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Old 02-16-14, 01:56 AM   #1
Nickfrogger
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Trek 520, Old vs New

Hey folks,
I'm planning on setting up a touring rig in the next few months. I'm a vintage Trek guy, and I've only ever owned Treks; naturally the 2014 520 got my attention (it is beautiful!).

I do, however, have the ability to build up a (presumably) 1989 properly sized 520 frame instead. Money, vintageness, aesthetics, etc. aside, which is a genuinely better frame? Any input on the subject is appreciated!
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Old 02-16-14, 05:28 AM   #2
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...Money, vintageness, aesthetics, etc. aside, which is a genuinely better frame? Any input on the subject is appreciated!
I don't think there is any appreciable difference in workmanship or material. Of course the newer model has evolved, primarily with changes to wheel size and component selection that would have no impact if you prefer to not make any modifications.

Brad

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Old 02-16-14, 07:30 AM   #3
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Money, vintageness, aesthetics, etc. aside, which is a genuinely better frame? Any input on the subject is appreciated!
Putting all the above aside, get the new one:
  • More brazons on the new frame.
  • A brand new Trek warranted frame going to be quality for sure.
  • 25 years is a long time.

Last edited by BigAura; 02-16-14 at 08:45 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 02-16-14, 08:48 AM   #4
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I vote for vintage. But the additions of brazeons on the '14 model is hard to ignore.
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Old 02-16-14, 01:32 PM   #5
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... have the ability to build up a (presumably) 1989 properly sized 520 frame instead. Money, vintageness, aesthetics, etc. aside, which is a genuinely better frame? Any input on the subject is appreciated!
Some of the older Trek 520s did not have touring-length chainstays. IIRC, this occurred for more than one model year and they were perhaps 43cm vs the 45-46cm CS length of the more desirable/useful vintages of 520s. Every time I ever found a decent lugged 520 on Craigslist it was one of these short CS models. Check Vintage Trek manuals for more information.

Also, older 520s don't have the 130/135mm OLD spacing of modern frames. A bike from before ~1992 with 7 speeds will probably have a 126mm OLD spacing. You have to either go with older (narrower) drivetrains, respace the dropouts, or put up with having to use a little force to change rear wheel. It's a good idea to have the derailleur hanger realigned if you're jamming a 130mm hub into a 126mm OLD frame, to avoid poor gear shifting.

Finally, on any used bike you're buying dozens of used parts that may or may not be safe to use - you don't know until you tear it down and inspect. Corrosion on a bike frame is sometimes hidden - you don't know the extent until the rust perforates a frame tube. Proper replacement of vintage bike parts is not quick or inexpensive. Often vintage parts cost more than an equivalent new component.

The new 520 would make life easier, and if you're spending that much, I suggest you consider a Surly LHT, as they're about 100 bucks cheaper and probably the better choice at even cost. You can also buy a LHT frameset for 400 and build your own bike from spare parts for less than the cost of a new bike.
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Old 02-16-14, 02:34 PM   #6
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Surly gives you a limited term frame warrantee to let material and workmanship flaws appear,
and be covered.

Trek has no time limit. 1st owners lifetime .
OK no Disc 520.. Yet.
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Old 02-16-14, 02:48 PM   #7
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You'll probably have the fewest problems with the new one. A completely brand new bike, and one that has 25 years of technology advancements and changes, has the inherent advantage.

That being said, if you have the ability to re-build the vintage one to your preferred specifications for the same price or cheaper, I'd take the old one. Something magical about the older bikes. You just have to remember that you might have more problems sourcing replacement items, have a frame with more scratches, and it will take more work to get up to speed.
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Old 02-16-14, 06:19 PM   #8
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Ok guys, thanks a lot-I was pretty set on the new one, but it wasn't made in America and there's no Reynold's sticker so I just wanted to make sure I wasn't going all in on a "cheap" frame.

I like the feel of the 520 better and it fits my expected touring type more than the LHT does. The disc LHT sure is tempting, but just not quite enough to get me away from trek (my mom worked there for a number of years and rode a 520 across the country in the 80's; then she raised me on Treks, and my utility/commuter bikes & road bike are treks as well).

