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Disc Brakes vs. Linear Brakes

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Disc Brakes vs. Linear Brakes

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Old 08-10-07, 10:21 PM
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Dyoon
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Disc Brakes vs. Linear Brakes

I am a commuter looking for a bike. I go to school where the streets are not terrible but not good. There is a huge hill that I have to compete with. Should I go with disc brakes or linear or does it not matter?
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Old 08-11-07, 12:04 AM
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Commuting? Go with linear. Cheaper and does the job.
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Old 08-11-07, 12:44 AM
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Depends on the bike you plan or are using to commute with. If the hill you are talking about is a long downhill one and you have to go down it everyday, then disc brakes would be the ticket. It's cheaper to replace a rotor than buying a new rim or wheel. My neighbor goes down a long hill (actually 2 of them) everyday and he bought a Schwinn World DBX because he got tired of replacing rims every year or so and that particular bike came with fenders. But any brand cyclocross bike with Avid BB7 Disc Brakes is fine if you like a bike with drop bars (Cannondale Cyclocross Optimo Disc 2, LeMond Poprad Disc, Trek Portland, etc etc). They make fine commuters and all around use bikes. Plenty of Hybrids with disc brakes if you like a more upright riding position.

That being said, regular/traditional rim brake systems are fine for most people and will continue to be around for years to come. It all depends on the terrain of your commute and what other activities you want to do with your bike. Brake pads cost about the same for either brake system. Some OEM rim brakes are better than some OEM disc brakes, esp on the lower end price points, so do your research before buying a bike or you might end up purchasing a brake system upgrade later on.
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Old 08-11-07, 06:45 AM
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Disc brakes make wheel removal/replacement more difficult so if you have to fix a flat on your commute, rim brakes will make it easier.
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Old 08-11-07, 06:51 AM
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Why do disc brakes make wheel removal/replacement more difficult other than placing the rotor into the slot in the caliper?
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Old 08-11-07, 08:18 AM
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I wish I had discs every winter, when I ride pretty well every day in the rain and grind out a couple of rims and several sets of pads a season. Any other time I'm perfectly happy with the calipers on my road bikes.
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Old 08-11-07, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by maddmaxx View Post
Why do disc brakes make wheel removal/replacement more difficult other than placing the rotor into the slot in the caliper?
You answered your own question. For a rear wheel, aligning the disk with slot in the caliper while placing the chain on the right cog and aligning the axle in the dropouts requires care not to bend the disc itself. It obviously can be done but not in a rush and it's a needless complication when you're late for work and it's dark and cold.
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Old 08-11-07, 02:14 PM
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If you can get a bike that you like, and it has disc brakes, then this (IMO) is the way to go. If on the other hand the model of bike you want comes with rim brakes, it's no biggie. You'll still be able to stop. Disc brakes are slightly heavier, and more expensive. However, they work better in wet weather, don't wear out your rim, or get it dirty, and you don't have to muck about setting the pads toe-in up again when you replace them, or as they wear either.
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Old 08-11-07, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Disc brakes make wheel removal/replacement more difficult so if you have to fix a flat on your commute, rim brakes will make it easier.
No, they don't. They're actually easier because you don't have to unhook the brake / use the caliper QR. They just drop right out. As for putting them back on, I've been running a set of Avid BB7's (they also make a road bike version) on my trailbike for years and trust me it ain't hard at all.
Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
You answered your own question. For a rear wheel, aligning the disk with slot in the caliper while placing the chain on the right cog and aligning the axle in the dropouts requires care not to bend the disc itself. It obviously can be done but not in a rush and it's a needless complication when you're late for work and it's dark and cold.
Hogwash. If you shift to the lowest cog prior to taking the wheel off, it's easy as pie to get the chain back on properly and aligning the rear disc is no harder than the front. If you're bending rotors reinstalling a wheel you have no bloody clue as to what you're doing, or are using cardboard rotors in place of the more common stainless steel.

Do you even own a disc brake bike HillRider?

That said, I use linear on my commuter as the frame is a pre-disc Hardrock and I decided against a disc optioned Surly 1x1 fork due to the generally flat terrain in town and the fact that the stoppers I have on the bike are perfectly adequate for my current needs. If I lived in an area where the hills were more of an issue and I needed the extra power I wouldn't hesitate to snag the disc tab equipped fork and mount up a BB7 in the front.
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Old 08-11-07, 04:24 PM
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*shrug* Rim brakes got the job done for over 100 years. Not sure what caused them to be the thing to have one day and utterly worthless the next. Almost all road and commuter bikes still use rim brakes. I suppose commuters run into the back of cars, buses, etc. to stop themselves, but nevertheless they do manage to stop.......
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Old 08-11-07, 04:37 PM
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I've never had a problem getting the back wheel to come off the road while braking as hard as possible with the front brake with any bicycle (other than a steel rim wheel in the wet), which is the limit of braking on any bike. IMHO, disc brakes are huge overkill.
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Old 08-11-07, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Raiyn View Post
Do you even own a disc brake bike HillRider?
Nope, I don't. Just repeating what I've read elsewhere from people I trust. If you find them no problem, that's good information and I'll file it away for future reference.

BTW, there is nothing I know of quicker to use than a caliper brake qr. If that's the time savings from disc brakes, it isn't much.

You said aligning the rear disc is no harder than the front. Does that mean it's no easier either?
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Old 08-11-07, 07:26 PM
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Dyoon,

You didn't say where you live and that makes a difference. Disc brakes offer no advantage in perfect weather, but are much less influenced by rain or snow (though I have no idea what happens when they are frozen at -20 C).

