Why are we still debating disc brakes and pad brakes?
Disc brakes or classic brakes?
Time goes by, bike models change, but the debate is still open and the victories of some professionals who use the classic brake fuel the debate even more.
The disc brake is an evolution of the classic brake that has been on the market for years, so it is not a marketing gimmick to sell more. In addition, data in hand, it clearly offers more powerful and safer braking in all weather conditions. The new models also feature some very interesting technical innovations that make the bikes easier to ride and much safer: wide-channel wheels, wider wheel arches, etc.
However, it is undeniable that there are always some negative aspects.
In this article we just want to analyse the different aspects and try to draw a conclusion.
1. Discs may not be necessary, but…
Braking, and braking well and safely, is essential. There is nothing to object to, considering that we have been using traditional brakes for years, on even rougher terrain than what we are complaining about today.
And it is also true that the first discs presented some problems, because the frames were not designed for them, but adapted. Today, however, we have come to have near-perfect products, with frames, forks and wheels designed specifically for discs.
Here are some advantages of today’s disc bikes, which are absolutely undeniable:
– More powerful and controllable braking;
– Reduction of braking distance;
– Less risk of the rim overheating (which has definitively ruled out the use of carbon rims for tubeless tyres and clincher tyres, which have always caused a lot of problems with the shoe brake).
2. And the professionals?
The “Pros” are part of another world, so we must be careful when making comparisons with them. Here are a couple of fundamental considerations:
1 – 90% of amateurs do not have the driving skills of the professionals;
2 – If a professional wins without using the disc brake, it is not due to this choice.
3 – How important is marketing?
The classic cyclist has always rejected novelties. Historically, even innovations and options that we now take almost for granted have struggled to establish themselves.
Quick release pedals, the use of helmets, carbon frames, compact handlebars and cranks, wider section tyres. Or, in the world of mountain bikes, the transition from 26″ to 29″ wheels.
People often say “it’s just a marketing technique to sell more”. As you have seen, this is not always the case.
3. The weight
Here there is no doubt, weight is the biggest disadvantage of the disc brake.
For those who attach great importance to lightness, it will be difficult to accept a disc bike. In the case of high-end bikes, we are talking about a saving of between 300 and 500 grams. In the low-end and mid-range models, the difference is obviously more pronounced.
Personally, I think that the biggest mistake has been made by the market and the companies that for years have insisted almost exclusively on the importance of lightness, making us perceive a 7.5 kg bike as heavy.
4. The price
To get a light bike, you have to spend a lot. So, the price is closely related to what we have just said. To buy a disc bike that weighs less than 7.5 kg you have to spend thousands of euros.
If you have a bike with top-of-the-range rim brakes that is light and well set up, it’s clear that you’ll think twice before swapping it for a bike with disc brakes.
It’s one of the classic fears, but it’s actually a false problem. The only real thing is that a couple of times a year you will have to plan to purge the system. But even on traditional bikes, cables and casings need to be replaced.
And tablet replacement is a piece of cake.
But how much does it cost?
The brake pads for aluminium rims are much cheaper, it’s true. But the brake pads for the carbon rims cost about the same as the pads.
There is one thing that is really annoying about disc bikes. Cycling is a sport in which the repetitiveness of a noise, combined with the fatigue of pedalling, drives us a little crazy. It happens to everyone.
With bikes with disc brakes, you can occasionally hear the “Tzin Tzin Tzin” caused by the brake pads rubbing against the disc, especially on long descents.
7. Wheel compatibility
This is one of the inescapable objections. If with a traditional brake bike, you are forced to change the wheel for any problem, you will find one without problems. Any wheel from a friend or a shop will do. If you have the disc instead, it will be more difficult to find a wheel that has the same size of the disc…
For those of us who are used to travelling, for example, this can be inconvenient.
8. Which bike to buy?
If the bike you are going to buy is new, you should absolutely choose a bike with disc brakes. If it’s a second-hand bike, we could talk about it…
Technologies will get better and better and the future (but also the present) will be only with disc bikes.