Disk or Rim Brakes on a Road Bike

by MarcMyWords   June 12, 2014  

Hi guys - I realise there are a number of posts about the difference between disks and rims on a road bike but I couldn't find anything that related directly to what I wanted to ask.

Can anyone tell me about the difference in weight (as a fairly novice rider, I really can't see this mattering to me) and how much more difficult disks are to maintain? Also, when I get a puncture, I normally just whip the wheel off and stick a new inner tube in... Do disks make this much more difficult to do on the side of the road? LASTLY - Are they loads more expensive if anything goes wrong i.e replacing the caliper / disk?

I'm looking for a bike in the region of £1000 - £1200 and have my eye on the Cannondale Synapse Disk 5 105:

http://www.evanscycles.com/products/cannondale/synapse-disc-5-105-2014-r...

But am also pretty drawn too the Canyon Roadlite AL 7.0 which has rim brakes and is very light...

http://www.canyon.com/_en/roadbikes/bike.html?b=3193#tab-reiter2

Any help / advice greatly appreciated!

13 user comments

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The ease of maintenance of disc brakes is much more variable than rim brakes, primarily because almost all rim brakes follow the same basic design. There's some variation in disc brakes (hydro vs cable operated, different adjuster designs on some models etc). That said, none of them are really that much more difficult than a rim brake.

I still think it's maybe a little early to jump on the disc bandwagon just yet. Outside of handbuilts, there isn't a lot of choice for wheels. It's also not clear if the industry will move to standardise on thru-axles like the mountain bike market seems to be doing.

The two bikes you've picked out are very different beasts, and I wouldn't normally expect those two models to end up on the same shortlist. The Synapse has more upright geometry and is designed for comfort over long distances. The Canyon is more argressive. Cannondale's CAAD10 is probably the more appropriate comparison in their range. I would think more about how you intend to use the bike and get one that fits best, rather than worry so much about the brakes.

posted by giobox [241 posts]
13th June 2014 - 4:35

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I have shimano hydraulic disc brakes on my Cube hybrid which has an Alfine hub gear and so is fairly heavy, and have been grateful for the extra stopping power, especially when I ride with a cycling group which includes some members who can be unpredictable; I think the same would apply in town with errant pedestrians etc. Taking wheel out for punctures not caused any problems. My road bike has Tektro callipers, which are OK, and better with replacement cartridges, and if I was getting a new road bike I would be happy with Shimano callipers rather than adding weight with discs, which would be mechanical not hydraulic at the lower end. Hope this is helpful.

New Forester

posted by Forester [82 posts]
13th June 2014 - 5:41

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giobox wrote:

I still think it's maybe a little early to jump on the disc bandwagon just yet.

My thoughts too!

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [480 posts]
13th June 2014 - 6:44

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Flying Scot wrote:
giobox wrote:

I still think it's maybe a little early to jump on the disc bandwagon just yet.

My thoughts too!

Mine too.

posted by Super Domestique [1592 posts]
13th June 2014 - 8:05

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Hi Giobox, thank you for your advice! I've read through the net quite a bit over the last couple of days and have seen people mention Cannondale (mostly CAAD) and Canyon in the same posts but am guessing that, like me, they're concentrating on price ranges rather than geometry... I plan to continue commuting to work (10 miles a day) and the odd weekend rides normally a minimum of 35 miles up to 50ish so never massive rides.

I think, based on your advice, I'll probably forget about he disks and see if I can try a CAAD8 which is in my price range and I'll see if I can somehow try a Canyon anywhere because I'd be reluctant to buy without trying. Sounds like for what I would be using the bike for, you'd probably suggest I went with the CAAD8? Thanks!

posted by MarcMyWords [61 posts]
13th June 2014 - 14:25

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Hi Forester, thank you for this, that's actually really helpful. I think I liked the thought of the discs' stopping power in rain and I ride in Central London to-from work so on the ped front could be very useful. However, I can't honestly say I've had any major issues with stopping where I've wished that I had discs and I'm thinking in this instance it's best to stick to what I know which is the rims! Thanks for your advice!

posted by MarcMyWords [61 posts]
13th June 2014 - 14:29

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One thing to consider about disc brakes is that you will be able to fit a wider tire. Very few caliper brake road bikes will accept 32's, and many will not fit 28's. You will be amazed how much more comfortable you are commuting on crappy roads with some nice 32 slicks. It's not at all hard to find disc brake wheels these days- check out the HED Belgium disc wheels, for example.

