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I am about to buy a new Road bike and there seems to be a host new road bikes with disc brakes, I've had a Mountain bike with disc and it's fine, just wondering what the pros and cons of having a road bike with discs apart from the looks, should I stick with the traditional proven rim brake or have a more in depth look at disc brakes as the industry seems to be inclining towards discs.. I will not be changing bikes for at least 3 years so want to make the right decision.

Any experiences from roadies who have used disc brakes would be welcome as well as your opinions.

Many Thanks Savio

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See this current question: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/21510/… Disks are easily damaged while removing/installing a wheel. If you never have flats I suppose that's not a problem, but some of us do. –  Daniel R Hicks May 12 at 19:52
    
Thanks for all the replies, I ride some 50+ miles a week on my own in mostly dry conditions, not joined any groups as yet, seems that's there is no real downside to rim brakes although all the current buzz is about discs, I think I will go with the rims as there proven and as some of you have mentioned the simplicities of road side repair, lightness, general maintenance. Discs would be more suited if I rode in all conditions together with say inner city commuting etc but for what I do decent Shimano rim brakes should be enough. Thanks again Savio –  Savi May 12 at 21:00

4 Answers 4

I have a road/gravel bike with a disk front brake and there are almost no downsides for solo riding from my experience.

Pros:

  • Much more flexibility is choosing wheel size and tire. I can run fat tire 650b wheels or skinny 700c wheels.
  • Much better braking in wet conditions, braking in dry conditions is similar, but with better control (i.e. modulation).
  • Easier to get wheels off when you have a flat.
  • Most are either self-adjusting for pad wear or have a simple finger adjustment.

Cons:

  • Slightly heavier wheels and brakes.
  • Rotors get hot, brake fade is a possibility if you consistently drag the brake. Long steep descents take some "brake heat" management. This can also be an issue with rim brakes, but generally it takes a much longer descent and more abuse to cause problems with rim brakes.
  • Hydro brakes have more mechanical complexity, difficult to impossible to make on the road repairs.
  • I use wire disk brakes on my road bike with no issues.
  • Putting the wheel back on is a bit more fiddly.
  • If you ride in a group often, there are some safety issues around hot rotors and potential crashes.
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There aren't many hydro disc brake systems out there to begin with - SRAM Red 22, TRP Hylex, TRP HY/RD (cable operated hydraulic), TRP Parabox, Shimano Ultegra R785 it seems. The SRAM and Shimano options are crazy expensive (but are brifters), and the HY/RD can be plugged into brifters (and is expensive). However, the remainder mean some other shifters. So, for now, on the road, mechanical discs are the way to go for the most part. –  Batman May 12 at 18:33

I currently ride a "hybrid" bike- which is flat handlebars, narrow (28mm) tyres with disc brakes. I also have a road bike (23mm tyres) with standard rim brakes. I would say that the disc brakes give me a lot more confidence in the wet. Rim brakes in wet conditions are terrible, taking at least 3x the distance to stop- even with maximum power applied. The reason that professionals haven't made the jump to discs is 2 fold:

  • Weight of the disc brakes- this will get better, but currently its a huge factor
  • Legal issues regarding the bike rules/regulations are currently stopping them

So I would say, as long as you don't mind the weight- and realize that there is a lot less choice of wheels, then go disc!

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Also: aerodynamics, heat build up, weight of the wheels & frame. Rim brakes, properly adjusted and correctly used, are more than adequate in even the wettest conditions. –  7thGalaxy May 13 at 10:23
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Disagree- if you haven't experienced this, you are not wet enough. It's not just the wet, but mud/grit as well. –  AliGibbs May 13 at 11:41
    
I've been out in absolute downpours cycling through muddy fords on my road bike. Braking was reduced, but not inadequate. –  7thGalaxy May 13 at 12:12

There is no compelling reason for using disk brakes on a standard road bike, unless you cycle in unusual conditions. Rim brakes are cheaper, lighter, simpler, less hassle when changing tires, easier to repair in the field.

Traditionally, disk or drum brakes have sometimes been used on tandems and heavy mountain touring bikes, because they can provide more total braking force, but these are conditions that few cyclists experience in "normal" riding.

Of course, as always the "gee whiz" factor is a major consideration for many people, and disk brakes are niftier and sexier.

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I guess it depends on what you define as an 'unusual condition'. As an all-weather commuter I found the lack of wet-weather stopping power on rim brakes to be dangerous... Of course, riding in the rain is fairly uncommon for many cyclists. –  Ross May 12 at 19:26
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@Ross - I've ridden in rain more than I care to remember, and have never found rim brakes to have a problem. You do have to plan ahead a bit and squeegee your brakes clean for half a second before you get full force, but a good cyclist is always thinking ahead. –  Daniel R Hicks May 12 at 19:33
    
@Ross I'd go with Daniel on this one. Sure, disk brakes provide "better" stopping, but imo rim brakes provide "enough" stopping. And they are without doubt less hassle to maintain. I'd be happy with either on my bike. –  PeteH May 12 at 19:42
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Admittedly, rain causes me less problems than wet rims in below-freezing temps (no amount of squeegee scrapes off ice, in my experience), but overall I stop much more consistently when commuting on discs. –  Ross May 12 at 19:53
    
@Ross - Winter riding is a whole 'nother issue. I've read accounts of folks having the tires spin on the rims because they've gotten rock hard and no longer grip the rim. –  Daniel R Hicks May 12 at 19:55

I think that in 2 years every "high-end" bike will have disk brakes and electric gears. Disk Brakes are currently still in production testing for the Pro Bike Teams. In Belgium the Belgian Cycling Committee is talking about allowing this for Pro Bike Teams.

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Electric shifters I can see. They're almost weight-neutral and they allow shifters to be located anywhere. Plus they're less intimidating to newbies. I still see no real advantage (and several disadvantages) to disk brakes on the average bike. –  Daniel R Hicks May 13 at 12:17
    
Hi! @DanielRHicks it's just innovation, companies need new stuff to sell and once Pro Bike Teams adopt it you will see an usage increase. –  Vinozio May 13 at 12:18
    
I don't doubt that the manufacturers are selling "new" over function (witness V-brakes). –  Daniel R Hicks May 13 at 12:23

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