Is the rim brake dead? From the list of bikes we’ve pulled together below, that’s definitely not the case, but it is clear that disc brake bikes are becoming the main choice for a lot of brands and several retailers list more disc brake bikes for sale than rim brake bikes.
The disc versus rim brake topic is one that sets forums and social media networks ablaze with passionate supporters of each system. But what if you prefer rims brakes and are wondering what your options are for a new road bike in 2021?
We’ve had a scout around and pulled together a list of rim brake bikes still being offered. It’s clear that at the higher-end rim brakes appear to be dwindling with the very newest road bikes being designed entirely around disc brakes, but the lower the price the more rim brake choices increase.
Up to about £1,500 many road bikes are still using rim brakes, but the more you spend the more disc brakes become an increasingly common sight. The price of disc brakes has got lower since they were first introduced in about 2013 with the high-end tech being trickled down to lower-priced groupsets.
Will we eventually see rim brakes wiped out completely? A couple of years ago we'd have said probably not, but they’re already becoming quite scarce. As long as the professionals are using rim brakes then bike brands will continue to offer rim brake bikes but in the last couple of years discs have been in the majority in the peloton. Maybe we'll see the pendulum swing back next year though, as both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia were won this year on rim-braked bikes.
As far back as 2015 bike brands have been pushing their comfort-focused endurance bikes onto disc brakes. Giant was the first to develop its Defy entirely around disc brakes, and today finding an endurance bike with rim brakes is increasingly difficult. And the same is happening with the latest breed of aero road bikes, the likes of the Specalized Tarmac and Cannondale SystemSix are only offered with disc brakes.
The biggest choice of rim brakes are found on entry-level all-round road bikes, the likes of Giant’s Contend or Cannondale’s CAAD Optimo, for example.
|Allez Sport||Aluminium||Shimano Tiagra||£999.00|
|Allez Elite||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£1,249.00|
Specialized is offering just three road bikes with rim brakes in 2021, and they're all variants of the entry-level Allez road bike. The Allez, Allez Sport and Allez Elite have rim brakes … and that's your lot from the Big S.
|Propel Advanced 2||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£2,199|
|TCR Advanced Pro 1||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£3,699|
|TCR Advanced 2||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,999|
|Contend SL 1||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£1,248.99|
|Contend 1||Aluminium||Shimano Sora||£849|
|Contend 2||Aluminium||Shimano Claris||£679|
Things are a bit better at Giant. Its Defy endurance bike might be disc-only, but there are still versions of the Propel aero bike with rim brakes, plus the latest TCR Advanced, Giant's lightweight all-round road bike.
Here's the most, erm, advanced of Giant's rim-brake offerings, the Ultegra-equipped version of the TCR Advanced Pro.
Like Specialized, Giant also offers entry-level models with rim brakes, in the ContendSL and Contend models. The range starts with the brilliantly red Contend 2, above.
|Domane AL2||Aluminium||Shimano Claris||£695|
If you want a high-level rim-braked Trek, you're going to have to build it yourself. The Wisconsin-based brand still offers Madone, Emonda and Domane framesets that'll take rim brakes, but just one solitary complete bike, the entry-level Domane AL2, above.
|SLR 8.9 Carbon||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,000|
|SLR 8.9 Carbon Women's||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,000|
|SLR 8.6||Aluminium||Shimano Claris||£500|
|SLR 8.6 Women's||Aluminium||Shimano Claris||£500|
Boardman's got two models for you if you're on a limited budget and after a rim-braked bike, both in men's and women's configurations. The carbon fibre SLR 8.9 Carbon, above, is frankly astonishing value at a thousand quid with Shimano 105 gearing, and the SLR 8.6 follows the long-standing Boardman tradition of a well-equipped aluminium frame for a very good price.
|Endurance SL R Ultegra||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£2,599|
|Endurance SL R Ultegra Di2||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra Di2||£3,299|
|Endurance SL R Dura Ace Di2||Carbon fibre||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2||£4,999|
|Endurance SL Base||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,699|
|Endurance SL Sport||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£2,399|
|Endurance SL Enthusiast||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£2,699|
|Endurance SL Pro||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra Di2||£3,399|
|Endurance 725 Base||Steel||Shimano Tiagra||£1,099|
|Endurance 725 Sport||Steel||Shimano 105||£1,399|
|Endurance 725 Enthusiast||Steel||Shimano Ultegra||£1,999|
|Endurance 725 Pro||Steel||Shimano Ultegra Di2||£2,999|
|R872 Sport||Carbon fibre||Shimano Tiagra||£1,099|
|R872 Enthusiast||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,399|
|R872 Pro||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£1,899|
British brand Ribble offers four ranges of bikes with rim brakes, the R872, Endurance SL and Endurance SL R in carbon fibre and the Endurance 725 in Reynolds 725 heat-treated chromoly steel. That's the Endurance SL Sport up above the listing, in a rather splendid teal. Ribble will paint your bike in any colour scheme you like if their stock colours don't suit your taste.
