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Apart from the maintenance overhead I've found disc brakes to be great - especially when it's raining. However, I'm toying with getting a lighter and sportier bike with rim brakes (aluminium rims... carbon clinchers make little sense to me) and am wondering if I'll miss that wet weather performance.

What do you think? How close can rim brake performance get to disc brakes?

46 comments

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CXR94Di2 [2685 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

To answer your heading, NO

YES, you will miss the benefits of disc brakes in the wet

Buy some cheap carbon aero disc brake wheels, these will make you go just as fast as saving a few grams in frame/component weight

 

 

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StraelGuy [1725 posts] 2 years ago
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Rim brakes can get pretty close. I have discs on my carbon summer bike and Shimano R650 with Swissstop green pads on my winter bike and they're very close indeed, even in the wet. The Swissstop green pads don't last particularly long and are expensive but the performance is very impressive.

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Plasterer's Radio [545 posts] 2 years ago
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NO

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brooksby [4840 posts] 2 years ago
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I have to admit that I have never ridden a bike with disc brakes.

I like my old hybrid with its V-brakes, and I've finally got the hang of adjusting and fixing them so I'm loathe to move on and have to learn how to fettle a whole new brake system

In your case, I understand that disc brakes are a lot more powerful, so I'd imagine you need to bear that it mind: brake earlier, and maybe brake longer, to get the same effect (a bit like driving an old car after getting used to driving a shiny modern one with ABCS etc).

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part_robot [304 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Thanks for all your responses!

Some context might be useful here. I have a Synapse Di2 Disc and I'm looking at a (used, probably) Dura Ace Hi Mod SuperSix Evo. Reasons: 1) 1.5kg+ lighter for like-for-like config and wheel set 2) better aero 3) feels more sporty which is what I want/need given the direction my cycling is taking me. My commuter has rim brakes but whilst I don't remember having stopping issues, I don't get to test the limits like I do with the Synapse.

CXR94Di2 wrote:

Buy some cheap carbon aero disc brake wheels, these will make you go just as fast as saving a few grams in frame/component weight

Cheap carbon wheels don't offer any weight saving. E.g. ali Hunt Aero Disc are 1400g; you won't get many quality/trustworthy carbon ones at that weight for less than £1000. They don't seem to offer any real-world handling or aero improvements either and at least some are measurably worse than their metal counterparts.

guyrwood wrote:

Rim brakes can get pretty close. I have discs on my carbon summer bike and Shimano R650...

What wheels? The braking surface seems important according to various reviews.

brooksby wrote:

In your case, I understand that disc brakes are a lot more powerful...

My experience is that they are about the same in terms of power as rim callipers; certainly not a lot more. The sole benefit of disk brakes for me is consistent response in the wet. When it comes to road bikes even the much-lauded "modulation" isn't of much practical benefit in day-to-day use because we roadies don't need minute control over complex terrain. Only time I've been grateful for improved modulation was during some unplanned Tokyo drifting around a sharp corner in Knatts Valley  10

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bechdan [255 posts] 2 years ago
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as said - not as good in terms of reliability or consistency. In dirty wet conditions rim brakes will not only be less effective but will get more ineffective as sludge builds up on the pads.
A good rim brake in the dry can be as good as a disc on a road bike (assuming cable operated with a small disc) but if you are using a hybrid or trail bike with hydraulic brakes and larger discs then they are far better in every way, even modulation can be improved with resin pads.

If you have the opportunity then go for a good quality cable operated disc brake as it will mean the life of the wheel is not determined by rim wear.

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dreamlx10 [312 posts] 2 years ago
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Well said SuperPython59 I totally agree with you, it won't be long before the disc brake police are on here to show you the error of your ways.

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Griff500 [432 posts] 2 years ago
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dreamlx10 wrote:

Well said SuperPython59 Itota;;y agree with you, it won't be long before the disc brake police are on here to show you the error of your ways.

+1. I have discs on my MTB, Ultegra rims on my carbon road  bike, and nameless rim brakes Trek saw fit to put on my 3 year old alloy winter bike. As SuperP said, my Ultegra brakes give all the stopping power allowed by the grip of my 23c or 25c tyres. The unbranded things fitted to my winter bike are nowhere near Ultegra, but I very quickly adapt when I switch bikes. Do they make me slower?  In reality, not on the wet, muddy, and gritty roads I am currently riding on because grip levels are so low (otherwise I'd be on the nice bike). It's a fair bet I will get a road bike with discs one day, but only because the time will soon come when they are standard.

