Disc brake vs Rim brake – Which one is better?

Disc brakes versus Caliper brakes – the classic debate when it comes to buying your new road bike.  Whilst disc has been growing increasingly popular, the old rim brake seems here to stay and rightly so. Unsure what to go for? Ash puts them head to head to see which brakes suit you better…

So, Disc versus Caliper, which is better?

Well both in their respective application to a certain degree. We take a look at our Gran Fondo Disc and Gran Fondo Caliper on the pro’s and con’s of different brakes.


Where wet weather is concerned there is no denying that the disc brake will provide a more consistent and responsive stopping force over a traditional rim brake and will also eliminate that awful sound of a gritty wet pad meeting your nice shiny wheel rim. The disc brake option will allow you to run up to a 30mm wide tyre (on our Gran Fondo Disc) as opposed to a 25mm on the rim version allowing you a much bigger tyre footprint and the ability to use a much lower tyre pressure for optimum comfort and traction.

Disc brake 1-0

Check out the Ribble Gran Fondo Disc


There is a nice simplicity to a traditional cable-actuated rim caliper though that will rarely let you down in terms of reliability, whilst disc brakes do also score well in this too it is fair to say that when it does go wrong it will not generally be more straightforward or particularly cheap to put right. I should also mention that contracting your brake lever with a wheel not present in your bike will also not be the end of the world with your trusty rim caliper! However, disc brake caliper spacers are provided to avoid such issues.

Rim brake 1-0

Check out the Ribble Gran Fondo Caliper


Disc Vs Caliper

Each to their own on this topic I guess. Flat mount technology and ice-tec rotors have done a lot to improve this personally, also cleaning up the bridge of the fork and the seat-stay junction on frames has made for some really tidy lines in the bikes we see these days. On the contrary, you may argue that the hub/drop-out area of these bikes now look a little daunting and a little bit busy…. Call it a draw?

Rim brake 1 Disc brake 1

View all Ribble Disc bikes

Brake Maintenance

To be honest this will heavily depend on how technically capable you are. Replacement of a rim brake cartridge should be achievable by even the most ham-fisted of riders requiring you to simply loosen a grub screw slide out the old pad, pop the new one in and tighten the screw back up after (repeat). Disc brake pad replacement can be a little more involved, however it is much the same apart from a simple tip of pushing the pistons back before removing the old pads as the pistons self-adjust as the pads wear etc but sometimes the caliper may require re-centering… where riders often come unstuck.


Disc vs Caliper

It is going to cost you more to have your bike in a disc brake version. This is for a few reasons as it costs more to produce a disc frame due to the braking forces being placed all on the non-drive side of the bike as opposed to the centre of the bike via a traditional caliper and also the engineering for the bolt-thru style axles used in combination with disc brakes which is now becoming the standard. Then there is the cost of the braking components themselves which cost more to produce due to the complexity of these parts especially in the preferred and recommended hydraulic format as there is an awful lot going on inside an 11-speed hydraulic shifter lever as you can imagine.

Rim brake 1-0

Check out the Ribble Gran Fondo Caliper

In summary

So, which do you go for then?!

My advice to you if you’re unsure which way to go is determined by a few factors.

  • Is this going to be your best weather show and shine bike because you have a winter bike as well? Then go rim brake if it is never likely to see wet/rough weather as you will still receive more than enough braking power performance on your fair-weather dry rides.


  • Is this going to be your one and only bike and I don’t care what the weather does? Then go disc because you will have consistent braking regardless of conditions and you will get more longevity out of your wheels as you won’t be wearing your rims in the adverse conditions.


  • You want the best bike you can possibly get and your budget allows it? Again, go disc as the disc brake will always have the more optimal braking performance.


  • I’m new to cycling? Then go rim brake, it will save you money on the bike and keep things simple for you.


Either way there is no right or wrong choice but disc brakes are and will be the future but in the mean time rim brakes are not going anywhere for now…

Written by Ashley Brough – Triathlete, CrossFit King, Ribble Mailbox Store Manager and Super Dad to Lola!

Check out our full range of Ribble bikes
Check out the Ribble Gran Fondo Caliper
Check out the Ribble Gran Fondo Disc
View all Ribble Disc bikes

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3 thoughts on “Disc brake vs Rim brake – Which one is better?”

  1. The brake performance of a good set is fantastic, especially in the wet but discs and the Caliper saddle to the weight and create wind resistance, rim brake 2, disc 1, on performance. Discs also really shine because they don’t wear the rim, important both for alloy and carbon rims, so discs 1 rims 0.

  2. Discs are great but come with an extra weight penalty compared to rim brakes which is not discussed in the article.

  3. A further comment regarding weight could be that in the more recent performance disc wheels have lighter rims because the rims are specifically designed for disc wheels and a brake track isn’t necessary. So although the total system weight may be higher the rotational weight is less.

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