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Thread: Braking Power

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    500 Watts kill.cactus's Avatar
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    Braking Power

    Hey all:

    I'm not a tourer, just a lowly commuter, however I thought it might be smartest
    to ask you guys about braking power since you carry loads.

    I have direct pull (commonly called V) brakes. I have heard calipers are not powerful,
    but what are the weakest and most powerful braking systems, in order?

    This is purely out of interest

    Thanks!

    Prescott

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    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    caliper, cantilever, disc
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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    There was a heated discussion on this at Tandem@hobbes (tandem forum- Tandems with team weights over 350 pounds may be the ultimate braking challenge) Youmight also ask this question in the tandem forum as well. Most people agreed that all three systems - calipers, v-brakes and disks are capable of locking up a rear wheel. Modulation and braking control are the real key. This requres carefully adjusted and selected brake levers and shoes etc. You will find advocates of all three systems as well as some who have had each system-including disks -who have been unhappy .

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    I'd bet you could adjust your V brakes so they lock up your wheel--- at that point it doesn't matter. You may be using a lower grade of brakes and levers (and I think you might be), and you might wish to upgrade to Avid or Shimano.

    This is a pretty easy DIY project you could do yourself.

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    In touring terms we have special problems related to stuff like:

    Getting brakes to work with paniers

    Getting mixed systems of road levers and non-road brakes to work. And there aren't perfect answers, there can be variables relative to fork type, fenders, and other components

    This can mean that the normal order doesn't actually pan out for these hybrids.
    Last edited by NoReg; 05-19-07 at 10:59 AM.

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    My itch crotches to go! treefire's Avatar
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    calipers, cantilevers, v-brakes, disc brakes with a six inch rotor, 7" rotor etc. Hydraulics discs have no cable friction or housing compression.

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    But honestly, as soon as the bakes stop the wheel and it skids, it really makes no difference.

    Almost any type of brake can do this if it's of a reasonable quality and adjusted right.

    kill.cactus has a Trek with v-brakes. I wouldn't change the type at all (too costly)

    I'd first try to get the best performance out of the current brakes by adjusting them and getting better pads.

    If the braking power isn't up to snuff after that....get better liner pull (v style) brakes and levers.

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    My mid-1980s Miyata 1000 has its original cantilever brakes. They have always worked great, but were SO finicky to adjust. When I ordered a custom bike four years ago, I wanted brakes that were easy to adjust, and ended up with a nice set of side-pull brakes. But my experience with side-pulls was mixed. My impression was that it took more force to stop than I was used to.

    This year, I am switching back to cantilevers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tacomee
    But honestly, as soon as the bakes stop the wheel and it skids, it really makes no difference. Almost any type of brake can do this if it's of a reasonable quality and adjusted right.
    The only people who make this argument are those who have considered disc brakes, but have not actually ridden them for long periods of time to fully evaluate their performance.

    Actually you don't want to skid the wheel, because you lose control of the bike to some extent. What you really want is to get to the point right before lockup, and be able to maintain maximum braking with wheels still turning but not skidding. (like anti-lock brakes on cars). This is exactly what good disc brakes let you do. Their strength is not only in their stopping power, but also in the operator's ability to precisely regulate that power. Good Vees will get close to disc in this regard, but do not regulate power as well.

    One big advantage of discs is they stop in rain. Hard rain. Bob dylan hard rain (sorry). In the heaviest downpour, a good disc brake will stop you in a surprisingly short distance. Rim brakes start to quit working in rain (ok in NOAA showers). In a heavy downpour you will have nearly no brakes at all with rim brakes.