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AKH [65 posts] 2 years ago
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part_robot wrote:

... feels more sporty which is what I want/need given the direction my cycling is taking me.

Haven't you just answered your own question?

I've no personal experience of discs on a road bike. Presumably you had rim brakes before the synapse, how were they for you? If the synapse doesn't feel right for you does it matter how good the brakes are?

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Plasterer's Radio [545 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes

Some people commenting on here have never tried disc brakes.

try them for  a bit and then go back to rim brakes........

VHS v Blu-ray

CRT tv v LCD 4k

Rim v Disc

Telegram v Iphone

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Gasman Jim [222 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

If you want rim brakes to rival discs, particularly in the wet, try a pair of Mavic Ksyriums or Cosmics with Exalith. I've got a pair of their 1350g 125th anniversary Ksyriums and they certainly give the discs on my winter bike a run for their money. You must use the dedicated Exalith pads.

I think if the Exaliths weren't so outrageously expensive (for an alloy rim) more people would have tried them and there would be less interest in discs.

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DrG82 [260 posts] 2 years ago
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I agree too, discs on the MTB are great because you're constantly smashing the wheels off true and plowing them through mud and grit but on a road bike I find the tyre traction to be the limiting factor rather than the brakes.

Magic used to make ceramic coated rims, anyone know if they still do?

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madcarew [1002 posts] 2 years ago
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I have a cannondale supersix himod with DA brakes. I occasionall ride my friend's synapse with ultegra with disc brakes (don't know the caliper details, but standard on that bike). The extra stopping power from the disc brakes is notable (they can literally stand the bike on it's end, the rim brakes never have) and the performance in the wet, depending on the brake blocks is far superior, especially at first grab. Having said that, I started cycling, like SuperPython with what were euphemistically called speed modulators, not brakes, and the Dura/ace rim brakes are really really good. Just not as good as the discs. 

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muppetteer [95 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes

I've got two very similar titanium bikes, one rim and one disc. The rim brake bike has Super Record calipers with Swissstop blue, and either Eurus or Neutron Ultra wheels. When setup nicely in the dry it brakes as well as the disc bike.

But the disc bike feels the same in the dry, as it does in the wet. There's little comparision between the caliper brakes in the wet with the discs. They're in different worlds. One stops, the other attempts at stopping whilst you scrub off the water and then finally get the pads to bite. 

I'd never get another bike with caliper brakes, but I also wouldn't get rid of the bike I have with them either. In the dry its absolutely great. Its just when its raining, its not so great. And in heavy rain, its a bit poor. 

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ktache [1952 posts] 2 years ago
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DrG82 wrote:

Magic used to make ceramic coated rims, anyone know if they still do?

They do not.  I don't think they have for a while.  Maybe quite some time.

During last summer my front ceramic wheel (26inch) developed a bad judder on braking, tried getting it trued, made no difference.  It was about 15 years old.  Could not find a new replacement.  The internet quest started, a fair few second hand rims, all very expensive, various ages, and I knew that the rim would probably be good but what if the bearing surfaces were dead.  So you might be talking a couple of hundred quid for a rim of some age, and then a rebuild onto my old hub, because mountain bike hubs are all for disks these days, more expense.  My front was still rideable, not pleasant but doable.  The search went on, week after week, for a couple of months.  Different terms, tried googleing everything.  Pages and pages of ebay, here, internationally.

Then I found them.  Mislabelled disc rims on a small internet site, up north I think.  Phoned up to make sure, and they were perfect.  Two Mavic X717 ceramics.  The had had them for years, ordered for a wheel build that fell through.  £200.  And they wanted to give me £40 off.  Yes, YES.  Bought them, then nothing.  They were uncertain because they were not disc rims as labelled.  But I didn't want disc rims, I wanted these. Eventually sorted it.  Phew.   Even paid for courier.

Then I found a late NOS non disc XTR front hub on ebay.  £50.  BUY IT NOW.  BUY IT NOW.

So I then thought, maybe some new pads for my new rims, and I'm a big fan of swissstop, so I go to buy some, and this is the point of my story, apart from my excitement of reliving the frustration and joy of a quest completed, they were not just for ceramics, you could use them on carbide rims.

And you can buy new carbide rims, SJS sell them.  That easy.  But of course with internet if you're not asking the right question...

