are on bikes like that cannot possibly be an improvement, or worth the hassles they will likely lead to over time.

I have no doubt that the technology will continue to improve. Maybe they will get to where there's some semblance of common standards. For example, maybe they'll get the number of different pad designs down to an even ten. Of course, such changes would automatically make a huge percentage of the disc brakes and some of the complete bikes on the road today obsolete, but until these things happen and the technology matures, I'm still hesitant to give them a big endorsement.

I'm still trying the bike with discs. They may be a benefit this winter when the roads turn wet and slushy. But apart from that, I'm just not that convinced.


  1. The maintenance aspect of disc brakes alone is enough to for me to keep my rim brakes for as long as pads and cable are available. The disc equipped bikes i have ridden were a disappointment- although they were "properly" set up, they dragged and squealed enough to drive me to distraction.

    1. It amazes me when I hear people say that the drag of the pads on the discs is something you just have to accept and live with. If rim brakes are rubbing on the wheel, there's clearly something wrong and it can be fixed (easily!). So yeah - that's a problem with discs.

    2. I agree with you completely on that notion. It's just nutty to think that dragging brake pads is just something that one has to accept with disc brakes. If my brakes start rubbing against the rim, I know it right away, and I stop and look for the problem ASAP.

    3. I must say I'm more than a little bit confused about the maintanance issue about disc brakes. I've been riding disc brake equipped bikes for 11 years now and in terms of maintanance they are a delight compared to rim brakes. I still have rim-brake bikes in my garage so I still regularly maintain them too. In my experience disc brake pads last 3-10 times longer and you don't have to bother about changing rims because of wear. I think that negative experience from maintaining disc brakes derives from amateur mechanics going for trial and error instead of Reading the appropriate manual.

    4. +1. I have used mechanical discs, and not the latest, greatest versions, either (BB7s, both road and mtb), since 2010, and it's simply not true that they are much worse, or that they are much better, than good rim brakes. My current pair are the most recent (several years old) model of the BB7 Road.

      I use discs only on dirt; no point as far as I can see on pavement, since I live in "nine inches average citywide in a good monsoon year" ABQ, NM. I would spec them on a road bike regularly ridden in wet weather, though.

      To summarize my experience -- note again that this is for older mechanical models and not the latest and greatest:

      1. Setup: I have found them harder to set up than calipers and V brakes, easier than cantis, all with drop bars and levers.

      2. Stopping power: Better than some rim brakes, worse than others. I mean of course the ease of locking the wheels.

      3. Rubbing: the biggest problem, IME: a little humidity or dust can cause a "whisp-whisp-whisp" sound. But it's not that big a problem, since the "rubbing" is generally not the sort of rubbing you get with rim brakes -- and I have ground my teeth with frustration at many rubbing pads on calipers and Vs and cantis, too. What you get with discs, IME, is a very, very light touching that doesn't affect wheel rotation; the only problem is the annoying noise, if in fact it annoys you. Often, simply applying the brake will stop the noise for a while; and otherwise, a click on either side (one in, one out) of the adjusters removes it for several rides, often for several months. But yes, this is the big disadvantage, IMO.

      4. Rim wear. That is reason #2 why I use discs in dirt. Reason #1 is:

      5. Rim weight. My 35 mm external/27 mm internal Velocity Blunt SS's weigh a claimed 430 grams in 700C size. That's lighter than most standard road rims. With sub 400 gram tubeless tires (my 700C X 50 Furious Freds are a consistent 360 grams each on a Pelouze mail scale), but adding 2 fl oz of sealant to each, I get -- well, you get the idea: Light wheels.

      6. Brake system weight: heavier than most rim brake setups, but we're retrogrouches.

      7. Cost: About the same as similar quality rim brakes, apart from bottom end rim brakes which you can get cheaper.

      8. Appearance: I don't like the look as I do that of good, old, single pivot, cold forged, silver calipers, like the Dura Ace 7400s on my commuting Rivendell, which accept fat fenders very nicely.

      So, I believe the the comparison upshot is that neither rim nor disc systems are entirely inferior or entirely superior; it is obvious too that it's not true the discs are merely a marketing effort, nor that calipers have been superseded. Most of the "either or" crowd is speaking in ignorance, or trying to sell you something, or being ideologically pure.

      I hear that the newer hybrid road cable + hydraulics are easier to set up and allow you to set the pads further from the rotor. Those may well be my next brake purchase.

    5. I just want to echo your remark that "stopping power" is how people refer to the EASE of applying force, not WHETHER force can be theoretically applied.

