Road Bike Disc Brakes vs Rim Brakes

Road Bike Disc Brakes vs Rim Brakes

Weighing your options between road bike disc brakes vs rim brakes? You’ve come to the right place.

Cycling is one of the most physically demanding activities known to humans, and a key factor to making sure that your cycling experience is up to the challenge is to make sure you’ve selected all of the necessary components, from frame and tires to brakes, all of which must put comfort and your safety first.

The two most popular kinds of brakes for road bikes are disc brakes and rim brakes, and today, we will be talking about both brakes and why you may choose one or the other.

When choosing bikes and replacing or upgrading components, it is crucial to think carefully about your selection.

The wrong choice can cause several annoyances ranging from hard-to-press brakes to a lack of control, so let us take a detailed look at both disc brakes and rim brakes and see which one may be best for you.


Rim Brakes

Rim brakes have been around for almost as long as the bicycle has been a method of transportation – the first bicycles had suspenders with fans that rubbed against the bicycle wheels to slow them down – and they’ve been a steadfast presence in the world of road cycling ever since.

Today, they are some of the most popular brakes among cyclists due to their affordability, easy maintenance, and good performance in general conditions.

Rim brakes are divided into two categories: Direct-pull’, or cantilever brakes, and ‘Center-pull’ otherwise known as ‘caliber’ or ‘side-pull’; both types employ blocks, or ‘shoes,’ that press on the rim to stop the bike.

Cantilever Brakes



Center Pull Brakes
Center Pull Brakes


The main difference between these two options is their design.

The direct-pull brakes are actuated from the top of the top tube or the bow, with one arm going in each direction, and the center-pull brakes are actuated from the center, with two arms coming up from the same point.

Some of the main advantages of rim brakes include their ability to offer excellent performance in dry conditions, their ease of replacing your brake components after they wear down, and the fact that they are more affordable than disc brakes.

Here are five reasons why you may decide to use rim brakes:

  • Affordability: Most rim brakes are designed to be very affordable, making them ideal choice for budgeted cyclists.
  • Accessibility: Rim brakes are most often located on the side of the wheel, making them easily accessible in case of mechanical difficulties.
  • Easy to Maintain: Rim brakes are usually easy to maintain and have few, if any, parts that need to be adjusted or replaced.
  • Light Weight: Rim brakes tend to be lighter in weight than disc brakes, making them ideal for lighter road bikes.
  • Performance in Dry Conditions: Rim brakes often perform well in dry conditions, as there is less friction than in wet conditions, resulting in a more powerful braking performance.


Disc Brakes

In recent years, disc brakes have become increasingly popular among cyclists looking for faster braking and more control compared to traditional rim brakes.

It is important to note that although disc brakes provide better braking, they are more expensive, heavier, and more challenging to maintain.

Disc brakes consist of a disc between the wheel and the hub of a bike, and the calipers actuate the rotor, usually through mechanical or hydraulic means.

The main advantage of disc brakes over rim brakes is their heat dissipation.

In contrast, rim brakes suffer from heat fade due to the friction caused between the pads and the rim of the wheel.

Disc brakes’ pads are located away from the wheel, using hydraulic pressure to actuate the brakes and prevent heat fade.

Disc brakes are divided into two categories: mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes, the main difference being the latter employs a fluid (usually oil) to actuate the brakes, making them more power efficient.

However, both use a pad in the caliper to press against the rotor.

Here are the five reasons why you may decide to use disc brakes:

  • Heat Dissipation: Disc brakes are usually better at dissipating heat than rim brakes, as the discs are located away from the hub and outside of the wheel.
  • More Power: Disc brakes provide more power than rim brakes, making them ideal for challenging terrains.
  • Control: Disc brakes offer more control than rim brakes as you can actuate the brakes with less force.
  • Adjustable: Disc brakes can be adjusted to suit rider preferences and personal conditions better than rim brakes.
  • Resistant to Wet Conditions: Disc brakes are better at braking in wet conditions than rim brakes, as their distance from the wheel prevents water from getting in the way.


Road Bike Disc Brakes vs Rim Brakes Key Takeaways

Rim brakes and disc brakes offer outstanding performance for road cycling, and the right decision mainly depends on a budget and the conditions you are expecting to ride in.

If you are on a tight budget and mostly ride in dry conditions, rim brakes may be the best option for you, as they still offer good braking performance and are usually easier to replace.

On the other hand, if you are looking for better performance in wet conditions and more control and power, then you may want to consider investing in disc brakes, as they offer these features and can be adjusted in various ways depending on the rider’s needs.


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