I really appreciate the help, you've eased my thoughts a good bit
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Old 02-16-14, 09:03 PM   #9
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I know you said the LHT doesn't fit your intended riding style, but personally, if I were buying a new touring bike, LHT or something else, I would go with disk brakes. No question. I know the old styles of brakes have been around forever and they do stop a bike, but ride some disks if you haven't before and you'll see that they are a huge improvement. There is a reason lots of touring bikes are showing up with them now. I only own my current touring bike(91' Trek) because I got the frame for cheap and it was cheaper for me to build up than buy new, but I'd swap to a disk fork in a second if I knew of one with the unlikely combination of requirements it would need(1" with mid-fork braze-ons).
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Old 02-16-14, 10:47 PM   #10
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Ok guys, thanks a lot-I was pretty set on the new one, but it wasn't made in America and there's no Reynold's sticker so I just wanted to make sure I wasn't going all in on a "cheap" frame...
The Raleigh Sojourn has Reynolds 631 tubing.

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Old 02-16-14, 11:58 PM   #11
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... but just not quite enough to get me away from trek
I would think the fact that it's a Trek would be reason enough.
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Old 02-17-14, 07:59 PM   #12
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^ Haha. I was thinking that too, but to each their own. Nothing trumps brand recognition, and paired with nostalgia for OP. As long as he's happily out biking, that's the important part.
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Old 02-18-14, 02:04 AM   #13
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Oy. The newest trek I've ridden is 4 years older than I am; is trek no good these days? I don't really step out of the vintage realm ever.
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Old 02-18-14, 08:09 AM   #14
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Oy. The newest trek I've ridden is 4 years older than I am; is trek no good these days? I don't really step out of the vintage realm ever.
Brand hate, opposite of brand love. Don't worry about it.

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Old 02-18-14, 08:35 AM   #15
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I know you said the LHT doesn't fit your intended riding style, but personally, if I were buying a new touring bike, LHT or something else, I would go with disk brakes. No question. I know the old styles of brakes have been around forever and they do stop a bike, but ride some disks if you haven't before and you'll see that they are a huge improvement. There is a reason lots of touring bikes are showing up with them now. I only own my current touring bike(91' Trek) because I got the frame for cheap and it was cheaper for me to build up than buy new, but I'd swap to a disk fork in a second if I knew of one with the unlikely combination of requirements it would need(1" with mid-fork braze-ons).
The reason disc brakes are showing up on touring bikes is people are convinced new is better and that they need more stopping power, i.e. the companies are looking to sell you an upgrade you don't need. Disc brakes are over rated, I've never wanted for stopping power with decent cantilevers that are dialed in right, and I'm a big Clyde who can't pack lightly to save his life. Even on an heavily loaded bike while touring, descending, I've got enough braking power. Disc brakes on tourers is adding a weight penalty for no real benefit.
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Old 02-18-14, 01:43 PM   #16
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I own an 89 Trek 520. it is still used today for gen fitness riding and for short touring. The frame show no signs of giving it up. The bike is still equipped with it's original drivetrain -still going strong. Even i'm surprised, but if it ain't broke...

I also own a 2004 520. That too is a great bike and going strong. Realitive to the 2014 520 it has higher level components. For that reason I'm not a big fan of the new 520. If given the choice i'd build up the old frame with the level of components that will serve your needs, rather than the grab bag Trek has used to hold a price point. Not that there is anything wrong with a 2014, 520, only that for the $1300 or so one will set you back, that money will buy you a higher level bike on a build up.

If the frame is solid you have nothing to fear.

Differences would be that the 89 will have more flex than a new frame. That is not a deal killer. the 89 is not flexi! Just not as stiff as the newer frames.

The 89 took 27 inch wheels and tires. The brakes, I think are the same on both my 520s, gotta look again to be sure.

There are as many brazons on the 89 as on the 04.

There was book written about five years ago about a guy who dusted off his 25 year old touring bike for another big ride. The bike was an 1985 Trek 520. The bike went 2000 miles with little more than a tune up and new tires.