    There are several disadvantages to disc brakes.
    1. Weight penalty of 1-2 lbs per 2 brakesets over good quality (light weight) rim brakes.
    2. May require special housing routing on frame (hydraulics only).
    3. Frame usually needs to have brake tab to use them, although retrofit devices are available. Cheap easy way is to run front disc only, then all you need is fork/wheel/brake.
    4. Disc brake on front compromises wheel strength somewhat, although this is offset by the fact that front wheel strength is usually excessive for actual needs, so can lose some without problems.
    5. Disc mount location interferes with mounting of fenders and racks. May require special racks.
    6. Cost - disc brakes require replacement of brakes, wheels, fork - so not cheap. Economically it's better to buy a disc-capable frame/bike from scratch than to retrofit.

    Despite all these disadvantages, disc brakes now dominate the mtb market to the point where they're std equip on all but the cheapest bikes. It's hard to find good quality rim brake wheelsets for sale anymore.

    Don't take my word for it - borrow a disc bike and give it a good ride - especially in traffic, down hills, in rain, etc. Be aware that new disc brake bikes usually brake poorly until they are broken-in.

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    Senior Member digger's Avatar
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    I have a 1987 mtb bike that I have since rebuilt into a commuter bike. It has basic Shimano V-brakes with Tektro levers.
    My new mtb bike (2004 Hardrock) has Avid BB5 calipers and Shimano LX levers.

    The v-brakes on the '87 bike are WAY more powerful than the Avid BB5s on my new mtb. But the BB5s are WAY better in the rain.

    Mech disc brakes don't seem to have any better stopping power than well set up V-brakes, but discs are better in the wet.

    I have Shimano 105 dual pivots an dlevers on my road bike with Kool Stop pads. My touring bike has Tektro dual pivots with Shimano 600 Aero levers with Kool Stop pads.
    The Shimano 105s are WAY better.

    The higher the quality the better the stopping power.
    Originally posted by Bones_McBones: Wow Digger, wow! You've earned my respect.... I know ashoposo got werked up. You are the gutter pig of Trollheim.

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    It's true digger....quality brakes work better than the cheaper ones. Pauls canti brakes, Avid single digit v-style brakes, Hayes hydrolic discs, Ultegra calipers-- if you get good stuff and adjust it right, it works well.

    It's also a matter of personal choice. I hate disc brakes...mostly because they are complex and hard to work on. (go to the Cyclone Bike Supply website and count the number of Hayes brake parts-- no thanks, I'll stick with linear pull brakes, thank you) Then there's the noisy bent rotors rubbing and the extra pound of weight..

    As far as stopping a bike on wet roads..... no system really works that well. Even with disc brakes, there is only about an inch square of rubber touching the road per tire. It's going to skid some. Drum brakes are even more water resistent than discs and they still are not so great in the rain.

  12. #12
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacomee
    But honestly, as soon as the bakes stop the wheel and it skids, it really makes no difference.

    Almost any type of brake can do this if it's of a reasonable quality and adjusted right.
    In dry weather. In rain or snow that's not a given.

    Also, some brakes are better for offering more varying pressures. Some on the other hand seem to have little between the two extremes of brakes off and wheel locked up.

    Anyhow, I used V-brakes and canti's before, never had a problem with either. They work for me and I commute year-round in Toronto, so yeah even in snow and ice they served me ok. Of course, I had to go slower and be more careful, but I would have to do that on snowy roads anyway.

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    500 Watts kill.cactus's Avatar
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    Wow thanks

    I ride in some rain, but I've always been careful to take hills slowly and periodlically keep my rims dry by lightly applying my Vees, so I don't think I need to worry about needing disks.

    I've found my V brakes to be quite inadaquate - getting the rear tyre to skid is pretty difficult without applying the front brake (to take weight off the rear) or at least leaning forward to take weight off the rear. I've tightened the cables to make it easier to pull, however I really think that the problem is that the pads themselves are really bad. I have some generic Tektro ones that came stock - I'll look for some better ones at my LBS.

    Thanks

    Prescott

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    I won't vote for one design over another, but I think another valid point (more for mountain biking, I guess) is the WELL-documented but not widely accepted/admitted issue of disc brakes paired with quick-release skewers on the front wheel.

