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Old 03-26-14, 08:57 PM   #1
putupwet
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For you wetriders with disc brakes...

Howdy,

In your experience, are disc brakes significantly better for wet weather commuting? Never go back?

I'm in Olympia, WA having recently made a jump from Jupiter, FL... the Jupiter to Oly tour was successful! So, sure enough, it's cool and wet up here in the PNW (imagine that). My properly installed, aligned, and adjusted Kool-Stop salmon brake pads generally do the trick with enough advanced planning, but are noticeably less effective when it's sloppy out. So, it's the unplanned stops that I'll need to make that are concerning me. Just curious if discs are really quite a bit better for wet riding.

thanks,
tim
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Old 03-27-14, 05:12 AM   #2
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Yes.
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Old 03-27-14, 05:31 AM   #3
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For me, no comparison at all. Disk brakes out perform braking in the rain and snow.
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Old 03-27-14, 07:18 AM   #4
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I'm north of you in the Kent area. Yes disc brakes preform much better in the wet. As Moochems mentioned some disc break sets scream when they are wet. I have been running a set of Hayes stoker grams for several years and have run them on tektro, Avid, and currently on Hayes lightweight rotors. They have never sounded any different when wet vs when dry.
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Old 03-27-14, 07:22 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by moochems View Post
Better at sounding like a freight train.
How do you get yours to sound like a freight train? Mine only sound like a dump truck. Clearly I'm not tuning them right.

Noise seems to be pad-dependent, and of course noise happens only when the rotor itself is wet. Organic pads are quieter, but don't last as long. Semi-metallic are louder, but last longer. Pad life is relative too. In ordinary commuting the rotor stays clean enough that organics will still last a long time. During MTB or CX racing in the mud, they may last only one race. I run organics and change them every spring on the front, every other spring on the rear.

The disc brakes mean you don't have to do any advance planning WRT to lubricated rims. They grip the same wet or dry. Doesn't change tire grip on the road, of course. (Get Conti 4-Seasons for that.)

The big risk after owning discs is getting caught in the rain on a rim brake bike with KoolStop Salmons. Good as they are, by comparison, the KS bike can cause shorts-staining moments.
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Old 03-27-14, 08:46 AM   #6
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I sold my disc-equipped commuter, and really regret it. Braking in rain/snow was far superior to any rim brake-equipped bike that I've owned/ridden.
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Old 03-27-14, 08:51 AM   #7
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Yes and a lot less maintenance than rim brakes. Plus no more worn out rims.
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Old 03-27-14, 08:54 AM   #8
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I ride a mountain bike with disc brakes and a cross bike with rim brakes. Most of my riding is on the cross bike, and when I get back on the MTB I have to remind myself to be gentle with the brakes. It really is effortless to lock both wheels and slide out of control.

Another benefit, as someone already mentioned, is that the rims don't wear out. I've seriously considered upgrading the cross bike to put front disc brakes on it. Upgrading the rear would require frame changes, which seem excessive on an old bike.
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Old 03-27-14, 09:16 AM   #9
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In your experience, are disc brakes significantly better for wet weather commuting? Never go back?
Yes. I do find they tend to be a bit more grabby and that may take some getting used to especially on a road bike. And of course they are loud in the rain, which can be a feature if you want to be heard in traffic and on multi-use paths.

I love that I never have to clean off the rims. Here is my beater winter bike (I converted the front to use a disc brake whereas the rear is on rim brakes):


I also have a CX bike with discs I ride a lot through the colder months.

Also, in medium to heavy snow the v-brakes will get clogged with snow which turns into ice, despite decent clearance, preventing the brakes from doing much. The front disc brake will continue to work great.
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Old 03-27-14, 09:22 AM   #10
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I'm in the same weather zone as Oly ,, KS salmon works fine ..

as do drum brake hubs and the BB7 discs on my Bike Friday

KS has disc pads too , they were the 1st replacement from Stock .

seems better , I included a thorough cleaning of the disc too..
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Old 03-27-14, 09:34 AM   #11
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I have to admit I don't have disc brakes on my wet commuters but, ones a fixed gear and the others got a coaster brake. I've got no complaints about stopping in the wet vs rim brakes, and I can only imagine it's even better with a water resistant front brake too.
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Old 03-27-14, 09:40 AM   #12
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Maybe I'm deaf but...my discs are pretty darned quiet... bb7. I find that keeping things in adjustment, clean pads, etc.. does the trick.
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Old 03-27-14, 09:54 AM   #13
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I was getting tired of replacing worn-out rims, especially the front (a front rim cracking, allowing the tube to escape & explode can have some bad consequences, too). Rims used to last 20,000 km; now I find they usually only last 7,000 or so. Thus, as an experiment, I switched forks on my fixie and installed a front disc brake (mechanical BB7) for my winter riding and commutes.

