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Disc brake feel

Old 07-26-19, 11:55 AM
  #1  
hybridbkrdr
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Disc brake feel

I only tried disc brakes in stores by pushing the bikes forward (road & mtn) while pressing on the brake levers. I find the first second seems a little "spongy" and "remote" before the brakes actually starts gripping the disc. While I find when I pull on the brake levers on a rim brake bike, I really like the immediate "clamping" feel.

Has anyone here ever regretted going disc and decided to go back to rim brakes? (And were they mechanical or hydraulic?)
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Old 07-26-19, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr View Post
I only tried disc brakes in stores by pushing the bikes forward (road & mtn) while pressing on the brake levers.
Sure, base your assessment on the whole disk brakes in the store. Seems legit.
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Old 07-26-19, 12:17 PM
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TimothyH
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Hydraulic disk brakes typically have more lever travel before they engage.

Rim brakes can be adjusted so that the brake pads are very close to the rim resulting in very little lever travel before the pads actually touch the braking surface.

Disk brakes typically retract the pistons and pads so that it takes more lever travel to engage. This is especially true as the pads wear. Once the pads touch the rotor and the brakes engage however, disks brakes should feel every bit as good as rim brakes.

Personally, I like rim brakes adjusted with minimal lever travel, almost instant engagement, hair trigger. The extra lever travel before engagement is one thing I don't like about disks. It bothers me.


-Tim-
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Old 07-26-19, 12:31 PM
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Typically rim brakes have an "on/off" feeling while disk brakes have varying levels of pressure feedback due to their ability to modulate better.
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Old 07-26-19, 01:21 PM
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Feel of the brakes can be modified. If you have mechanical, you can adjust the position of the pad to take up any free space. If hydraulic, generally you can set the free stroke to your liking. Also if hydraulic, you want to make sure you have a properly bled system. On both, pad choices will affect the aggressiveness.
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Old 07-26-19, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr View Post
Has anyone here ever regretted going disc and decided to go back to rim brakes?
If you want more stopping power, apply more pressure. I can assure you a properly working disk brake will grab every bit as strong as you'd like.

-Matt
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Old 07-26-19, 01:57 PM
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I converted to hydraulic discs on my MTB and I regret not being able to install them on my road bike. My road bike has quite a few thousand kms on it so I am hoping it has a catastrophic failure soon so I have reason to replace it with a gravel or endurance road bike with hydraulic discs.

Disc brakes, esp. modern hydraulics, have superior function in every way, except for maybe when squeezing the levers at the bike shop.
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Old 07-26-19, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr View Post
I only tried disc brakes in stores by pushing the bikes forward (road & mtn) while pressing on the brake levers. I find the first second seems a little "spongy" and "remote" before the brakes actually starts gripping the disc. While I find when I pull on the brake levers on a rim brake bike, I really like the immediate "clamping" feel.

Has anyone here ever regretted going disc and decided to go back to rim brakes? (And were they mechanical or hydraulic?)
Hydraulic brakes on my gravel bike. Love them; more power and control than my Campag skeleton rim calipers on my roadie.

If disc brakes feel spongy:

A) beware cable pulls, they often feel like this at the low end IMHO.

B) check adjustment.
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Old 07-26-19, 02:50 PM
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I have disks on my drop-bar commuter and cantilever rim brakes on my old roadie and v-brakes on by MTB commuter. All three are cable-operated. I have as little brake pad clearance as I can get on each. The disk and rim road bikes feel pretty much the same with quick and progressive braking response. In my case the roadie rim brakes feel a little spongy at the end and the disks feel more "direct". The disks are more consistent ride to ride, especially in the wet, but the variance in my rim-brake roadie's brakes are not alarming, except in the wet, when they sometimes take a rotation to grab.

My big, heavy MTB-based commuter/utility bike had cantilevers for almost 20 years. But and as me and my hands reached our mid 40s, the big bike was getting difficult to brake well, especially in the wet. So three years ago or so my LBS put V-brakes on for me...with the same pads I had been using. Not the same brand and model...they transferred the same brake pads from the old mechanism to the new.

I knew that V-brakes are often referred to as "digital brakes"...you know either full on or full off with little or no modulation, but I find them to be the most modulation-able brakes of the three. This may be due to the big MTB being 49.5lbs with the old rack, fenders, water bottle and commute backpack. And that's before you add my weight.

All I can say is it is the only one of my three bikes that I can immediately lock up the wheels at any speed, on any downhill...not that I'd want to. And with the big 26x1.85 slicks it wears for spring/summer/fall it stops right now! And yet...it seems to have a wider range of modulation available than the other two bikes.

From testing out various bikes from various stores myself, I'd say you really can't tell how brakes will be until you get on a bike and ride it with your weight on it. And then, you have to make sure the brakes are tuned.
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Old 07-26-19, 03:13 PM
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Disc brakes also take some time to "bed in." So they tend to feel like garbage at the beginning of the very first ride. Then they get progressively better over the next ride or 3 depending on duty cycle & frequency.

After the 3rd ride (50-100th sizable brake application?) at the absolute latest, they should be as good as they are going to get.

What I mean to say: Grandma that rides once a year in Florida versus a motivated and skilled rider having legit full day at the mountain park are going to have vastly different break in periods.

I have a 11% grade 1/2 km hill by my house. Between the beginning of the first trip down & the end of the 3rd there is a noticable change in how well the brakes work.