      Two brakes may both be able to stop a wheel, in theory, assuming an infinitely strong hand at the lever. Fine. But in real life many people's hands reach their maximum grip strength well before that point. That's why we say that V-brakes and disks are "more powerful" - they apply more stopping power at our human, limited, lever force.

  2. I have tried a bike with discs and they were great, but not so great that I am really tempted to go down that route when the systems still seem to be in their infancy and nothing like a standard is showing signs of being established. Much the same with nearly every bike on the market, everyone reinventing the wheel!

    If you were wanting discs on a new Mercian frame they even insist that you give them the actual wheel and brakes before they will start the build...

  3. Mike and Brooks--I have had similar experiences (albeit limited) and felt similar disappointment with disc brakes. I also don't understand how someone can "live with" drag and squeal, especially for something that's heavier and more complicated, and doesn't work demonstrably better, than rim brakes.

  4. Disc brakes require much stronger fork legs to resist the greater twisting force of having the braking applied nearer to the wheel hub. A number of manufacturers have recalled forks that weren't up to the job.
    The ride quality of disc forks was never an issue with mountain bikes which need stronger forks by design, but I find that they deaden the ride quality of road bikes when compared with the lighter, more supple curved steel blades of most of my rides.
    I have one disc-braked bike in my fleet. It is a good quality steel frame but it is covered in dust because I always find a reason to take one of the others when I go anywhere.

    1. the fork stiffness is another point I thought about bringing up - but felt like the post was getting pretty long as it was. But yes - it is a drawback to disc brakes, and one that few people talk about. Maybe the cheerleaders don't have much experience with a nice, slim, curved steel fork and therefore have no idea how much nicer the ride can be.

    2. This was the deal breaker for me on a new build - it's getting centerpull rim brakes. The rigid disc forks are a big step backwards for ride comfort. Wide tires absorb a lot of higher frequency vibration, but none of the new forks I've tried recently can compete with flexible steel on gravel roads. I was considering a disc on rear only, as a way to scrub speed on long descents without overheating the rim, but the other issues you discussed made the decision for rim brake here also.

    3. I agree that you can't use light, supple forks with a front disc; OTOH, where discs are most of an advantage is on fat tired bikes, where your fat tire is going to be soft enough to put any fork flex into the statistical shadow.

      My Chauncey Matthews "road bike for dirt" has a nice, tight French curve right about where the disc caliper bolts, so at least I get the aesthetics.

  5. I have discs on my Salsa Vaya. They squeal terribly and I've given up trying to fix it. I also think they don't modulate particularly well. They're mushy rather than precise.

    I much prefer the performance of the Ultgera rim brakes I have on another bike.

  6. I've had the same experience with disc brakes with respect to how the pads always drag, and that's why I still prefer cantilever and caliper brakes.

    The disc brake pad wear issue depends a lot on the compounds used. The resin pads that most disc brakes come with and are the easiest to find wear out faster and provide worse wet-weather braking performance—which I find to be counteractive to the entire idea of disc brakes. Sintered metal pads last much longer and provide much better braking, but are much noisier when wet. It's a tradeoff I'm willing to make, of course.

  7. My main commuter is a Trek 720 disc. The model that was spec'd with 22-spoke wheels that were recalled AFTER I ate so many spokes I had to order a proper set of Velocity 36-spoke wheels for my decidedly big guy frame. That griping aside, I'm rather ambivalent on the discs. Finicky to get dialed in and in need of adjustment every few weeks (my commute is 40 miles round trip), but they do work nicely when dialed in properly. I'm not sure I notice a difference in stopping power or distance compared to my other rim brake rides, and I went with sintered pads in my latest tune.

    Aren't rim brakes really disc brakes, but with more surface area? Minus the close tolerances of modern disc brakes and hydraulics, that is.

    To go even further, how long until they add abs to bike discs? I can see it now, no more front lock up and more electronics...

    1. You are correct - that technically speaking, rim brakes ARE disc brakes - with the largest possible disc diameter.

    2. Yes, technically, rims are large-diameter disks. However, just as importantly, rims are HOLLOW, aluminum disks, which greatly reduces the amount of force that can be applied to them. Real disks are solid steel. Disk calipers are therefore able to apply incredible squeezing force.

      If you want to treat rims as disks, get a set of Magura hydraulic rim brakes. They apply massive force to the rim, stopping you quickly, and destroying the rim just as fast.

    3. The ability to crush a hollow-section aluminum rim with an over-boosted hydraulic system is simply not a real-world concern. I have never seen a rim that was crushed by a brake. I doubt many mechanics have ever seen it.