    The action of the dis brakes, even on forks made for them, tends to move the QR from side to side and can cause it to loosen....this has apparently resulted in several bad crashes. (I'm not spot on with the physics of it - Google the subject.)

    Just something to think about...

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    Yeah it's possible for disc brakes to open up the the QR....and once I had a brake pad delaminate off the post with v-brakes-- the rubber part wedged between the frame and the rim and I was picking out road sand of my butt for 2 weeks.

    The only trick is to use better quality parts....new $400 MTB have disc brakes on them and do stop well-- but lack modulation (the ablity to control the amount of brake) The bakes are on or off, nothing in between. Good brakes-- any type really, have plenty of stopping power and modulation.

    And it's the whole system-- good levers, good routed housing and cables, good pads, good brakes.

    If I was kill.cactus, I'd start with new pads, cables and housing-- and see if that works better. If not, I'd try some Avid levers (or other quality ones, ask the LBS for a deal on what they have in stock-- used levers would be a good option)

    The v-brakes would be the last thing I'd change out.

    An unrelated story about disc brakes.....I commuted with v-brakes and wore out a pair of rims in two years (a lot of wet, dirty riding) So I went to disc brakes thinking I'd be easier on the wheels. Well, after a year, the wheels went out of true...and I couldn't fix them! The torque from braking so near the hubs trashed the spokes and rims. The rims had little micro cracks around the eyelets, the spokes bent up like snakes when I removed them.

    Moral of this story....there is no free lunch, or bullet proof bike brake. (Not that I wouldn't run disc brakes again-- I would)

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    Senior Member greenstork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacomee
    Yeah it's possible for disc brakes to open up the the QR....and once I had a brake pad delaminate off the post with v-brakes-- the rubber part wedged between the frame and the rim and I was picking out road sand of my butt for 2 weeks.

    The only trick is to use better quality parts....new $400 MTB have disc brakes on them and do stop well-- but lack modulation (the ablity to control the amount of brake) The bakes are on or off, nothing in between. Good brakes-- any type really, have plenty of stopping power and modulation.

    And it's the whole system-- good levers, good routed housing and cables, good pads, good brakes.

    If I was kill.cactus, I'd start with new pads, cables and housing-- and see if that works better. If not, I'd try some Avid levers (or other quality ones, ask the LBS for a deal on what they have in stock-- used levers would be a good option)

    The v-brakes would be the last thing I'd change out.

    An unrelated story about disc brakes.....I commuted with v-brakes and wore out a pair of rims in two years (a lot of wet, dirty riding) So I went to disc brakes thinking I'd be easier on the wheels. Well, after a year, the wheels went out of true...and I couldn't fix them! The torque from braking so near the hubs trashed the spokes and rims. The rims had little micro cracks around the eyelets, the spokes bent up like snakes when I removed them.

    Moral of this story....there is no free lunch, or bullet proof bike brake. (Not that I wouldn't run disc brakes again-- I would)
    The moral of this story, as I see it, is that you can't run any old rims with disc brakes. They exert comparatively more force on the fork, spokes, and rims. I've read more than a few forum posts on this very topic and consensus seems to be that you need not be too concerned about the additional sturdiness required for discs and I beg to differ. I do believe however, that with solid rims, spokes, and hubs you shouldn't expect any extra damage or issues with discs.

    As an aside, if I wasn't running disc brakes on my bike, I would be running Campy mini v-brakes.
    Last edited by greenstork; 05-20-07 at 11:18 PM.

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    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    I'll put my 0.02 cents worth in. I'm pretty sure I've used every kind of brake except a roller brake and hydraulic cantis.