Results have been outstanding. Braking is so good that I don't even use the rear rim brake (unless it's icy), therefore extending its life as well. The stock Avid pads lasted 3500 km (as opposed to about 500 km on rim pads during the typical Vancouver winter, with gritty, salty roads and all sorts of flying particulate debris on the wet roads. And the disc pads weren't even completely worn (although the spring was partially worn away).

The wet rotors do cause horrendous squealing, like very badly adjusted rim brakes with grease on the rims. You can sometimes get around this by braking early. As soon as you hear some squeal, ease up slightly, then apply pressure again until you hear squeal. Modulating the brakes like this about three or four times usually removes the squeal, and you can apply full power with little or no squeal. (Note: I am using sintered pads for their longevity, currently using pads made by Brake Authority.)

Very little difference between wet and dry braking feel. You don't get the same power at the maximum end, but modulation is much better. I think hydraulic discs would fix this. I'm looking forward to upgrading the front brake to a hydraulic for next winter. Hoping SRAM gets its act together and fixes its road hydraulic.

This week or next, though, I am switching forks, back to the carbon fiber ENVE, and going to the front Campag rim brake for the summer. Much lighter, less need of preserving rims from spring to fall, although it does rain during this time, but the roads are nothing like they are in the winter in the Pac NW.

If you live in the southwestern US, though, I think discs are not necessary. No rain, so rim pads and rims will last forever. I have always laughed at reviews of bike components done in SouCal. Cyclists have no clue that rims can actually wear out in less than three years!

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Old 03-27-14, 10:11 AM   #14
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discs it will be. thanks for sharing your experience. lots of good info here!

tim
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Old 03-27-14, 12:06 PM   #15
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Disc Brake Advantages:
- Definitely better braking in the wet. While Kool Stops are better than others, I found they do not match disc breaks.
- Less rim wear if you're regularly riding in the winter or in rain, more important in rain as the wheel gets road grit on the rim in the rain much more than if it's dry.

Disc Brake Disadvantages:
- They often squeal like a banshee after they get wet
- It's more difficult to take wheels of and put them on again without the discs rubbing vs rim brakes. I own two disc brake bikes, and my dad owns one, and I've found this with all of them.

I'm recently buying a new commuter bike. For me, I'm not planning on riding in the rain, so I avoided disc brakes. Not sure what I would choose if I was regularly commuting in the rain.
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Old 03-27-14, 12:23 PM   #16
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Nothing will make a ped jump faster than squealing disc brakes...definitely a plus. But mainly, they work better in all conditions than old-fashioned rim brakes, especially hydro discs. I'd never buy another bike without them. Kind of like drum brakes on a motorcycle vs disc brakes...who still uses drum brakes?
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Old 03-27-14, 03:18 PM   #17
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Yes. I do find they tend to be a bit more grabby and that may take some getting used to especially on a road bike.
find a wrench who knows how to set up disc brakes. after bedding-in disc brakes that are set up correctly are absolutely not grabby.
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Old 03-27-14, 03:20 PM   #18
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- They often squeal like a banshee after they get wet
- It's more difficult to take wheels of and put them on again without the discs rubbing vs rim brakes. I own two disc brake bikes, and my dad owns one, and I've found this with all of them.
i never have these problems with shimano hydraulics. the only time they squeal is when i get some oil on the rotor.
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Old 03-27-14, 03:36 PM   #19
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- It's more difficult to take wheels of and put them on again without the discs rubbing vs rim brakes. I own two disc brake bikes, and my dad owns one, and I've found this with all of them.
All mechanical disc brakes?

