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Differences in braking behavior with front disc brake?

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Differences in braking behavior with front disc brake?

Old 12-04-09, 10:14 PM
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nwmtnbkr
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Differences in braking behavior with front disc brake?

One of my winter projects will be adding an Avid BB7 mechanical disc brake to my front wheel (this will necessitate getting a new fork, stem, headset and wheel, but the cost will not be prohibitive--total will be well under $300). A question for those of you with disc brakes. Has your braking behavior changed since you've been riding with disc brakes and, if so, how?
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Old 12-04-09, 11:25 PM
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No. Why would it?
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Old 12-04-09, 11:52 PM
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Mostly no, but I did once threw my butt off my seat by locking the front brake only.

What happen was that I just got home on my road bike which had rim brakes. A little while later, I needed to get something from the other side of town and took the mountain bike which had disc brakes and front suspension only which was in the locked position. I chose that bike since my route involve some heavy motorist traffic and I rather ride the sidewalk in that short stretch where it was heavy. I got so used to braking with the rim brakes on my road bike that I forgot how much smoother my disc brake react. I was using my right hand pushing my shoulder bag behind me when I reached the intersection. I was still in motion when a car decided to turn right and cut into the corner and onto the sidewalk. I slam on the front brake hard. Threw the back end of the bike in the air more than a foot making my butt slip out of my seat. All this because I was so used to my rim brakes from my earlier ride and being careless.

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Old 12-04-09, 11:52 PM
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Originally Posted by SweetLou View Post
No. Why would it?
Since the technology used in bicycle disc and v brakes is different, I wasn't sure if anyone had different braking behavior when moving to disc brakes. When I first got a car with anti-lock brakes, the first time braking in inclement weather hit home what I had read about--don't pump the brakes, keep steady pressure on them. Didn't know if there were any tips on using disc brakes. I've read that some riders don't like the "feel" of disc brakes because they have a hard time judging modulation.
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Old 12-05-09, 12:31 AM
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The technology -- that is, the hardware -- may be different, but the physics is the same. You can afford to brake more with the front, just like before.

Find out how much lever pressure it takes to lock them up, then, well, don't let the front lock up.

Comparing a car's ABS to any bicycle brake isn't a valid comparison because ABS is electrically driven and makes the pedal feel completely differently when it's activated (if your car's brake pedal never went "rr-r-rrrrr-rrrr" under your foot, you never really used ABS).
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Old 12-05-09, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by nwmtnbkr View Post
...A question for those of you with disc brakes. Has your braking behavior changed since you've been riding with disc brakes and, if so, how?
I have both in my stable and swap between the two all the time. In dry weather I don't notice much difference. The rim brakes never have as much power, esp calipers but I can stop without too much effort. V-brakes are close to disc in terms of braking power in dry conditions. In the wet, there's no comparision. With rim brakes I have to start braking very early to clear the rim's braking surface and the friction is reduced greatly so braking power is very poor (caliper, canti's or v's). I went off-road on a muddy trail the other week with a rim braked bike, I had to ride much slower due to limited brakes. I had forgotten how bad they could be. With disc brakes in the wet/mud I have much more braking power. There's so much difference that I am switching my 3 season commuter to front disc this winter. I really like disc brakes.

"braking power" = how hard I have to pull the brake lever to slow down
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Old 12-05-09, 07:44 AM
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Yes, a little, mainly because the pads on the disc last so much longer, I tend to favor using it a little more heavily even when I'm trying to just bleed a little speed. When I had rims front and back I'd use them both about equally.
If I use the fronts more heavily, I've noticed that I can make my brakes last about the same front and back. I'm now replacing both front disc and rear rim pads once a year.
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Old 12-05-09, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
"braking power" = how hard I have to pull the brake lever to slow down
I am wondering if I have my canti-brakes hopelessly messed up, where the lever itself requires a fair bit more pressure to move than the lever for my Vs, and *then* I have to move the lever farther, also. My Vs, and also my discs on the 3rd bike, require just a finger or 2, the cantis ... well, I can still brake from the hoods but it takes a lot of attention.
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Old 12-05-09, 08:53 AM
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I switched in October. I think the disc brakes are more responsive and, as a result, I have made a few adjustments in weight shift as I brake, especially when using the front. I swear by discs now and absolutely love mine.
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Old 12-05-09, 11:38 AM
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I tend to misbehave more often when riding my MTB with disc brakes.
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Old 12-05-09, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by nwmtnbkr View Post
Has your braking behavior changed since you've been riding with disc brakes and, if so, how?
Yes. Early on I used to brake just for the heluvit because it was so responsive and feedback though the levers felt so nice. Beyond that was just the novelty of a brake you could actually modulate.

