Are disc brakes more effective on rainy weather? I had a close call riding my road bike during a morning rain and almost collided with a parked car. My road bike is steel and has tektro branded caliper brakes. Should I get a disc brake commuter bike?

  • 9
    When you had this close call, what did you feel from your brakes? Delayed engagement? Insufficient pressure/slowing? Loud scary noises? Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 0:51
  • A trick (make that more a mandatory practice) with rim brakes is to "squeegee" the rims whenever coming into a situation where you might need to brake. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:03

5 Answers 5


Disc brakes are generally more effective in the rain than rim brakes, but using rim brakes properly in the rain has served people well for many years.

You need to feather the brakes to remove the water+crud from the rims. Softer brake pad compounds can also help you brake more easily. Also, having good quality brakes that are well adjusted is always a good thing too. Remember that you also need to brake earilier in the rain, regardless of the type of brake, and be more careful than in the dry.

If you have small hands, make sure also the small hand inserts are in for your brake levers (if it has them).

  • 1
    Anecdotally, for not winter riding, I often commute on an 80s road bike with Shimano 105 caliper brakes. Stopping power has never been a problem for commuting.
    – Batman
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 3:23
  • 3
    After riding through obvious crud a light touch of the brakes for a few metres will help a lot. And on downhills commuting in the wet I prefer to keep the brakes skimming the rims ready for real braking - this is highly compatible with taking the hill a bit slower because of a lack of grip between rubber and road.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 18:04
  • > Remember that you also need to brake earilier in the rain This is strictly because of issues between the tire and the road. Disc brakes suffer zero (or very close to zero) degradation in performance because of wet weather. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 23:14

I've done my motorcycle test and know all about defensive riding techniques - and you apply it no matter what bike you are riding.

I ride both rim and disc brake bicycles on my winter training and on my commuter bike. On the winter bike I have swapped out the pads to a softer compound for better braking performance (but not so good for longevity). Even with this change - I often find wanting for more power on descents or rapid & predictable braking in wet conditions.

My commuter bike has discs (Avid BB5) - and the braking in the wet is significantly better - I also feel safer in that I know I can stop reliably in any conditions. The downside is the weight - it doesn't sound like much but it doesn't translate into a performance ride. Which is why I have to maintain a winter training bike for club and group rides and a commuter for solo rides to work.

And remember - your brakes are only as good as the rubber contact patch under your wheels. So decent tyres and a half-decent width - I'd say 25mm minimum or better still 28mm if you have the clearance.

  • 3
    I love the varied use of "winter" throughout the world. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 21:11

The delay period you normally experience with caliper brakes is much less noticeable with disc brakes, especially a good quality pair.

Even more noticeable is that on much steeper inclines and especially in damp conditions caliper brakes, as I'm sure you've noticed, tend to have an all or nothing attitude when it comes to applying pressure. Disc brakes on the other hand will let you finesse the braking power and keep your wheels from locking up.

The only downside really is that you won't be able to swap your wheels between your disc-brake commuter and your caliper-equipped road bike.

  • 6
    The only downside is swap wheels? What about the downside of buy a new bike?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 0:37
  • There are wheels that have been built up with a rim brake compatible rim and a disc compatible hub. But the new bike trumps this (plus, most people who aren't racers don't exactly have sets of wheels to swap/care about that anyway).
    – Batman
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 20:16

Yes disc brakes are more effective in rain (and dry).

If you should spend the money for a disc brake commuter bike is something for you to decide.

In the rain I ride more defensively.


If you want really weather-proof brakes you should consider drum or roller brakes. I use roller brakes in my commuter bike and they're working flawlessly for over 5 years in mud, snow and salt (I'm doing about 5k km/year).

  • 1
    Drum or roller brakes may require less maintenance than discs, but I seriously doubt the performance is better. I have great modulation and reliability of my disc brakes in all conditions. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 23:16

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