Why are discs better than rim brakes?
Originally Posted by pjherron
The difference is friction. Friction is of course the force acting against the momentum. Friction under all circumstances will be greater in a disc system than a rim system. Not even ceramic rims and their pads can compare to the sustainable friction of a disc system. Not to mention the effects of inclement conditions on rim brakes.
Let's start by taking a look at the physics involved. There's a law of physics that states how an object in motion has a certain amount of energy due to its momentum. This energy is called kinetic energy. In order for this object in motion to stop or slow down, it must lose some or all of its kinetic energy. It does this by converting the kinetic energy to heat.
It's pretty simple. At your wheel you have a metal disc and a set of friction pads. The pads squeeze or push onto the metal. When this happens, you create friction. Friction generates heat, of course. Since the wheel is turning, then the kinetic energy of your momentum is converted to heat at this point and discharged harmlessly into the atmosphere (with a slight loss of pad material), and your bike slows down. The faster it is going, the more heat is needed to stop it. The more pressure you apply to the pads, the faster it can discharge the kinetic energy.
Adding a larger disc aids in the discharge of the heat generated the increased surface area allows heat to dissipate more quickly
Rim brakes work well, but they have a hard time shedding heat well enough to prevent fade when used really hard. Brake fade occurs when the brake overheats dramatically; braking power is vastly reduced.
- Disc brakes handle heat load and dissipation better than calipers.
- They don't transfer the heat generated directly to the rim, like calipers.
- Disc rotors are MUCH cheaper to replace than an entire rim (as low as $15).
- As far as being able to lock a wheel: yes you can lock a wheel much easier with a disc than you can a caliper of any type, however if your brakes are PROPERLY setup, you also have greater modulation with less effort than any caliper system ever invented.
Do I have V brakes on my road only commuter? Yes. Due, in no small part, to the fact that both my frame and fork are not disc compatible. As I plan on eventually (after my shock upgrade on the trail bike) swapping out the fork on my commuter for a rigid model that has disc tabs I will not be without the added all conditions stopping power of discs for much longer. It is also possible that I may even just get a fork with V-brake bosses as the current setup is adequate for most everything I encounter while commuting in Florida, but it's funny how things can change.
I reposted this from an earlier discussion on the matter