Dave's drawing a line in the sand on disc brakes. You either love them or you're wrong.
Words - Dave Edwards
Since they were first introduced to road cycling a few years ago, the discussion on road disc brakes has raged on, like the furnace in a steam train. Specifically the discussions have increased since road hydraulic discs became a thing. Generally speaking, there are two camps
- Those that have tried disc brakes, either with MTB, CX or otherwise, have realised the power and control they offer, and think anyone who doesn't want them is a complete idiot.
- Complete idiots.
The advantages for a rider with road discs are huge, and the penalties are tiny, so let's look at that.
With a hydraulic disc you have outstanding control to the braking forces you can apply to your wheel, which allows you to regulate your speed perfectly. This is also road condition independent to a large degree, as water or muck will not influence how your brakes wish to grab the braking surface.
A perfect example was when I rode down the Azami Line of Mt Fuji in Japan recently. An 11km climb, that averages 10.5%, this is a gnarly old hill, especially so in the top half, with very tight switchbacks, and corners exceeding 20% gradient. Riding down there with a friend (also on discs) we were able to bolt at full gas into the turns, brake very late and hard, lean over and fly to the next bend. With 37 bends in the top 7 kilometres, on that sort of slope, that was A LOT of hard braking. By the bottom, our discs were pinging hot, but still working perfectly. The best part was that we were able to get the KOM on Strava for that run! Running normal calipers on that sport of run means you have to brake earlier before the corner, and are losing speed. That's not even mentioning trying to do descend like that with calipers on carbon rims, where the very real chance of a de-laminated wheel waits for you at every corner.
So what? I don't descend that fast will say some in camp 2. That's great, but that same control of braking applies at any speed, and especially so when wet. Even if you don't ride in the hills (though really, what's the point?), everyone still needs to pull up quickly at times. Corners, emergencies, a free trampoline sign...
Like any trend in cycling, there will always be 'Camp 2' people saying it's ugly, until eventually it becomes the norm, and they shut up. Discs look rad. This is a fact.
So goddam sick of weight discussions. Yes, there is a minor weight penalty for disc brakes. You could argue that the weight has changed positions on a disc rim a little compared to a rim brake wheel set, and that your rim can be lighter, meaning you have a lighter rotating mass, meaning you can accelerate more quickly. But, I still don't care about that either. The weight difference to the vastest majority of people in the community, the 98% of us out there, will never be felt or realised. It makes so little difference so as to be statistically insignificant. The weight argument is dumb.
If you have argued this in a disc discussion, go buy a mirror, and have a real good, hard look at yourself. Take your aero helmet off before you do this also.
Seriously. Your arguments are getting desperate.
EASE OF MAINTENANCE
Discs I haven't found to be harder or better than caliper brakes, just different. I also work in a bike shop, so have experience with loads of different models and standards of quality. Bleeding a brake line can be a little tricky, but very rarely needs to be done, and certainly needs to be completed way less often than changing a brake cable and housing.
Changing brake pads out is way easier to do on discs. Yes if a rotor gets bent, it needs to be straightened, but so does a wheel if it buckles, and both are about as easy as each other to fix. Probably my favourite part of this is that you won't wear your rim out, no matter how often you brake on it. Your rim will last for as long as the fatigue resistance of the product it's made from, and that is usually a very, very long bloody time. This is as opposed to rim brakes, which can wear through at the brake track, sometimes quite quickly. Even if you do wear out a disc, they are cheap, and very easy to replace.
Rob Eva from SRAM Australia put it perfectly when he said "You wouldn't buy a new car with drum brakes on it would you?" And that's a bloody good point. Any car you look at now, high performance, family SUV, hatchback, sedan, or a blacked-out windowed abduction van, they all come with discs. Why? Because a disc brake will work better in every situation that you put it in. With a hydraulic disc brake you have outstanding control of the speed of your bike, with almost no weight penalty, with simple maintenance thrown in.
So for road, gravel, adventure, commuter, KOM hunter, racer, climber and hubbards all alike, discs are better. Get a bike equipped with them, they rule.
Do you agree with Dave's opinions? Do you dare disagree with them? Chuck a comment below.