      I have heard of people who ride frequently in wet/muddy/gritty conditions wearing through the sidewalls of a rim -- but in most of the country, that is not much of a worry, either. I ride thousands of miles every year, and I've never worn through a rim in that way, and nobody I know personally has ever done it either.

  8. On Santana's website they have some interesting information about disc brakes and tandems. After extensive testing(and they actually go into some detail about what and how they tested)they never found a disc brake that they could lock up on the rear of a tandem with 2 people aboard. A feat they have no trouble performing with Direst-Pull brakes. They even make an extra large rotor for the rear of their tandems but it wont lock the rear wheel either.

    No one really needs a brake that will lock up a Tandem on a normal roadbike so this isn't saying Discs are inadequate on a single, but it does illustrate that Disc brakes do not have more ultimate stopping power than the best rim brakes, regardless of popular opinion.

    I've got lots of bikes with all sorts of brakes, just like "The Retrogrouch" and I prefer the best rim brakes to any of the discs on any of my bikes. I suppose if I was still hurling myself at the scenery on Mountain Bikes I'd appreciate the discs on a couple of my MTBs more, but I just don't ride hard enough(I can still kick up alot of dust though and both wheels aren't always on the ground) to make them worth the hassle and put up with the weight and noise.


  9. I agree with everything you wrote, and that's after riding over 12,000 miles combined on my two bikes with disc brakes, both AVID BB7. One is my Surly Puglsey, which is my winter commuter, and they totally make sense there. But on my steel touring bike, the weekly adjustments and constant squealing are just too much hassle.

  10. 1. For bikes where the tire is wider than the rim, disc brakes make it easier to drop the wheel from the frame.
    Counterpoint 1: it's very easy to let air out of a tire should it become necessary to drop wide-tire-equipped wheel.
    Counterpoint 2: how often is it necessary to remove a wheel? It's necessary when changing tires, changing wheels, or fixing a flat. If those events aren't daily occurrences, then should this point be a consideration when considering disc or rim brakes?

    2. Wheels with disc brakes have considerably less tolerance for out-of-true wheels. Let's assume that a disc wheel is reasonably true; even in that state, it requires a lot of trial and error to get it to work without dragging on the disc. Now., imagine that the wheel goes out of true by 1-2 mm; I imagine that the bike would be very hard to ride with that much unintentional friction from the brake pads. By contrast, a wheel with rim brakes that's out of true by even 2 mm will be rideable. Braking would feel "bumpy", but the brakes would still work.

    Needless to say, I'm with Brooks and most of the commenters here: disc brakes don't offer enough advantages to get me to switch.

    Also, I can confirm anecdotally that 30-year-old brakes on a 30-year-old MTB-turned-commuter will work for a long time without maintenance. The brake pads do need to be changed regularly, of course, and the brakes need to be adjusted for the new pads; but once set, they stay that way until the next pad changes, which for me is every 18-24 months. And that's daily year-round use in a city that gets a real winter.

    1. " Wheels with disc brakes have considerably less tolerance for out-of-true wheels."

      The reverse, actually. When the wheel goes out of true, the disc can still be true as it is attached directly to the hub.

    2. And the hub is carried by the spokes. While the hub is clamped between fork legs, disc rub occurs when legs load and rebound back differently of each other.

  11. I must just benefit from being around MTB disc brakes, and working professionally with them since their infancy.

    Pads rubbing is faulty set up, plain and simple. True, some brands have annoying adjustment methods, and often have the pads sit very close (or ship with bent rotors), all that can be overcome by using a mechanic who knows them inside and out.

    Squeal can be misalignment of pads, but more often, metallic pads when wet (if so, switch to organic, no more squeal). Avid had a horrid run of rotors that made ridiculous noises, swap to another companies rotor, no problem anymore.

    A steely eyed long timer can tell you these things from their own singular experiences over the years, and do remember, everything you read on the web is always true, and companies never employ shills to enter public forums to spread propagandistic marketing BS... =:)

    While not nearly as crazy as disc pad shapes, (and believe me, I hate new non standard, standards), rim pads are pretty numerous. Smooth post vs threaded, thin line vs standard, multiple compound offerings, wet, dry, sintered, carbon specific, cartridge insert vs full shoe with hardware type, etc etc etc.

    That's more familiarity with necessary choices, than truly, fewer options.

    All that said, totally agree, discs on the lions share of road bikes is simply another industry money grab as cyclings participant numbers wane, and they ought to be ashamed. Completely unecessary for 98% of cyclings riders, and rides.

