Bicycle brake technology has evolved dramatically over the past few decades. Few braking systems can be found on new bikes these days; some are better than others in certain situations.
So, disc vs rim brakes, what type of brakes system are best? The truth about the debate, in a nutshell, is that the answer is both. A particular brake setup will depend on personal preference or intended use.
This article will give a review of the braking options on various types of bikes. It’ll also discuss the pros and cons and give examples of how each braking system is used.
Disc Vs Rim Brakes: Comparison Table
Both have their own advantages and disadvantages but they’re not completely interchangeable. Here’s a comparison of the two types of brakes:
|Point||Disc Brakes||Rim Brakes|
|Maintenance||Easily replaceable||More involved process|
|Braking surface||Don’t require||Require|
|Tire width||32 mm||28 mm|
Disc Vs Rim Brakes: Key Difference
The most common brake system is disc brakes, but not all MTB have this type of braking system. Here’s a quick overview of the key difference between the two brake systems:
So first up, let’s take a look at the cost of buying a complete groupset. Across the three major groups that manufacturers, on average, it’ll cost you about £230 more to buy a disc-equipped group.
Not a significant difference, you might say, in the grand scheme of buying a bike, but it is a difference.
Now comparing like-for-like products and the same setups on average, you’ll find that a Rim Brake groupset allows you to save around 95 g of overall weight from your Disc groupset. But again, not significant, but it is a small saving.
There is minimal difference in out and out performance between rim brakes and disc brakes. Anyone who has used rim brakes in the wet will know that during the first initial period when you apply the brake, the pad clears the water off the braking surface.
The overall performance will vary depending on the type of rim brake wheels and the pants you’re using.
But we think it’s fair to say that you have a fairly consistent and dependable brake performance in almost all conditions when using disc brakes.
Whereas with a rim brake bike, your performance alters depending on your riding conditions.
- Wheel Weight and Cost
On average, there were comparable prices between rim brake wheels and disk brake wheelsets across several different brands and products.
Still, there were a couple of instances where the disk brake wheelset was in the realms of 100 to 100 and £50 or euros more expensive.
There were some instances where the weight between the rims brake wheels and disparate well. So it was comparable, and some brands they’re almost identical.
But there are several different reasons you need to shop around because some brands give you the option of saving around 30 to 40 ground by using a disparate wheel set over there, rim brake one.
From our research, we found that, on average, a disc brake frame is about 70 g heavier than this rim bray equivalent when we’re comparing like for like, for example, and this was based across mid-range and high-spec bikes.
So it may well vary significantly differently for lower or entry-level spec bikes. And the reason behind this is that added strength and reinforcement are added to the frame to accommodate the load and forces that are put through it through the disc brake calipers
Now bear in mind this was some time ago, so technology and stuff might have moved on a little bit from then.
So our experiments showed that a rim brake bike with a rider, when ridden at 35 kilometers an hour, was 13. What’s faster? And if you increase that speed up to 45 kilometers an hour, there’s a rim brake bike saving 16 watts.
Now, if you compare the bike by itself because those numbers were a bike with a rider, then the numbers change slightly.
So a rim brake bike, only at 35 kilometers an hour, was only three what’s faster than a disc brake bike. And at 45 kilometers an hour, the rim brake bikes by itself was seven.
- Service Life and Longevity
Unless you compete at the top end of a sport where everything makes a big difference, it won’t be a big deal for service life and longevity.
And this is an area where we feel disc brakes have a distinct advantage. They require less maintenance, and in general, terms will have a longer service life. These brake pads themselves will last longer than rim brake ones.
This is due to them being made of different and tougher materials. For example, when you’re comparing hydraulic and cable systems, there’s much less maintenance.
- Rider Input
The last section now, and regarding rider input, a disc brake system requires less force when pulling the lever than a rim brake system.
It’s not that the rim brake lever is particularly tough or hard to pull in anywhere. It’s just that a display lever has a very slightly lighter action.
This means it could be great for people with small hands and or particularly weak hands or maybe even people with a disability or a hand impairment.
For example, it also serves as quite a confidence booster for people who might be slightly nervous on the bike because having the ability not to put lots of force through the brake lever does instill that extra bit of confidence in you as a rider.
Disc Vs Rim Brakes: Which One to Choose?
It’s simply a case of deciding which aspect, an area of braking performance, and the system that’s most important to you and then choosing accordingly.
Choose a rim brake bike and may have a disc brake bike for training on or racing in wet conditions. But if you could only choose one bike, you should 100% choose a disc brake bike.
We think it offers advantages in most areas and characteristics most important to my everyday cycling.
And it would seem that manufacturers and brands are investing most of their resources in technology and development into refining and honing the disc brake system. As such, it would appear that disc brakes are the future.
Why do pros prefer rim brakes?
Rim brakes have a lot going for them. They are less complicated to install and maintain, don’t require any special tools or proprietary parts, work well in all weather conditions, and are significantly lighter in weight.
Are rim brakes obsolete?
Not at all. Most bikes are still equipped with rim brakes, and they’ve been improved to a point where performance is quite good.
What are the disadvantages of disc brakes?
Disc brake rotors will compress due to the weight of the bike and/or rider and will damage rims if it happens too often. They cause noise, require clamping forces, and it’s expensive.
So that’s it for the disc vs rim brakes comparison. To recap, disc brakes are more powerful than rim brakes but can be more difficult to modulate. In order to achieve the best braking performance possible, you should use disc brakes.
However, if you’re more concerned with ease of use and maintenance, rim brakes may be a better option. It is always appreciated to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment below the article if you have something to contribute.
I am Ryan Ford, a mountain biking enthusiast who loves to explore the outdoors. I also like to go on adventures with friends and anything else that involves being outside. I love my bike because it gets me out of the house and gives me an opportunity to enjoy nature.