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Old 07-05-14, 07:41 PM   #1
ztrawhcs
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If you had to choose - disc brakes or carbon fork?

Hi bike friends. I'm having trouble deciding between two models of the Trek 7.4 FX hybrid. The model with disc brakes was Bicycling Magazine editors choice in 2014 for men's flat bar bicycles. But it has a standard aluminum fork. I can get a model with a carbon fork, but I would lose the disc brakes.

Which is preferable? Disc brakes, or a carbon fork? I've searched the archives at length, and seen lots of threads lamenting this gap in Trek's line-up, or threads discussing the value of disc brakes and the value of carbon forks, but there's not a lot discussing which is preferable.

I'm 200 pounds, btw, and don't plan to do a lot of riding in wet weather, although I'm sure I'll get caught in some downpours. I like trails, either paved or crushed gravel. And one day I want to bike across the country... but for now it's more likely I'll bike across the city.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 07-05-14, 08:02 PM   #2
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Hi bike friends. I'm having trouble deciding between two models of the Trek 7.4 FX hybrid. The model with disc brakes was Bicycling Magazine editors choice in 2014 for men's flat bar bicycles. But it has a standard aluminum fork. I can get a model with a carbon fork, but I would lose the disc brakes.

Which is preferable? Disc brakes, or a carbon fork? I've searched the archives at length, and seen lots of threads lamenting this gap in Trek's line-up, or threads discussing the value of disc brakes and the value of carbon forks, but there's not a lot discussing which is preferable.

I'm 200 pounds, btw, and don't plan to do a lot of riding in wet weather, although I'm sure I'll get caught in some downpours. I like trails, either paved or crushed gravel. And one day I want to bike across the country... but for now it's more likely I'll bike across the city.

Thanks for your help.
I distrust carbon.. Too many pics floating around of spectacular failures, so my vote is for disk brakes.
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Old 07-05-14, 08:26 PM   #3
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Hands down, go for the brakes. It's a performance upgrade that you'll feel, and appreciate.
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Old 07-05-14, 08:43 PM   #4
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Not having any experience with carbon forks but having a bike with disc brakes all I can say is that I love them. They are hydraulic and so easy to pull and stop great, never had cable activated ones so I can't say about them. I can't picture a carbon fork offering as much advantage as the discs do.
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Old 07-06-14, 08:34 AM   #5
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If riding faster and more smoothly is preferable to you, then go with the carbon fork. If greater all-weather stopping power is more important, then go with the discs. It depends on which is a more significant factor to your style of riding.
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Old 07-06-14, 09:28 AM   #6
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I am anti-carbon so my opinion is biased...I would choose disc brakes.
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Old 07-06-14, 10:19 AM   #7
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I'm 200 pounds, btw, and don't plan to do a lot of riding in wet weather, although I'm sure I'll get caught in some downpours. I like trails, either paved or crushed gravel. And one day I want to bike across the country... but for now it's more likely I'll bike across the city.
I would definitely go with the carbon fork.

1. An aluminum fork is going to be the most uncomfortable on your hands for riding of all your choices in fork materials. So you'll likely get a real difference - a more comfortable ride on your hands - by going with the carbon fork model. And the longer the ride the more you'll feel it.

2. Almost every bike nowadays comes with a carbon fork. It's a rarity to find anything with a different fork material. They're just as safe as steel or aluminum - there's always the retrogrouch crowd that hates anything that's new, but they hated aluminum when it came out to, claiming it would wear out in 5-7 years. Guess what? It didn't. I've personally known no one to have a carbon component break, but the only person I've known to have a material fail on them was with a brand new steel fork that sheared and sent them to the hospital.

3. Cheap disc brakes have some drawbacks - I own 2 bikes with disc brakes, and if I take the front wheel off and put it back on again (something I do to put it in and out of my dad's car) the brake will start rubbing. If the disc brake gets wet they can squeal like a banshee. Sometimes that continues even after the bike dries off. Whereas I've never had that kind of problem with rim brakes.

So since you're not planning on regularly biking in the wet, I'd go with the carbon fork and avoid the disc brakes.
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Old 07-06-14, 10:38 AM   #8
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I would not hesitate to go with the disc brakes. The carbon gives you, potentially, a little comfort; how much it gives is debatable. It also shaves a little off the weight.

The disc brakes give you reliable stopping. You say you do not plan on riding in wet often; but even those few times can make a difference.