But I do love my Mavics.  Got the wheel built at my LBS.  Nice.  Ridden her a lot this summer, proper off road, like I've not done in years.  More that I had a chance to, and no judder.  Found a new XTR rear as well. £65, not quite the one I wanted, 970, fat pipe, and I've not had a good time with the freehubs on my XT fat pipes.  But a pair of NOS 960s are £300.  Will get that wheel built when I find my new job.

I hope you have enjoyed my little tale, got a bit carried away.  You lot are the only ones who could ever understand.

Oh, the braking power is incredible.  When they were brand new I managed to momentarily lock up the front zooming down park hill towards the cricket ground in Birmingham.  In the dry, on tarmac.  Never doing that again.  And they seem equally good in the wet.  And the Swissstops don't seem to be building up the glassy surface like the shimano pads.  I'm guessing the carbides are very similar.  But SJS are selling them as touring rims. 700c and 26".  Big and heavy I suppose, which is why I didn't mention them until DrG82 bought up ceramic rims.

Cannot compare them to discs mind.  Never ridden, the new bike will have them of course, but I've been saying that for over a decade.

 

 

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ktache [1952 posts] 2 years ago
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SuperPython59, I am not prepared to ever argue with yourself, or doubt your truely extensive and incredible knowledge, but, and I am worried about using the word but here, when I was 13 for my birthday and christmas or christmas and my birthday I got my first proper "racer" a pugeot from the littlewoods catalogue. £89.99.  Their cheapest proper racer.  It was blue, had those safety brake things and I think it had 10 gears.  And it had alloy rims and rubber pads.  And cotter pins, one of which got stuck when I completely stripped and rebuilt her just after my "O" levels, before I started work at McDonalds at £1.58 an hour.  Showing my age.  The old 2nd hand "hack" bike that was stolen when I was 11 had steel rims.  I'm 45 now, so that's 32/33 years back.  So what I am trying to say, in the nicest possible way of course, is that you may be underestimating your 32 years of road riding (so you may have even more experience than even you thought you had) or that your first bike had a bit of age when you got it.  I have promised to myself that I would never use an emoticon so I cannot give you a winky symbol,  but Thank You and Goodnight.

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Yorkshire wallet [2428 posts] 2 years ago
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I do get where Superpython is coming from. Part of his point is you shouldn't really be needing to be hitting the brakes that much anyway. I could ride my motorbike at silly speeds and instead of braking if I eased off the throttle in the appropriate place before hand there'd be no real need for braking. I could enter a 30 zone at 30 scrubbing off loads of speed from just sitting up into some nice wind resistance. You can ride fast and smooth and it's even easier on a bicycle given the low speeds. Descents are the only place I ever scrub a load of speed off.

This said I'd still buy discs over calipers at the moment. I don't have experience of top end calipers but I know that entry-mid level stuff is crap compared to entry level discs, especially in the wet. Probably better to be overbraked rather than under. Then again, if you don't know the limitations of either then you're still doing down or into something.

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Chuck [590 posts] 2 years ago
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I sort of get where SuperPython is coming from, and I have a rim-braked road bike that I am not likely to be getting rid of any time soon. But that said, when you pull the lever in the wet with discs, you're braking, not setting the scene for some braking a bit later on.  That is just better, and TBH I don't really see why anyone who's ridden discs would argue that it isn't. That alone is a big plus to me for urban riding in particular, and that's before you get into rim wear.

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Danger Dicko [295 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes

This thread has turned in to a mong off.

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srchar [1522 posts] 2 years ago
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Danger Dicko wrote:

This thread has turned in to a mong off.

Cycling has turned into a mong off.

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part_robot [304 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Yeah, I think we should end it here before it becomes a debate about helmets and car doors  3

So the conclusion is:

1/ Ali with rim brakes can be great

2/ Disc brakes are better in all circumstances

3/ You'll regret moving back to rim brakes

That's what I suspected. I'll just wait until I can afford the new HiMod Evo with discs (or an Izalco Max or whatever it is I end up buying to sate my sporty needs) then.

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Mungecrundle [1541 posts] 2 years ago
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I guess these debates have been going on in some form or another since the Safety or Rover bicycle first appeared in the 1880s much to the disgust of the pro cyclists, racers and established cycling community of the time who looked down on the "dwarf machines" from atop their "ordinarys".

I think it would be fair to say that every cyclist currently using disc brakes has experience of rim brakes. Generally they find discs better for any number of reasons.

It would appear that the die hard disc haters have little / no experience of actually using a technology that they are passionate about despising.

In my experience both rim and disc brakes do the job, but personally I definitely prefer the disc.

