Disc brakes versus Caliper brakes – the classic debate when it comes to buying your new road bike. Whilst disc brakes have been growing increasingly popular, the traditional 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 Endurance SL and Endurance SL Disc on the pro’s and con’s of different brakes.
Check out our full range of road bikes here
The stopping power of discs also means much less force is needed to be applied at the lever, therefore relieving the strain and muscle fatigue, particularly on those long descents.
The disc brake option will allow you to run up to a 32mm wide tyre (on our Endurance SL Disc) as opposed to a 28mm 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.
Check out a selection of road disc bikes here
Reliability and Maintenance
There is an admired simplicity to a traditional cable-actuated rim caliper that will rarely let you down in terms of reliability and if you do have a problem, are much easier to fix on the side of the road. Consumables (such as brake pads and cables) rim brakes are cheaper too! Most would argue that modern disc brakes are also reliable and cheap to maintain, however, they can be slightly trickier to fix should something go wrong.
It’s also best to 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. But it is to be avoided with a disc brake! However, disc brake caliper spacers are provided to avoid such issues.
With regards to maintenance, 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. The biggest difference is a set of hydraulic brakes will need bleeding rather than simply replacing a set of brake cables and if you are not that mechanically minded this would be best left to the experts.
A big factor and mostly overlooked is how both of the braking systems use different types of axles. The traditional tried and tested method of securing the wheel on a traditional road bike with rim brakes is with Quick release skewers. The downside to this type of flex, wheels can flex and your rim can contact the brake pads when under load.
On the whole the majority of disc brakes employ a bolt thru-axle system. A thru axle screws through the wheel and directly into the fork legs using an allen key on one side. This provides additional wheel security and also improves the stiffness of the front end. This in turn provides better steering control and improves the handling of the bike. The effects of this are particularly noticeable when cornering.
Check out the Endurance SL Disc here
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.
Check out the Endurance SL Caliper here
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 you’re out no matter what the weather? Then go disc – you’ll have more consistent braking regardless of conditions and you’ll get more longevity out of your wheels as you won’t be wearing your rims in those adverse conditions.
- Is the weight of your bike your #1 priority? Then go for rims – they’re lighter!
- 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 come into one of our showrooms to try both and see which you prefer!
Either way, there is no right or wrong choice – hence why our new 2019 range offers both options across our Endurance and R872 models.
Check out our full range of Ribble bikes
Written by Ashley Brough – Triathlete, CrossFit King, Ribble Mailbox Store Manager and Super Dad to Lola!