    Making it simpler, less expensive and complex, will create more cyclists. Increasing choices to the point that beleaguered newbs just say fuck it, rather than choosing a flavor to purchase, paired the created perception that with shops "charge nosebleed prices" while the same brands sell stuff far less on line, undercutting shops who could help folks make those confusing choices, and yeah. it's a shit show out here.....

  12. Morlamweb -
    I don't think the point about discs not tolerating out-of-true wheels is quite right. Disc brakes are far from the rims, so out-of-true - or even dented - rims work better with them than with rim brakes. However, if the disc itself becomes warped or bent even a little, that will be a problem.

    Those of us who put our bikes in the back of a smaller car, or who want to put one U-lock through both wheels, may take the front wheel off quite often. Wider rims help, as do brake levers with a built-in quick release that allows further spreading the caliper.

  13. Santana (tandem folks) have some interesting thoughts about disk vs. rim brake power:

  14. One more from me and I'm at my statutory 3-per-day limit, right? But here:

    Retro, they must have read your column!

    Patrick Moore, riding steel fixed gear Rivendell custom road bikes, and shifting with the worst of both worlds off road (that disc'd Matthews: 10 home-assembled cogs, 8, 9, and 1 or 2 10-speeders with 10 speed spacers, shifted with a 7410 rd pulled by Power Ratchet bar cons).

    1. I've read few comments to the article... oh the shitstorm!

  15. I ride steep dirt road descents in the California mountains, and hydraulic disc brakes are far superior to the rim brakes and cable discs I have tried. On the Bulldog Motorway descent down into Malibu Creek State Park the TRP Spyres have a hard time stopping my 220 pound (fat) body. Hydraulic brakes have no trouble. 40mm X'Plor tires grip just fine.

  16. Hydraulic discs for my Honey Allroads was the best decision ever. I have little to no hand fatigue at the end of a long ride that requires a lot of braking down steeps hills. The pads don't rub, or squeal, and I've had to do zero maintenance in the year I've had the bike. I don't see the need on a road bike, and I find the Mavic side pulls I have on three bikes are fine.

  17. I've never ridden a bike with disc brakes nor have I ever worked one so I have no opinion on their performance. My only objection to disc brakes is that they don't look very nice. They are fine for mountain bikes, most of which seem designed with little attention to aesthetics, but I think they look terrible on road bikes. Who wants to have a perforated metal disc and the associated mousetrap hiding their lovely Phil Wood or Royce hubs?

  18. I have hydraulic disc brakes on my all road bike. Most comments about discs seem to be about mechanical discs which nobody seems to like. Other than having to true the discs when I first purchased the bike, I have not had to touch them since over 2 seasons now. They are quiet and stop with authority with little effort wet or dry. Previously on my road bike during a rainy descent on an organized century ride, I was unable to slow my bike down to under 15-20 mph. I had to turn hard onto the intersection at the bottom as I could not stop. Thankfully there was no traffic. I was pumping the brakes to clean water which didn't help/ death squeeze didn't help either. The pads weren't new but the weren't old either.
    Another benefit of disc is the ease of using wide tires (I.e. Compass tires) without brake clearance issues. Also, you can even use different size wheels like 26" with really fat tires/ 650B/ 700c all on the same bike(especially if steel etc frame). This is a nice advantage.
    True that in dry riding conditions the braking performance of rim brakes is good.

  19. you don't mention internal drum brakes...why not?

    1. You're right - internal drum brakes just don't come up much on the radar. They are popular with some commuters, especially in wet climates - but one just doesn't see them much.

  20. I have one more vintage brake improvement; I strengthen my hands. Grip exercisers are now in my fitness equipment inventory.

  21. Back in 2015, I bought a 105-equipped disc bike for foul weather. I recently shipped it to my daughter's house so I have something to ride when I visit her because she moved about 1500 miles from me and I did not want to worry about schlepping a bike every time I visited.
    The last two days I have had my first experiences riding a SRAM Apex-equipped bike in the rain---frequently heavy. As a bike commuter doing over 23 miles each way, I found that the rims were completely unacceptable. No good brake grab for well more than one rotation, and the sound of gravel/sand/road grunge scraping away the rim as I try to stop truly horrifying. I simply have to get back to a disc bike for a foul weather commuter. I will also note that I got rid of a canti bike for snow because salt ate my cantis alive and there was no real good way to service them. Given that I frequently ride in adverse weather conditions, I really don't see any type of non-disc brake in my future.

    1. Hi DeVon - hope all is well. Yeah - foul weather seems to bring out the biggest advantage of discs. I haven't experienced the problem you mention about cantis being eaten up, so I don't have much to comment on that.