Proving that steel is not only still real but worthy of being hung with top-class components, here's the Endurance 725 Pro with Ribble's own Level 40 carbon fibre wheels and a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset.
Very keen pricing makes the R872 one of Ribble's most popular models, and it can't hurt that it comes in red, which as any fule kno is the fastest colour.
|Avant H30||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£1,099|
Basque country brand Orbea is another that's trimmed its rim-brake offering down to a single model, the Avant H30.
|Scultura Rim 400||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£1,000|
|Scultura Rim 100||Aluminium||Shimano Claris||£750|
Like many brands, Merida has stopped putting 'Disc' in the names of its disc-braked bikes because they're the majority. Instead, the two Merida bikes with rim brakes are designated 'Rim'.
|Oltre XR4||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra Di2||£6,000|
|Oltre XR4||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£3,258.71|
|Aria||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||NA|
|Sprint||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£2,339|
You’d expect a heritage brand like Bianchi to still offer rim brakes, and indeed it does, although its formerly rim-brake-only Specialissima is now available in a disc version, and if you want one with rim brakes you'll have to build it yourself from a frame; there's no complete bike on offer.
Nevertheless, Bianchi tops the price list here with the latest Oltre XR4 up there which will set you back a cool six grand in its Ultegra Di2 incarnation.
If your finances are more modest, check out the aero-framed Aria, above, which has had a visual makeover for 2021. Check out the iridescent colour option on the disc-brake version too.
Finally there's the Sprint, which Bianchi bills as a sort of My First Race Bike, and we can't think of a more appropriate colour than Celeste if you're hoping to follow in the wheeltracks of Coppi.
|Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Di2||Carbon fibre||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2||£7,349|
|Ultimate CF SL 8 Di2||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra Di2||£3,299|
|Ultimate CF SL 8||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£2,499|
|Ultimate CF SL 7||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,899|
|Aeroad CF SL 7||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£2,999|
|Endurace CF 8.0||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£2,199|
|Endurace CF 7.0||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,649|
|Endurace AL 7.0||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£1,349|
|Endurace WMN AL 7.0||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£1,349|
|Endurace AL 6.0||Aluminium||Shimano Tiagra||£1099|
|Endurace WMN AL 6.0||Aluminium||Shimano Tiagra||£1099|
Canyon doesn’t disappoint rim brake fans with a decent selection of models across its Endurace, Ultimate and Aeroad ranges.
However, there's sadly no longer a rim-brake version of the flagship Ultimate CFR; the range tops out at the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Di2, up there above the listing.
The rim-brake offering in the Aeroad aero bike is down to just one bike too: the Aeroad CF SL 7, above.
If your aim is long rides in comfort, though, then the good news is you've plenty of options in the Endurace line. Above is the Endurace CF 7.0 with a full 105 groupset, for example.
And of course there are a couple of aluminium-framed Enduraces as well, like the Endurace AL 7.0 above.
|Teammachine ALR ONE||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£1,400|
Previous versions of BMC's Teammachine were available in disc or rim-brake configurations thanks to some clever frame design, but the latest incarnation is disc only, leaving just one aluminium-framed bike in the line with rim brakes.
|Van Rysel RCR CF Dura-Ace||Carbon fibre||Shimano Dura-Ace||£3,499.99|
|Van Rysel EDR 940 CF||Carbon fibre||Shimano Dura-Ace||£4,999.99|
|Van Rysel Ultra CF Ultegra||Carbon fibre||Shimano Ultegra||£2,229.99|
|Van Rysel Ultra CF Potenza||Carbon fibre||Campagnolo Potenza||£1,999.99|
|Van Rysel Ultra CF 105||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,499.99|
|Van Rysel Women's Ultra RCR CF 105||Carbon fibre||Shimano 105||£1,499.99|
|Van Rysel EDR AF Ultegra||Aluminium||Shimano Ultegra||£1,299.99|
|Van Rysel EDR AF 105||Aluminium||Shimano 105||£999.99|
|Triban Women's Intermediate||Aluminium||Shimano Sora||£599.99|
|Triban RC120||Aluminium||Microshift 8-speed||£429.99|
Decathlon offers a wide range of rim-braked bikes in its Van Rysel, Triban and B'Twin ranges, including the just-introduced EDR 940 CF, above, a Dura-Ace-equipped sportive bike at a very good price for its spec.
Other highlights of the range include the Van Rysel Ultra CF Potenza, above, one of very, very few road bikes on the market with a complete Campagnolo groupset, and the Van Rysel EDR AF Ultegra, below, with a similarly rare combination of an aluminium frame and Shimano Ultegra groupset.
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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.