Now, to state my bias, I remember riding on steel rims. With them I had rim brakes and they were totally worthless in the rain. I realize that not all rim brakes are that bad; but it dos help form my bias. Carbon is nice, brakes are essential.
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Old 07-06-14, 10:57 AM   #9
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I've personally known no one to have a carbon component break
I've personally known mountain bikers who had their Easton carbon handle bars break while riding. It wasn't even a crash, it was just riding along on the trail...I don't know why it broke, maybe it was defective from the factory.
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Old 07-06-14, 10:58 AM   #10
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Have you considered a Crossrip Comp? Same money as the 7.5. I know it's a drop bar but, riding on the flats is not that much different than a flat bar and it would get you the disc brakes on a carbon fork. It has interruptor brakes as well, if that is a concern. Might give one a spin for the heck of it.
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Old 07-06-14, 11:03 AM   #11
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Carbon fork with a rim brake in the front, disc brake in the rear.
You CAN have it all!
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Old 07-06-14, 11:28 AM   #12
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Have you considered a Crossrip Comp? Same money as the 7.5. I know it's a drop bar but, riding on the flats is not that much different than a flat bar and it would get you the disc brakes on a carbon fork. It has interruptor brakes as well, if that is a concern. Might give one a spin for the heck of it.
Not knowing the Trek product line as well as you do, I would definitely support going this way. That way you can 'have it all.' I had inturrupter brakes on my drop bar commuter for a couple of years and it worked extremely well. I rode on the flats in town and low speed stuff and moved to the drops for long runs. . . and you still have the disc brakes, most cross-bikes also come with rack and fender mounts.
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Old 07-06-14, 12:38 PM   #13
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I've personally known mountain bikers who had their Easton carbon handle bars break while riding. It wasn't even a crash, it was just riding along on the trail...I don't know why it broke, maybe it was defective from the factory.
That is definitely bizarre. But like I said, I've known someone who had their new steel fork sheer while riding (not mountain biking, just riding on a bike path) and broke their collarbone. Either of our stories are ancedotal, but I haven't seen anything other than the "it's new so it's bad" or the "I'm using super expensive lightweight stuff that's bleeding edge" crowds show that carbon is any worse than other materials.

That is very odd about the handlebars. Wonder if they were all from the same batch or something?
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Old 07-06-14, 12:51 PM   #14
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discs
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Old 07-06-14, 01:17 PM   #15
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Carbon fork. Rim brakes stop fine on aluminum wheels. Disc brakes stop better, sure, but rim brakes are plenty powerful. And lighter. So is a carbon fork. It's also smoother. But the marketing guys love to sell you disc breaks. It's the newfangled tech with good markups for the mucky mucks to make their nest eggs with. Somehow carbon forks became old news.

Most fun is counting how many nice new "steel is real" bikes are rocking a carbon fork.
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Old 07-06-14, 01:46 PM   #16
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I'd go with the carbon fork. Long proven, on pretty much every decent bike out there. Disc brakes for not MTB applications, are still evolving. The road wheels are not there yet, still evolving hugely with the impact that no rim braking will have on wheel design.

You're already not planning on riding when it's wet - so that's off the table as a benefit from the beginning. That leaves the better modulation of disc brakes over rim brakes but frankly, with the new caliper brakes coming out (i.e. Shimano Ultegra, 105 and Dura Ace calipers), that's pretty much off the table as a benefit too.

With those two things gone, that leaves you with the downside of disc brakes - less wheel and hub choices, more weight, more aero drag.

The stopping ability of rim brakes in the applications you describe, are still more stopping ability than you need. You can still lock up the wheels on pavement with no issue with a rim brake.

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Old 07-06-14, 02:52 PM   #17
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I choose both....Carbon Fork with Disk brake. But if you have only one to choose from....take the brakes. If they are Mechanical, upgrade them to the TRP Spyres. I replaced the BB5's that came on my Trek CrossRip and it was worth every penny.
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Old 07-06-14, 02:54 PM   #18
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Have you considered a Crossrip Comp? Same money as the 7.5. I know it's a drop bar but, riding on the flats is not that much different than a flat bar and it would get you the disc brakes on a carbon fork. It has interruptor brakes as well, if that is a concern. Might give one a spin for the heck of it.

I just got one of these and love it....
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Old 07-06-14, 04:37 PM   #19
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ztrawhcs: if you're not going to be riding in the rain,but are going to be riding on trails,then I'd go for the CF fork. If you do pick the discs,then you may want to consider swapping on wider,lower pressure tires to compensate. You could also always upgrade the fork later;steel forks aren't expensive.