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HowardR [263 posts] 2 years ago
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If you use rim brakes on aluminium rims U WILL DIE - It must be true becase I read it on the Internet.

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HowardR [263 posts] 2 years ago
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Also to consider........

What sort of terain does your cycling generally take you through? Discs probably hold a bigger advantage over rims if you live in the Lake District than if you live in East Anglia. I live in the latter & spend most of my time trolling along flattish roads, straightish roads with little by the way of hedges and as such (stupid as it may sound) breaking doesnt have a high priority and my rim breaks more than meet my requirements. When I took my self of touring (with a camping load) through bits of the country that had nothing but hills and the roads upon which I traveled where narrow, twisting and bound by high hedges I appreciated the extra 'modulation' that my disc breaks provided [That said...... The first time I used disks & encontered that famous 'modulation' I was strongly reminded of how a well set up pair of centre pull brakes would feel - one of these days I'll find a frame on which I can mount my old Mafac's & test that memory out]

And - your brakes place in your world extends beyond retardation.... Maintainence is much easier with rim brakes & from what I've read just swapping wheels can be a bit of a pain with disks due to subtlety different disk alignments. If you only need one wheel set than that's <obviously!> no problem but as soon as you want to have different sets for different occasions it'll start to niggle every sodding time you fancy swapping them over.

 

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hsiaolc [369 posts] 2 years ago
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NO. 

 

Anyone tell you otherwise is just stupid. I wouldn't bother to read it. 

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part_robot [304 posts] 2 years ago
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Thanks HowardR - those are some great points and questions.

I almost exclusively ride hills in Surrey, East Sussex and Kent. Most rides are 1-2km in climbs and short gradients of 10-25% are present. There are hedges and there are crazy young drivers in hot hatches. There are also steep drops!

My discs are QR which means maintaining and setting them up is a real chore versus rim brakes as you say. Additionally they will rub when (very!) hot and will also rub when grubby/wet and cornering sharply due to fork/skewer flex. In reality these are very temporary and minor issues but I will admit that's an influencing factor in moving to the Super Six (albeit a small one since all of these problems are solved by thru axles I gather?)

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barbarus [536 posts] 2 years ago
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No, they can't. But why not stick to riding your new bike in the dry and use the disc brake bike in the wet?

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part_robot [304 posts] 2 years ago
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barbarus wrote:

No, they can't. But why not stick to riding your new bike in the dry and use the disc brake bike in the wet?

i wasn't planning on having two bikes, but yes - that's something I was considering.

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hsiaolc [369 posts] 2 years ago
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part_robot wrote:

Thanks HowardR - those are some great points and questions.

I almost exclusively ride hills in Surrey, East Sussex and Kent. Most rides are 1-2km in climbs and short gradients of 10-25% are present. There are hedges and there are crazy young drivers in hot hatches. There are also steep drops!

My discs are QR which means maintaining and setting them up is a real chore versus rim brakes as you say. Additionally they will rub when (very!) hot and will also rub when grubby/wet and cornering sharply due to fork/skewer flex. In reality these are very temporary and minor issues but I will admit that's an influencing factor in moving to the Super Six (albeit a small one since all of these problems are solved by thru axles I gather?)

 

Are you serious?

 

I have no problem sitting my disc brake wheels into place with QR. Not sure what your problem is.  

With disc I just have to slide back in and never have to worrya bout re adjusting the pads like I did with my dura ace rim brakes. 

Come on. 

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huntswheelers [182 posts] 2 years ago
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I guess many factors need to be considered in a balanced way..... personally you choose which you prefer and whether you are in need of the "next big thing" in cycling.

From my perspective from the workshop floor....

How about the additional cost replacing freewheel bearings. thru axles reduce the space available for the bearing, hence bearings sometimes only last 1000 miles maximium.

Cost of organic pads that work best in the dry but disintigrate at the first sign of rain. 

Extra hassle cleaning the bike.... which is subjective to how OCD you are

If rim brakes get splashed with chain lube their performance will not be affected provided the oil is washed off, do the same with disc brakes and another set of pads is required or they don't work.

Discs require constant heavy use to remove any contaminant, the amount of pads which will be replaced... kerrrchiing....

Dread to think how dangerous disc brakes would be on a road bike in heavy rain.

And finally.... tyres.. can they take the extra loads on heavy braking.... wide MTB tyres spread the load..a set of 23/25's I have my doubts over

 

My perspective from in the saddle....  I'm sticking with rim brakes and decent pads personally...

Whatever, you pays yer money and takes your choice

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