    For full disclosure, I should add I have:
    -a roadbike with Tiagra shifter brake levers/Ultegra dual calipers running Koolstop Salmon road pads
    -a recumbent with no name brake levers/Shimano V's running Koolstop salmon pads
    -a hardtail mtb with Shimano LX levers/Shimano V's running the Koolstop dual compound salmon/black mtb brake pads
    -a fs mtb running Avid 2.0Ls/Avid BB7 disc brakes
    -a tourer with old long style motorcycle levers/Avid BB7 road disc brakes
    -a freebie old steel bike with old Shimano road levers/Nashbar long reach dual pivot brakes/Koolstop inserts
    -old English 3-speed with original levers and single pivot brakes with black blobs for brake pads.

    As someone else posted, so much depends on how the brake is setup, and what pads are used (I think you see a pattern in the type of brake pads I prefer). I tend to think that all well setup quality brakes of which ever type are adequate with some notable points:

    1. disc brakes are just that little much better to stand ahead of the pack.
    2. I've found single pivot brakes are the worst, and usually brake dragging occurs no matter how many times you adjust them.
    3. cantis well setup are really nice, but are a real pain to setup (especially in comparison to the v-brakes). If for only that reason would I give v-brakes a nod over cantis all things being equal.

    And of course, you can't forget that some brakes just aren't suitable for an application (e.g. dual pivot brakes usually don't have space for a mudguard if you are interested in touring.) Likewise, usually disc brakes pose a problem when mounting racks, or can be said to be complex relative to their v-brake or canti counterparts. Though I have disc brakes on my tourer and love them, I would most definitely think twice about going on a tour in the middle of the Amazon or the Gobi desert with them and would probably opt for cantis (however, since I don't tour in the Amazon or Gobi desert, I'm more than happy to keep the disc brakes thank you!).

    Other things of course go into braking that can make substantial differences:
    1. the brake lever
    2. the brake itself (e.g. my Nashbar long reach calipers are quite flexy compared to the shorter reach Ultegras I have)
    3. brake pads can make a huge difference -I throw away any Shimano stock brake pad or else use them to sharpen knives or cut diamonds.
    4. cable routing
    5. frame mounting (e.g. flexy seat stays can be a problem).

    Given all the variables, I think it's not as easy to say one kind of brake is clearly better or worse than the other, though as I said, I tend to like discs the best. I believe the biggest bang for the buck for a person running v/cantis/dual pivots would be clean the rims, run Koolstops if they are not doing so already and install new cabling.

    And one other thing about the whole disc brakes and the forcing the wheel off -yep, the physics of it show it can happen -though I've yet to hear first hand or from a non-internet source that it's happened to someone. That's not to say it can't, just that knowing all my friends who ride bikes with discs, I find it strange I haven't encountered it yet. In fact, I've known of more incidents involving (well known brand) bike frame failures than disc brake wheels being ejected (should we not use bike frames then?). I'll guess it's more likely a failure to keep a QR tight than anything else. Still, it's a good point to bring up if only to remind people to keep QRs tight and not to test ride that disc equipped bike without good tight QRs first!

  18. #18
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seeker333
    The only people who make this argument are those who have considered disc brakes, but have not actually ridden them for long periods of time to fully evaluate their performance.

    Actually you don't want to skid the wheel, because you lose control of the bike to some extent. What you really want is to get to the point right before lockup, and be able to maintain maximum braking with wheels still turning but not skidding. (like anti-lock brakes on cars). This is exactly what good disc brakes let you do. Their strength is not only in their stopping power, but also in the operator's ability to precisely regulate that power. Good Vees will get close to disc in this regard, but do not regulate power as well.
    While your description of proper braking is correct, I would argue (and have on the mountain bike forum) that discs don't offer what I would call superior modulation. I've had two systems and neither offers any benefit - in terms of brake control - over either a properly adjusted cantilever or V-brake in terms of modulation. Both systems I've used were high end (an Avid BB7 and an Avid Juicy 7). Both stopped the bike and have more then enough raw power but when it comes to controll, they are (were) digital in application. The Juicy 7's are so grabby that you have to be careful in using them. It's incredibly easy to lock the wheels on steep downhills...not a place you want to lock wheels

    I'm not the only person to notice this either. Mountain Bike Action did an article on how to make the Juicy's less grabby by using organic pads...basically, downgrading the pad material to rim brake type material.