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I distrust carbon.. Too many pics floating around of spectacular failures, so my vote is for disk brakes.
I distrust steel. I know two people who have broken steel forks just riding around the city. Salsa also just had a recall for some of their steel forks. Plus the rust thing.

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2. Almost every bike nowadays comes with a carbon fork.
???

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I've personally known mountain bikers who had their Easton carbon handle bars break while riding. It wasn't even a crash, it was just riding along on the trail...I don't know why it broke, maybe it was defective from the factory.
Did they have the stem faceplate and shifter/brake mounts properly torqued? CF requires the use of a torque wrench. Plenty of pros out there riding fully CF bikes,not to mention the torque TdF riders are putting into their drop bars when mashing up hills or out of the saddle attacking.

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Carbon fork with a rim brake in the front, disc brake in the rear.
You CAN have it all!
Why would you want that? 70% of your braking ability is in your front brake. Your best(all weather) brake should be in the front.
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Old 07-06-14, 04:40 PM   #20
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Why would you want that? 70% of your braking ability is in your front brake. Your best(all weather) brake should be in the front.
Exactly right. Putting a disc brake on the front at some point later would require a fork change, brake and wheel change. Lots easier than doing it the other way around that likely requires a frame, brake and wheel change.

Besides that, if you were wanting the benefit of disc braking, you'd get 70% of that by having it on the front.

J.
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Old 07-06-14, 04:54 PM   #21
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I vote the cross rip, without having ridden any of the bikes in question. When I bought a bike for the first time in a decade, drop bars intimidated me and I avoided them. The versatility in hand and body positions with drop bars is awesome, and flat bars aren't really better than the tops for non-mountan riding anyway. Especially if the cross rip comes with interrupter brakes on the tops.

I'd go for the carbon fork, a bit of added comfort every single ride beats an occasional inclement weather advantage. (Quality) Rim brakes are plenty powerful for everyday urban use.
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Old 07-06-14, 04:54 PM   #22
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My choice would be to go with the carbon fork and upgrade your brake pads to Kool Stop salmons or dual-comps. I have the Trek 7.3 (Aluminum fork) and, well, straight blade aluminum forks do send the bumps right to your hands and arms.

If you were planning a lot of wet-weather riding, it might be worth going for the disc brakes. But I think for the occasional caught-in-the-rain scenario, you'd be good with the rim brakes (with good pads). YMMV.

Are the two bikes the same price? Around here, you pay extra for the disc brake version.

And, yeah, if you're comfortable with drop bars, you should definitely check out the Crossrip.
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Old 07-06-14, 05:01 PM   #23
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I'd go with the carbon fork. Long proven, on pretty much every decent bike out there. Disc brakes for not MTB applications, are still evolving. The road wheels are not there yet, still evolving hugely with the impact that no rim braking will have on wheel design.

You're already not planning on riding when it's wet - so that's off the table as a benefit from the beginning. That leaves the better modulation of disc brakes over rim brakes but frankly, with the new caliper brakes coming out (i.e. Shimano Ultegra, 105 and Dura Ace calipers), that's pretty much off the table as a benefit too.

With those two things gone, that leaves you with the downside of disc brakes - less wheel and hub choices, more weight, more aero drag.

The stopping ability of rim brakes in the applications you describe, are still more stopping ability than you need. You can still lock up the wheels on pavement with no issue with a rim brake.

J.
I think people buying a $880 hybrid probably aren't terribly concerned about such things and are unlikely to approach a performance envelope where they matter on that particular bike.
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Old 07-06-14, 05:25 PM   #24
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I distrust steel. I know two people who have broken steel forks just riding around the city. Salsa also just had a recall for some of their steel forks. Plus the rust thing.
How did the steel forks break ?? Was it the fork arms or was it at the steer tube ??...I've heard about Salsa recall...I've been using Surly and KHS steel forks for many years.


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Did they have the stem faceplate and shifter/brake mounts properly torqued? CF requires the use of a torque wrench. Plenty of pros out there riding fully CF bikes,not to mention the torque TdF riders are putting into their drop bars when mashing up hills or out of the saddle attacking.
I don't know if the guy used a torque wrench or not...Maybe it was an installation error on his part or maybe just bad luck or factory defect.
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Old 07-06-14, 05:29 PM   #25
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Carbon fork with a rim brake in the front, disc brake in the rear.
You CAN have it all!
That sounds like a really jackass set up. If you're going to mix different brakes then at least put the disc on the front and rim brake at the rear.
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