So, the bike is up to the challenge.
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Old 02-18-14, 08:32 PM   #17
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The reason disc brakes are showing up on touring bikes is people are convinced new is better...
No, that's not why disks are showing up on touring bikes. And it's not about the stopping power(other than perhaps the marketing). I guess one benefit to stopping power is reduced hand fatigue if you're doing a lot of braking in the mountains or something, but that's probably not a real issue for most. As you said, a decent brake dialed in right will put you over the handlebars, basically no matter what kind(though disks do indeed have crazy stopping power). I don't think you really understand disk brakes. The modulation benefit of disks is huge. I never realized what a difference it made until I had disks, but it truly is a benefit to have. The ease of replacing a brake disk when it wears out versus a wheel rim is also a great benefit. The brake pads are also much easier to swap out on the cable varieties of disks vs. "standard" brakes. You don't even need tools. And granted prolonged braking in mountain type descents isn't an issue for everyone, but if you are doing a long descent like that, I'd much rather have disks. People don't often have issues with rims overheating and tires blowing or coming off of the rim, but it does happen. It won't happen with disks since you aren't heating up the rim. The last place I want my front tire to go on me is on a long descent with likely a steep drop on at least one side of the road, which is usually on the outside of the turn... I think there's Definitely a real benefit, as do other people who have used disks in day-to-day life and the people designing the bikes, including small, independent, well respected builders who aren't just after marketing hype. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but I've never heard anyone say they don't see a benefit to disks after they've owned a bike with them. I've heard Many people who have tried disks speak positively of the benefits. And the weight penalty is so minimal it's hardly worth mentioning on a touring bike. Don't carry any extra tubes if you're worried about that little bit of weight. The only real downfall I can think of is possibly warping a disk in the middle of nowhere, but I don't think that outweighs the benefits. And you can get a warped disk straight enough to at least use it(assuming it wasn't really mangled by something) until you can get a new one. I'd Highly recommend trying them out.

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Old 02-18-14, 09:21 PM   #18
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The reason disc brakes are showing up on touring bikes is people are convinced new is better and that they need more stopping power, i.e. the companies are looking to sell you an upgrade you don't need. Disc brakes are over rated, I've never wanted for stopping power with decent cantilevers that are dialed in right, and I'm a big Clyde who can't pack lightly to save his life. Even on an heavily loaded bike while touring, descending, I've got enough braking power. Disc brakes on tourers is adding a weight penalty for no real benefit.
Breaking a spoke on a disc wheel vs rim brake wheel is another advantage, no need to stop and adjust other spokes to get the wheel from rubbing on the brake pads. If I hadn't heard the ping of my spoke breaking, I would not have even noticed. Kept on riding until I got to the shop and had it repaired.
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Old 02-19-14, 12:57 AM   #19
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Brand hate, opposite of brand love. Don't worry about it.

Brad
No brand hate here. I have an '83 500 that I'm quite fond of. Vintage Trek's are great. New Trek's.....well, they're nice and all, but pretty bland in my opinion. But people say that about my Surly's as well, so get what you want. You do get a good bang for buck with the trek.
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Old 02-19-14, 08:50 AM   #20
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On the sub topic here of the advantages of disc brakes - having mountain bikes equipped with discs quickly shows many of the advantages mentioned. That said, not having disc brakes shouldn't be a deal killer.

Back on topic - as an owner of an 89 Trek 520, bought brand new, i can highly recommend the bike - complete bike or frame only.
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Old 02-19-14, 09:33 AM   #21
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I know you said the LHT doesn't fit your intended riding style, but personally, if I were buying a new touring bike, LHT or something else, I would go with disk brakes. No question. I know the old styles of brakes have been around forever and they do stop a bike, but ride some disks if you haven't before and you'll see that they are a huge improvement. There is a reason lots of touring bikes are showing up with them now. I only own my current touring bike(91' Trek) because I got the frame for cheap and it was cheaper for me to build up than buy new, but I'd swap to a disk fork in a second if I knew of one with the unlikely combination of requirements it would need(1" with mid-fork braze-ons).
I don't agree. I have mechanical disc, hydraulic disc, cantilever, dual pivot and a disc/v-brake equipped bike so I have tried them. Discs aren't "a huge improvement". They aren't an improvement at all. They are a lateral shift to a different braking mechanism but they introduce loads of problems without changing anything for a touring bike. On the rear wheel, you have a steeper angle on the spokes for the rear wheel which makes the wheel weaker and less stiff. Essentially you end up with a wheel that is dished on both sides. Then you have the problem of threading a rack around the caliper. Some of that problem has been solved by moving the caliper inside the rear triangle but the rear rack ends up being placed higher than a cantilever equipped bike.