    On mountain bikes, discs are becoming standard but I'm not sure they are any improvement. They are more marketing then improvement. There are applications where they have their uses but for most normal mountain biking rim brakes perform just as well without the extra cost. For touring, they would be total unnecessary and overly complex.
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    20-Something Desk Jockey andypants's Avatar
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    I have discs on my touing bike and love them. The stopping power in any consition is excellent. There is more knowledge required to maintain and adjust them correctly, moreso than traditional rim brakes. I've heard arguments for and against them, including that you can hold a disc brake longer on downhills without worrying about heating up the rim, or something. I live in the south, so long descents haven't quite been a problem at this point.

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    I have cantilevers (Diacomp 287) and calipers (long reach 105) and find the calipers much better. They have a sharper respones, better modulation and a lighter touch which is essential on a long descent. Calipers limit your tyre clearance to about 28mm which is why we dont use them on tourers.

    Regarding disc brakes, these require quite a stiff fork to eliminate bending. Most disc tourers seem to have massive fork blades which are not going to soak up bumps. For sus forks, stiffness is not a problem.
    The issue of QRs releasing under disc braking an be eliminated by mounting the caliper on the front of the fork blade. You have to get the disc unit to play ball with front pannier racks and fenders.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    Regarding disc brakes, these require quite a stiff fork to eliminate bending. Most disc tourers seem to have massive fork blades which are not going to soak up bumps. For sus forks, stiffness is not a problem. The issue of QRs releasing under disc braking an be eliminated by mounting the caliper on the front of the fork blade. You have to get the disc unit to play ball with front pannier racks and fenders.
    I run a Vicious Cyclocross disc fork and while it's sturdy enough for disc brakes, I have not found it to be overly stiff and unforgiving. Quite the contrary, I've found my all steel frame setup to be quite compliant on bumpy roads. And with 37mm touring tires, it's downright cushy.

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    I don't know about the Juicys as they're hydraulic, but I can say with Avid mech discs the brake levers can make a huge difference. I used LX with the shortest possible pull -I was initially unimpressed with the disc brake modulation. However, using the Avid 2.0Ls dialed down to the shortest pull have made a huge difference to me, and I find the Avid mechs have really nice modulation now.

    Given a choice between my Avid mech discs/levers and v-brake koolstops with LX levers, I'd go with the Avid mechs for modulation any day. Admittedly haven't tried the v-brakes with the Avid levers yet though (too lazy and since they're my first choice for brakes, I don't want to take them off!).

    Just remembered: I changed my touring bike to trekking bars, so it meant -since I had Avid road discs on -I had to find some new brake levers as all I had were long pull v-brake type levers. I tried the dual purpose Tektro (can't remember the model, but they are supposed to be for cantis or v-brakes) levers but even on the canti setting, the braking was awful..... it was definitely digital braking! It felt really hard once the brake lever was pulled. I was very fortunate, I found some really old mtb canti brake levers with very low cable pull, and the brakes are wonderful once more. Anyway, here's a vote for Avid mechs -with good levers.

  23. #23
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    I have cantilevers (Diacomp 287) and calipers (long reach 105) and find the calipers much better. They have a sharper respones, better modulation and a lighter touch which is essential on a long descent. Calipers limit your tyre clearance to about 28mm which is why we dont use them on tourers.

    Regarding disc brakes, these require quite a stiff fork to eliminate bending. Most disc tourers seem to have massive fork blades which are not going to soak up bumps. For sus forks, stiffness is not a problem.
    The issue of QRs releasing under disc braking an be eliminated by mounting the caliper on the front of the fork blade. You have to get the disc unit to play ball with front pannier racks and fenders.
    The Dia-Compe 287s are infamously crappy cantilever brakes. Just so you know.

