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 2020?
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 most 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? Probably not, but they’re set to become a lot more scarce in the future. As long as the professionals are using rim brakes then bike brands will continue to offer rim brake bikes but this year we’ve seen more discs in the peloton. Deceuninck - Quick Step has won over 30 races all on disc-equipped Specialized bikes, so change is in the air.
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 Venge and Cannondale SystemSix are only offered with disc brakes.
The biggest choice of rim brakes are found on regular lightweight all-round road bikes, the likes of Giant’s TCR or Trek’s Emonda, for example.
Specialized is offering just three road bikes with rim brakes in 2020, and they're all variants of the entry-level Allez road bike. The Allez (£649), Allez Sport (£850) and Allez Elite (£1,050) have rim brakes … and that's your lot from the Big S.
If you want a fast Specialized bike with rim brakes, you'll need to look for 2019 models of the Tarmac. The race-ready S-Works Tarmac (£6,999, above) is still available and the cheapest option is the Tarmac Comp at £1,950. Better snap them up before they disappear altogether.
Things are a bit better at Giant. Its Defy endurance bike might be disc-only, but there are five models of the Propel aero bike with rim brakes, and seven of the TCR Advanced, Giant's lightweight all-round road bike.
The Propel Advanced Pro 0 2020 (£4,699) is a race-ready bike with Ultegra and SLR deep section carbon wheels and an aero handlebar and stem.
This is the TCR Advanced Pro 0 (£4,399) with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and SLR carbon wheels and finishing kit.
At the other end of the range is the TCR Advanced 3 (£1,399) with a carbon frame and fork and a Shimano Tiagra groupset.
The Trek range still shows a healthy number of rim brake bikes across the Madone, and Emonda ranges for men and women, though there are fewer very-high-end bikes with rim brakes than last year, and carbon versions of the comfort-orientated Domane are now disc-only.
The most expensive rim-braked Madone that Trek still lists is the Madone SLR 8 (£6,750), nominally a 2019 model, with Shimano Dura-Ace components and Bontrager Aeolus Pro 5 carbon wheels.
The Emonda SL 5 (£1,550) is the most affordable carbon fibre Emonda, a bike pitched as a lightweight climbing and all-round choice. This model gets a Shimano 105 groupset and alloy wheels.
British brand Ribble offers a few rim brake bikes in amongst all the disc-equipped road bikes. This is the Ribble R872 (£999) which provides a smart carbon frame and fork with a Shimano Tiagra groupset including rim brakes.
Spend a bit more and you could consider the Endurance SL R Series which starts from £2,499 with an Ultegra groupset. The name suggests long-distance comfort but the bike has been designed with aero in mind, with aero shaped tube profiles and a one-piece integrated handlebar and stem.
Basque country brand Orbea has moved over to disc brakes with an increased focus in recent years but its 2020 Orca range includes a number of rim brake models priced from £1,299 to £3,499. Here’s the £2,899 Orca M20 Team PWR with a full carbon frame and fork and a Shimano Ultegra groupset.
Merida’s range of Reacto (aero) and Scultura (all-round) road bikers are fairly evenly split between disc and rim brakes. This Scultura Limited (£2,350 provides a clean and modern carbon frameset equipped with an Ultegra mechanical groupset and alloy wheels.
If you want a team replica speed machine, this Reacto Team-E (£8,000) might interest you. It’s got the same red and black paint job as Bahrain-Merida professional race bikes and it rolls on Fulcrum Speed wheels with a full Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset doing the braking and gear changing. On the other hand you might want to read what Amnesty International has to say about Bahrain first.
You’d expect a brand like Bianchi to still offer rim brakes, and indeed it does. In fact, its lightweight Specialissima is only offered with rim brakes, there is no disc brake option at all. Here’s a Specialissima with a Super Record 12-Speed groupset. The price? £8,999.
There’s also a Marco Pantani special edition for fans of the late Italian climbing specialist and winner of both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1998. We'll have two.
If you want a Cannondale, don’t waste your time looking at the SystemSix aero bike as that is discs only, instead you want to check out the long-running SuperSix Evo.
The bad news is that the SuperSix Evo, once a haven for rim brakes, has gone almost entirely over to discs in its latest incarnation.
Nevertheless, Cannondale offers two models of the new platform with rim brakes, with Shimano Ultegra (£2,493.99, above) and Shimano 105 (£2,000) respectively, and there's a woman's version of the 105-equipped bike.
However, there are still a few of the 2019 bikes in the shops.
The SuperSix Evo Carbon Tiagra (now just £1,050) is the most affordable and has all the features of the top-end Evo but fitted with more affordable components, from the Tiagra shifters to RS/Formula wheels.
If the SuperSix Evo is too aggressive for you and you want a mile-muncher endurance bike, you want the Synapse, but both the alloy and carbon ranges are only offered with disc brakes.
Canyon doesn’t disappoint rim brake fans with a large number of models across its Endurace, Ultimate and Aeroad ranges.
The new Ultimate CF Evo 10.0 LTD (£6,799) is one of the few bikes to use rim brakes with SRAM's latest Red eTap AXS groupset, and weighs just 6.0kg to boot.
More realistically priced is the Ultimate CF SL 8.0 Di2 (£2,699) which combines an Ultegra electronic groupset with DT Swiss P 1800 Spline wheels.
Providing a more relaxed position and extra comfort features is the Endurace CF 8.0 (£1,749) which comes with Shimano Ultegra, DT Swiss P 1800 Spline wheels and weighs a claimed 7.46kg.
BMC’s Teammachine has long been one of the lightest and best performing all-round race bikes, and the latest version has been designed around both rim and disc brakes. Rim brake fans will be pleased to see that BMC definitely has your back with no fewer than five carbon-framed Teammachines, from the £1,999 Teammachine SLR03 One to the £4,499 Teammachine SLR 01 Two, equipped with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and Mavic wheels.
There’s also the Teammachine ALR with an aluminium frame and offered in two builds, with this Shimano 105-equipped model at £1,500.
Decathlon still offers a wide range of rim-braked bikes in its Van Rysel, Triban and B'Twin ranges, including the £3,500 flagship Van Rysel RR 940 CF Dura-Ace, above. You can have it with Ultegra Di2 for the same price if you prefer. Decathlon has also just launched a new model — the Van Rysel EDR AF Ultegra — with an aluminium frame, Shimano Ultegra groupset and rim brakes for just £1,200.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.