On the front, you have similar problems with threading a rack around the caliper and you've traded a strong symmetrical wheel for a dished wheel. A dished wheel in the rear causes enough problems, why would you want to put another one on the bike?


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The reason disc brakes are showing up on touring bikes is people are convinced new is better and that they need more stopping power, i.e. the companies are looking to sell you an upgrade you don't need. Disc brakes are over rated, I've never wanted for stopping power with decent cantilevers that are dialed in right, and I'm a big Clyde who can't pack lightly to save his life. Even on an heavily loaded bike while touring, descending, I've got enough braking power. Disc brakes on tourers is adding a weight penalty for no real benefit.
Pretty much. If hub mounted discs were replacing old Mafac Racer center pull knockoffs or drum brakes or coaster brakes , they'd be a huge improvement. But cantilever brakes with modern pads are a pretty spectacular brake.

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No, that's not why disks are showing up on touring bikes. And it's not about the stopping power(other than perhaps the marketing). I guess one benefit to stopping power is reduced hand fatigue if you're doing a lot of braking in the mountains or something, but that's probably not a real issue for most. As you said, a decent brake dialed in right will put you over the handlebars, basically no matter what kind(though disks do indeed have crazy stopping power). I don't think you really understand disk brakes. The modulation benefit of disks is huge. I never realized what a difference it made until I had disks, but it truly is a benefit to have.
Yes, marketing is certainly why disc brakes are showing up everywhere. The fact that you can put a rider over the bars with just about any kind of properly adjusted brake means that you don't need any more "craziness" in the braking system. The bike's brakes are already over-powered so any more power is simply wasted. I'm not sure what you are using to define "modulation" but I've never noticed anything approaching "superior" modulation in any disc brake I own. If anything my hydraulic equipped disc is highly lacking in "modulation". It's nearly digital...going from off to locked with only a tiny bit of input from me.

I'm of the opinion that many people who think hub mounted disc brakes are superior do so because they probably weren't riding brakes that were set up like a hub mounted disc to begin with. Many shops install rim brakes so that the lever has to travel about half way to the bars before the brakes even touch the rim. Full lock on the brakes is somewhere behind the handlebar so the brakes feel really mushy. Hub mounted discs, on the other hand, have to be adjusted so that there is little lever throw before the pad hits the rotor. If you detune hub mounted discs so that they are set up like most rim brakes, the disc sucks too.

Every brake I own (disc or rim) is set so that by half lever throw, the wheel is locked.. That's why I don't see any "improvement" when I use hub mounted disc. Essentially, my bikes are already dialed in like a disc brake.

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The ease of replacing a brake disk when it wears out versus a wheel rim is also a great benefit. The brake pads are also much easier to swap out on the cable varieties of disks vs. "standard" brakes. You don't even need tools. And granted prolonged braking in mountain type descents isn't an issue for everyone, but if you are doing a long descent like that, I'd much rather have disks. People don't often have issues with rims overheating and tires blowing or coming off of the rim, but it does happen. It won't happen with disks since you aren't heating up the rim. The last place I want my front tire to go on me is on a long descent with likely a steep drop on at least one side of the road, which is usually on the outside of the turn...
The problem isn't with the brakes but how the brakes are used on long descents. I live in the mountains. I've toured on steep mountain roads and I've never heated a rim to the point where the tire would blow off. I've never heated a rim to the point where I couldn't touch it immediately upon stopping. I did a 1200 mile tour in the Appalachias in 2011 that included 87,000 feet of climbing...and, by default...87,000 feet of descending and I didn't have to replace the pads. I still have them on the bike and they have plenty of life left in them.