    Disc advocates almost always make it sound, to me, that disc brakes are so much better that to use anything else is courting with certain death. This doesn't really line up with my experience. $15/brake cantilevers were perfectly adequate for slowing my 40+ mph touring bike on the steep hills of northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont, New Hampshire and some big hills in Maine. It's true that braking degrades in the wet, but it's a huge exaggeration to say that rim brakes have NO braking power in the rain. Rim brakes on steel rims gets you no braking power. On alloy rims with Kool Stop pads, braking is, again, sufficient, especially since applying the brakes long enough to scrub some serious speed will dry the rims off. It is necessary to go slower and use more caution, but this is also true with discs.

    I must admit to having been seduced by the siren song of better braking power, so I "upgraded" to v-brakes and the expensive Dia-Compe v-brake levers. It's been an enormous hassle. Yes, I get amazing stopping power, but the set-up is finicky because of the high cable friction and barely-sufficient cable pull of the levers. When I get the cash, I'll be installing the nice Shimano cantis and standard brake levers. There's more to braking a touring bike than getting the maximum possible power. Besides, $15 cantis were good enough; the Shimanos are ~$30 a wheel, so I figure that they'll be quite excellent.

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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grolby
    Disc advocates almost always make it sound, to me, that disc brakes are so much better that to use anything else is courting with certain death. This doesn't really line up with my experience. $15/brake cantilevers were perfectly adequate for slowing my 40+ mph touring bike on the steep hills of northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont, New Hampshire and some big hills in Maine. It's true that braking degrades in the wet, but it's a huge exaggeration to say that rim brakes have NO braking power in the rain. Rim brakes on steel rims gets you no braking power. On alloy rims with Kool Stop pads, braking is, again, sufficient, especially since applying the brakes long enough to scrub some serious speed will dry the rims off. It is necessary to go slower and use more caution, but this is also true with discs.
    I have to agree. I've been riding mountain bikes, loaded touring bike, unloaded touring bikes, road bikes and tandems in the mountains of Colorado for 3 decades in all kinds of weather and conditions. What do they think I've been using to stop all these years? Trees? I have only had one time where my brakes didn't work as well as I like but that was a driving thunderstorm that I shouldn't have been out in anyway. We just went through one of the worst winters I've ever experienced in Denver and I rode in wet, sloppy, icy, snowy conditions for the entire winter on a bike that had either cantilevers or v's and never once gave it a second thought. I even had a bonehead pull out in front of me during a rainstorm (a rarity here) and still managed to stop a cantilever equiped bike from 15 mph to 0 in plenty of time to keep from denting his hood.

    Heck, I even took the drum brake off of my tandem and have ridden it many, many mountainous miles and still managed not to run off any cliffs.

    Discs might have their place...like on dual suspension bikes where the cable runs would be funky...but they just aren't that necessary in my opinion.
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Well here is another vote in agreement.....

    Though I might disagree a bit with your statement about mtbs and disc brakes (where I think discs are just really really nice to have and can make a noticeable difference to riding -or at least in my case) discs aren't necessary on touring bikes. Having said that, I really wanted a touring bike with discs, so I went for it.

    Do I prefer discs on a touring bike? A big yes. Are they necessary? Absolutely not. Would I remove the discs from my tourer? Definitely not! But here's the kicker: knowing what I know now, and given the expense of the discs, would I get them again? Well.... if I was short on budget, there is not a shadow of a doubt I would not. They are a luxury and a really nice to have piece of equipment, but not vital. Only if the budget is no factor would I recommend them or if a good disc brake cost about the same as a good non-disc brake.

    I fully agree that for many many years people have more than adequately used non-disc brakes for touring. I also think a nice comparison to this statement is that for many years people toured without index shifting, so index shifting isn't really necessary -just a really nice to have feature. Actually, thinking about it, I think the difference between index and non-index shifting is more noticeable than the difference between a good non-disc brake to a good disc brake, but hopefully you can see my point.

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