Rim brakes with Kool Stop Salmon pads are quite effective in the rain and even in the snow, but they reach maybe 70-80% of the effectiveness they have in dry weather, not 100%. And if you ride a lot in drizzle like in the North-West, or if you ride a lot in Winter conditions (North-East), you will wear your rims. How quickly? I have a 6.5 year old front rim that's about one year away from the recycling bin.

Incidentally, the hill should not be a deciding factor. Either brake system is quite capable of braking you very effectively, and with either brake system, you could brake quickly enough to fly over the bars if you want to. Even in the rain.

For commuting, two other factors to consider:
– Disc brakes look "cool", so that might increase the theft potential of your bike.
– With most bikes, the position of the rear disc brake interferes with a rear rack. There are a few racks compatible with a disc brake, but they are more expensive. Expect the problem to go away in a few years, when discs become more popular.
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Old 08-11-07, 08:10 PM
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I go to school at Purdue University in Indiana, and my perm. home is in chicago. The weather is similar in these two places. A good amount of rain super hot in the summer and super cold in the winter.
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Old 08-11-07, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Disc brakes make wheel removal/replacement more difficult so if you have to fix a flat on your commute, rim brakes will make it easier.
Umm, you missed the broad side of the Great Wall of China with that statement.

Removing a wheel with a disk brake system is extremely easy. There are no clamps whatsoever to undue other than the qr skewer. Wheel slides right in and slides right out like a hot knife through butter.

Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Nope, I don't. Just repeating what I've read elsewhere from people I trust. If you find them no problem, that's good information and I'll file it away for future reference.

BTW, there is nothing I know of quicker to use than a caliper brake qr. If that's the time savings from disc brakes, it isn't much.

You said aligning the rear disc is no harder than the front. Does that mean it's no easier either?
The people you trust aren't trustworthy then.
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Old 08-11-07, 09:39 PM
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If you wear through lots of rims, Disc brakes might be your ticket. In the long run you can get by with less wheel trues (since your braking is more or less independent of your trueness.) This can be somewhat advantageous in some extreme circumstances, i.e. whack a pothole and your wheel's out of true.

However, If you do somehing horrible to a rotor you would have similar problems anyway. Not that it's easy to do. The only rotor I ever scrwrunged was one that was scrwrunged in lovely meeting between myself, my Hardrock and a Tree at 15mph.

For reference, My commuter Runs Front Rim, Rear Drum, and my Commuter Tandem runs Front Disc, Rear Drum. I am willing to go through the hell that will ensue when I get a rear flat. (Well, the tandem at least has some good flat protection....)

My bad weather bikes? All Disc. I Don't want to lace wheels more than necessary.
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Old 08-11-07, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon View Post
Disc brakes offer no advantage in perfect weather, but are much less influenced by rain or snow (though I have no idea what happens when they are frozen at -20 C).
That depends entirely upon the length of the grade. I would call not exploding a tire due to rim brake heat an "advantage". Even if a disc failed, it would still leave the tire intact.

Personally, I am a disc convert for MTBs where the advantage of retaining brakes even if the rim is out of true can mean the difference between riding or walking. The control and modulation superiority is exemplified by the fact that no serious DH racer uses rim brakes. I have also personally blown a tube due to rim brake heat. Fortunately it was at the end of the descent and wasn't disastrous.

Given that, for the road I use rim brakes, but keep in mind to not drag them for an extended period of time, allowing heat to build up to a critical point, much like pumping the brakes in a car. If I were riding a tandem or heavily laden bike, I would do as many tandem owners do and add a third drag brake for scrubbing speed on long descents...and it would likely be a disc.
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Old 08-12-07, 12:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon View Post
Dyoon,

You didn't say where you live and that makes a difference. Disc brakes offer no advantage in perfect weather, but are much less influenced by rain or snow (though I have no idea what happens when they are frozen at -20 C).
My Avid BB7 disc brakes have worked flawlessly down to -32c.
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Old 08-14-07, 10:19 PM
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Ziemas,

Nice to know about cold-weather performance of disc brakes. Each time I was wondering, the only answer I got was "We need to check on the likelyhood of ice build up".


Worldbiker,

I am aware of rims overheating on a tandem, not on a single bike. But then, in Québec, we do have some very steep hills, but they aren't that long.
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Old 08-14-07, 10:56 PM
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Commuting to school makes the decision easy. Think steal-a-bility. Get the linear brakes because disc brakes rank higher on the steal-a-bility charts. Better yet, get yourself a POS bike to ride to class so you won't feel so bad when it gets stolen.
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Old 08-15-07, 06:36 AM
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Well I love my disc brakes, but I think Retrogrouch hits the nail on the head. Though really nice, does that mean the bike will become more of a target for thieves? That really would be my deciding factor unless you really have a extremely long steep downhill section of your commute. Linear brakes should be more than adequate.

good quality disc brakes:
+better braking in rain
+don't wear rims
+better modulation
+better for long long downhills
-overkill when no really steep downhills or extremely wet weather
-more of a target for thieves
-more parts, more complexity, more expensive
-added expense of needing new brake levers if going hydraulic
-heavier
-need disc hubs and disc mounts (older frames could be problem because of this)
-usually some amount (admittedly negligible) of disc rub

good quality linear brakes:
+more than adequate braking
+cheaper than discs
+less parts
+lighter
+less of a target for thieves
+less maintenance if you are pernickety about catching (e.g. disc rub can send you crazy if you are like that)
+don't require special hubs and even older frames usually have brake post mounts.
-wears rims down
-braking performance considerably reduced in wet weather (Koolstop salmons will help)
-less modulation than good quality disc brakes, more of a digital feel.
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