Even if you had hub mounted discs, dragging the brakes all the way down a long descent would be a dumb way to use them. The rotors aren't indestructible.

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The only real downfall I can think of is possibly warping a disk in the middle of nowhere, but I don't think that outweighs the benefits. And you can get a warped disk straight enough to at least use it(assuming it wasn't really mangled by something) until you can get a new one. I'd Highly recommend trying them out.
If you've ever tried to straighten a rotor, it's more tedious that trying to true a wheel. You make the argument that you don't need tools to change a disc pad but you don't realize that you need tools to straighten a rotor. A small adjustable wrench will work but most multitools now don't have that feature. And the Park rotor truing tool is heavy. And you probably can't use your hands to straighten a rotor for a couple or reasons. First, you need leverage and second you don't want to be getting your greasy fingers all over your rotors unless you want SSSSSQQQQUUUUUEEAAAAAAALLLLL all the way done every hill you run across.
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Old 02-19-14, 11:21 AM   #22
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My limited experience with disc and rim brakes. I have both right now, on both road and MTB's. With a good set of pads, either will work great. Where there is the biggest difference is in incliment weather and riding conditions. When things get sloppy, there is a definite advantage with the discs. Overall, I prefer rim brakes, due to the builder being able to make a more compliant fork, better pad life and most importantly () aesthetics.

By the way, I find truing a disc rotor way easier than a wheel. I don't use a tool. Just a slight tug does the trick for me.
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Old 02-19-14, 12:18 PM   #23
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I would ride the old 520, no doubt. Might want new rims, IDK. I would get a Phil BB, for sure.
The new 520 is the most fugly tour bike out there.
I never rode much in pouring rain, but I would expect ALL non-hub brakes are going to squeal plenty and LOUD.
Quill stems and longer TTs are nice.

My 1990 Raleigh frame got sawed up last year, it had very minor rust except by cable openings.
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Old 02-20-14, 12:10 AM   #24
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My 2013 520 rides just beautifully, and the linear-pull brakes that come stock on it offer plenty of stopping power, even under load, when they're adjusted properly (which should go without saying). One advantage of the new 520 over a pre-owned bike would be that a new one would come with Trek Care, i.e. a lifetime frame warranty for the original owner, plus Trek's loyalty program which offers discounts for replacement/repair parts in the event that such are needed. The rack which comes on the new 520 is pretty nice, too. It's lightweight, but very sturdy. In any case, I hope you enjoy whichever bike you decide on!
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Old 02-20-14, 06:09 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I don't agree...
Again, the advantages of disk has nothing to do with brake force. That said...
I honestly don't mean any disrespect here - I've read Many of your posts in the past and I know you have lots of knowledge, but on this subject I think you could continue to learn about the new aspect of it. If nothing else, disk brakes seriously do offer better modulation. The system lends itself to it from a mechanical aspect. Disk brakes just aren't as grabby, so you can adjust the braking force more subtly. As for your hydraulic being very on/off, I'd recommend somehow adjusting them or perhaps it's a poorly designed set. I'm not sure. They would be very powerful, so you can't go just grabbing and squeezing the lever like you have to on non-disk brakes, so keep that in mind, but they should offer a very wide range of braking force. Also, that you said all of your brakes are at wheel lock by the half travel point of the lever gives an indication of how you set your brakes up. You probably also have fairly strong hands and use more hand strength vs. mechanical leverage to stop when compared to others. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's opposite of the idea behind disk brakes. It's like driving a modern car vs. an old classic with no power brakes. If you grab a hand full of disk brake like you would regular brakes, you are going to go straight from no brakes to wheel lock. Just like if you're used to driving a car without power brakes and then hop in a 2014 Honda, you're going to lock the wheels and come to a screeching halt the first time you try to stop. If you look up Sheldon Brown's article on "the geometry of cantilever brakes" and scroll to the "feel vs. function" section, that will perhaps better explain what I'm saying in terms of why the way you use brakes is so different from the idea behind disk brakes and why you aren't seeing their modulation benefits.
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