I'm curious because I would have said that taking the wheels off and putting them on again was a disc brake advantage, since you don't have to disengage the brake to do it. Some mechanical disc brakes require the pads to be fairly close to the rotor for proper performance, so I can see that possibly yielding fiddly issues when putting the wheel back on if you don't get it perfectly seated. Disc brakes that move both pads (i.e. Tektro Spyre and all hydraulic disc brakes) shouldn't have this problem if set up correctly.
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Old 03-27-14, 03:42 PM   #20
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Getting the rotor into the disc caliper slot can be a little twitchy, especially when you've also got to line up the axle in the dropouts at the same time. Otherwise, no, you don't have to release the calipers to get the tire thru them like with rim brakes. The only major downside is that you don't want to file off the "lawyer tabs" on the fork since hard disc brake application could eject the front wheel. With rim brakes, I always file off those stupid tabs!

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Old 03-27-14, 04:51 PM   #21
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- They often squeal like a banshee after they get wet
The only noise issue I've ever had was when I used an aftermarket rotor on the front of my BB7-equipped cross bike(cuz it looked cool). That thing really howled. Swapped it for a stock rotor,and the only noise would be in the rain for the first stop or the first one after a long delay. A bit of squeak,and the rotor would be scrubbed and everything would be quiet.

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- It's more difficult to take wheels of and put them on again without the discs rubbing vs rim brakes. I own two disc brake bikes, and my dad owns one, and I've found this with all of them.
That's because if you make the QR tighter or looser than what it originally was,you change the position of the caliper. Pro Tip: pop the QR,then count the number of turns you loosen it. Then when you put the wheel back on,put the lever in the same position as when you opened it,and spin it tight the same number of turns. QED
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Old 03-27-14, 06:29 PM   #22
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Disc Brake Disadvantages:
- They often squeal like a banshee after they get wet
- It's more difficult to take wheels of and put them on again without the discs rubbing vs rim brakes. I own two disc brake bikes, and my dad owns one, and I've found this with all of them.
I've found taking wheels off and putting them on again is a doddle with disc brakes. One time I needed to adjust the blocks slightly but that was because I knocked them when I put the bike (minus wheels) into a space that was only just big enough in the car.
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Old 03-28-14, 02:30 PM   #23
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All mechanical disc brakes?

I'm curious because I would have said that taking the wheels off and putting them on again was a disc brake advantage, since you don't have to disengage the brake to do it. Some mechanical disc brakes require the pads to be fairly close to the rotor for proper performance, so I can see that possibly yielding fiddly issues when putting the wheel back on if you don't get it perfectly seated. Disc brakes that move both pads (i.e. Tektro Spyre and all hydraulic disc brakes) shouldn't have this problem if set up correctly.
This is in response to you post and the others - my winter bike has Shimano Alfine Hydraulic Disc brakes. My mountain bike has Avid brakes - not sure which ones, they appear to be cable operated.

The Shimano ones will squeal if they get wet, but not all the time. The Avid squeal horrifically from the one time I rode them in the winter in the snow. So the alfines are better, but they still have problems.

Not sure what discs my dad had. He finally just got rid of the bike because he didn't really need discs and he hated dealing with it.

On hydraulics, if you accidentally hit the brake lever with the front wheel off you won't be able to get the wheel on without some work -
How to remove front wheel with disc brakes?

Bottom line, out of 2 bikes I've owned and 1 my dad owned, disc brakes have been more hassle and more complicated. I still find them to be worth it on my winter bike, as I don't want salt and sand ground into my rim, and they definitely do provide more stopping power in the wet. It's a cost/benefits tradeoff though.
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Old 03-28-14, 05:04 PM   #24
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The main advantage of disc brakes is that they will save your rims from wearing out, especially if you ride in wet, snowy conditions with a lot of grit and salt on the roads. In dry weather, a well adjusted rim brake with good quality pads can stop just as good as disc brake.
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Old 03-30-14, 01:53 PM   #25
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find a wrench who knows how to set up disc brakes. after bedding-in disc brakes that are set up correctly are absolutely not grabby.
Even on CX tires on the road? I find that's where it's the most "grabby" since there's not much of a contact patch between the CX tread and the road.
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