posted by MNgraveur [31 posts]
13th June 2014 - 14:36

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Talk about a spanner in the works, MNgraveur!! Always good to get a variety of opinions. I've never gone above 25's so interesting thought about a much wider tire being more comfortable. I think the concern for me is if it would make it a lot more difficult when I'm changing a puncture though and if it's then more difficult and expensive to maintain the discs? Thanks for your comment!

posted by MarcMyWords [61 posts]
13th June 2014 - 14:44

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Well, a couple of comments: you'll flat less with "commuting oriented" 32s. I use the panaracer ribmo's, and i'm not sure i've ever had a flat with those. i can also ride gravel with them- they're nice tires, plenty fast, durable etc. there are likely plenty of similar ones out there. i'm not sure why you think it would be any harder to change a flat on a disc brake bike- i guess it might be if you had thru axles, but with QR's it's exactly the same. I guess you have to make sure you put the wheel back on with the rotor on the right side ( : - ) ), but I suspect you're up to that challenge. disc pads are pretty comparable to higher end caliper pads, pricewise, at least here in the colonies.

i've got a carbon rb with calipers, an alloy cross bike with cantis, and a ti gravel bike with discs, which i tend to use a lot also for just doing hills before work. the braking in the wet and in the snow is definitely nice with the discs.

posted by MNgraveur [31 posts]
13th June 2014 - 16:30

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Having ridden both extensively, I honestly think I'd never commute in London on my road bike.

I did 35 miles a day on my mountain bike (with slick tyres, but it's a hard-tail) riding from zone 5 south London to Holborn and back for the best part of a year. The state of the roads in London, along with the godawful drivers + traffic in many places on the route - I'd never put my road bike through that. On at least two occasions the excellent braking of disks saved me from going over the bonnet of someone who pulled out in front of me.

Around my way at least, I'll stick to larger tyres and enjoy the extra safety/control of the hydraulic brakes. Even with upgraded aftermarket pads on my road bike, the Shimano Tiagra brakes on my road bike are nothing like as good as my MTB, and that's not even taking into account the extra grip you have from the larger tyre contact area and lower pressure.

Maintenance of disc brakes (on an MTB at least) is actually pretty easy once you have taken one apart, there's loads of stuff online about it. Just don't do what I did and loose the little rubber washer between the calipers housing without noticing... Dot4 fluid all over everything.

Cheers,

posted by sergius [31 posts]
13th June 2014 - 19:58

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Maintenance with discs is easier. Just don't lube the discs. They do cope with buckled rims better which may be a virtue and of course they won't wear the decent mileage in crappy weather and it might be. I was getting less than 3000 miles out of a front rim on mixed gravel and tarmac. Harder than most admit ably. Costs etc are much the same. All this depends on your riding style.
Ignore weight unless you weigh the same as Froome and race as hard. Other wise its vanity only.
1 nice virtue is that it is easier to swap between wheels, say your best pair and another as rims have different profiles which will be more noticeable than the tiny difference between discs.
I wouldn't worry about the bandwagon issue, many of us have been on it for several years. (about 6 in my case). Nothing will be redundant as QR disc front wheels have been around for decades and still will be. Plenty out there if you are worried about a QR fork becoming redundant.
Many people may not be worried about discs and find that their braking is fine without them. That's the only negative to discs for no weight weenies. why change what you don't worry about?
No one can tell you what you need, sorry.
However as I doubt you would buy a bike without a ride, why not try both? As the bikes you suggest are so different you obviously have an open mind so are not just tied to those two.

posted by mattsccm [245 posts]
15th June 2014 - 21:06

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mattsccm wrote:

1 nice virtue is that it is easier to swap between wheels, say your best pair and another as rims have different profiles which will be more noticeable than the tiny difference between discs.

Assuming the hub places the disc in the same place, which from experience is often not the case!

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1031 posts]
15th June 2014 - 21:54

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mrmo wrote:
mattsccm wrote:

1 nice virtue is that it is easier to swap between wheels, say your best pair and another as rims have different profiles which will be more noticeable than the tiny difference between discs.

Assuming the hub places the disc in the same place, which from experience is often not the case!

Also assumes the Rotors are all the same size, which may not be the case either. Sram and Shimano are doing both 140 and 160mm road rotors. This won't ever be a problem with rim brakes, aside from maybe needing a pad change if going from alloy to carbon etc.

posted by giobox [241 posts]
16th June 2014 - 0:49

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