These days, I suppose I take them for granted a little too much, but it still feels good through the levers, and I get a little smug about them riding in the wet.

I do have to adjust my technique when I go back to my bike with rim brakes. It actually caused me to upgrade the calipers and pads on the rim brake bike.
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Old 12-05-09, 06:45 PM
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Needed to clarify this --

Originally Posted by colleen c View Post
Mostly no, but I did once threw my butt off my seat by locking the front brake only.

What happen was that I just got home on my road bike which had rim brakes. A little while later, I needed to get something from the other side of town and took the mountain bike which had disc brakes and front suspension only which was in the locked position. I chose that bike since my route involve some heavy motorist traffic and I rather ride the sidewalk in that short stretch where it was heavy. I got so used to braking with the rim brakes on my road bike that I forgot how much smoother my disc brake react. I was using my right hand pushing my shoulder bag behind me when I reached the intersection. I was still in motion when a car decided to turn right and cut into the corner and onto the sidewalk. I slam on the front brake hard. Threw the back end of the bike in the air more than a foot making my butt slip out of my seat. All this because I was so used to my rim brakes from my earlier ride and being careless.
Your MTB had fat tires instead of skinny slicks, right? Assuming that's the case, the extra grip from the tires are what accounted for the increased braking power.

Disc brakes with skinny tires don't stop much harder than rim brakes using the same tires (in ideal conditions, of course); also, rim brakes on fat tires stop quicker than discs on skinny tires.
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Old 12-05-09, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
Needed to clarify this --



Your MTB had fat tires instead of skinny slicks, right? Assuming that's the case, the extra grip from the tires are what accounted for the increased braking power.

Disc brakes with skinny tires don't stop much harder than rim brakes using the same tires (in ideal conditions, of course); also, rim brakes on fat tires stop quicker than discs on skinny tires.
The MTB is a Hardrock disc set up with 26x1.5 armadillo tire. It has a Avid BB5 mechanical disc. I requested the slick tire when I bought the bike because I wanted a more upright commuter bike with front/rear disc and without the knobby tire slowly me down.

The road bike I was on had 700x28 tires with Tektro 358 brakes.

I can feel the difference between the disc brake being more positive and faster response with a solid grab, while the rim brakes has more of an initial mushy like compression feeling before I can lock it up. It take more effort for me to lock up my rim brake but otherwise I still can lock them up if needed. Also the 700x28 will skid a little naturally. In most of my quick reaction braking, the rim has less lock up because I will stop without locking them up even if I applied front brakes only. This is same for my other Hybrid bike that also has a Tektro rim brakes and 700x38 shallow knobby tires. On my disc MTB, it is much less effort and faster to lock the front with ease. The initial grab feeling from my disc is simply more rock solid and less giving.

Honestly, I prefer a disc whenever possible. I would like to have a disc on my road bike but it adds weight and possibly more mechanical stuff to the system.
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Old 12-06-09, 01:14 AM
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The Tektro caliper brakes I've got were flat-out ****ty with the original pads. They were fine when brand new, but after one hard stop from 30 mph, they were junk, making more scraping noise and turning to mush like you describe, even when cool. Switched to better pads, and they've been fine ever since.

I've had three different disc setups so far -- hydraulic MTB on knobbies, BB5 with MTB levers and 700x28 slicks, and BB7 with Shimano road levers and 700x28's. Besides tires, the big difference between them was whether the caliper was out of adjustment. Once that got fixed, though, I could get the mechanical brakes to grab almost as positively as the hydros, with the difference mainly in how they felt. The mechanicals felt like they had a bit of drag in the cable, while the hydros had a clean, precise feel.

I still would rather have discs on an everyday, all-weather bike. And a dynohub. And drop bars, deep fenders, proper rack mounts...

Last edited by BarracksSi; 12-06-09 at 01:21 AM.
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