For the record, all my bikes now have 180mm rotors & Spyke, Spyre, or BB7's. Cheapo Tektro OEM and 160mm rotors tended to fade unacceptably, turn blue & warp.

Road & mountain have different duty cycles. Road discs tend to have more thermal mass than their mountain counter parts owing to long & fast heat accumulating descents. Mountain tends to be quick short hard duty with ample cooling opportunity.

It's so easy to swap things around, I wouldn't think to even consider bike shop brakes at purchase time. Run 'em in your area/terrain/riding style & see if they meet your needs. If not? It's super easy to upgrade.
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Old 07-26-19, 03:38 PM
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I've had discs on my recumbent since 2011. I love the feel and feedback they give, better, IMO, than the rim brakes on my previous bikes.

I've since put different material on the front and rear discs, which allow a softer braking action on the rear, and I have to pull the lever almost all the way to get the rear to lock up now. The front pads are much more aggressive and stop on a dime. They have the power to lock of the front, I'm sure, but the nice thing about a recumbent is that the low CG allows me to be very aggressive on the front brake and not flip over.

The discs fade a lot less than rim brakes in long descents as well, which was nice when I was living in Seattle.
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Old 07-26-19, 03:42 PM
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I live life at two opposite ends of the spectrum: one bike has 4-piston hydraulic calipers with IceTech rotors, while the other has traditional rim brakes... on carbon wheels. They both stop the bike. The discs just do it a lot more comfortably and effectively.
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Old 07-26-19, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
Disc brakes, esp. modern hydraulics, have superior function in every way, except for maybe when squeezing the levers at the bike shop.
lol. Except he didn't say "bike shop," he said "store." I shudder to think what that means.
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Old 07-26-19, 05:07 PM
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^ *shrug* Could mean a bike shop. A bike shop is a store...
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Old 07-26-19, 05:31 PM
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Most people on this thread are not addressing what the OP is asking about.

He is talking about lever travel before the pads actually engage the rotors.

He isn't talking about modulation or bedding in or fade or cable pull.

Rim brakes can be adjusted so that the pads are almost touching the rim. You get instantaneous engagement, hair trigger. Disk brakes have a little travel before the pads touch the rotors and start to work. That's what the OP is talking about.


-Tim-
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Old 07-26-19, 06:01 PM
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Interesting. On my son's gravel bike with mechanical disks, I noticed that the brakes felt spongy. Was thinking I needed to adjust them, but maybe not. It's the first bike I've had with them.
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Old 07-26-19, 06:24 PM
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My 3 road bike have rim brakes and my cross bike has mechanical discs. The feel , progressive nature and overall utility of disc brakes is, IMO, far superior.
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Old 07-26-19, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Most people on this thread are not addressing what the OP is asking about.

He is talking about lever travel before the pads actually engage the rotors.

He isn't talking about modulation or bedding in or fade or cable pull.

Rim brakes can be adjusted so that the pads are almost touching the rim. You get instantaneous engagement, hair trigger. Disk brakes have a little travel before the pads touch the rotors and start to work. That's what the OP is talking about.


-Tim-
Two bikes in the family fleet have disk brakes. In my view, there's nothing preventing hair-trigger adjustment of disk brakes, except for how true your rotors are, versus how much rubbing you want to put up with. And the truth of the disks is not perfectly stable -- I've noticed that if I have to brake hard, the heat will temporarily warp the disks. As a result, I do adjust my brakes so there's some clearance.

I prefer calipers, but certainly won't get rid of my disk brake bike. We can take hair-trigger rim brakes for granted because we're fussy about the truth of our wheels. Getting used to any kind of brakes takes about 100 feet of riding, but I'm not at the level of where I need the performance that you probably need.

One thing I've noticed is that beginning riders greatly prefer disk brakes. That's not to say they belong on every kind of bike, but I can appreciate their appeal. They have a feeling of definite-ness.
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Old 07-26-19, 10:07 PM
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I'm very happy with the TRP Spyre cable discs on my road bike. It came with Di2, carbon rims and disc brakes. I find the whole package very responsive and satisfying to ride. I'm happy with the feel and modulation on the TRPs. I have them set pretty hard, with almost no lever movement of the lever to engage. There are barrel adjusters to set the lever travel and compensate for pad wear. Being a 200 lb. rider, I didn't feel good about rim brakes on carbon rims, and I love my carbon rims, so the discs work great for that application.

I also have several old school rim brake bikes, with Koolstop pads on two of them. The Koolstops give great feel and seem to stop as well as the disc braked modern bike.
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Old 07-27-19, 03:56 AM
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For what it's worth, I appreciate the comments about the fact that it may be partly due to the brakes not being "broken-in" and adjusting them would make a difference as well.

The comments about disc brakes being far superior sound encouraging except for the fact that the discs can warp. I also read somewhere where someone said they can squeal while biking. (I've heard that at least a couple of times on the bike paths as well.)

But I find it even more encouraging that rim brakes with Koolstop brake pads feel about as good as disc brakes. I have Jagwire brake pads, which someone here called "cheap", but I find them quiet and actually awesome to use.

I'm glad some confirmed what I suspected though. It makes me somewhat hesitant to buy a disc brake bike. But it sounds like the choice of brakes/discs/adjustment would make a significant difference.

The big issue with me though is my top speed rolling around is like 10mph (16km/h). And usually I slow down ahead of red lights etc. So I don't require great stopping power.
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Old 07-27-19, 08:52 AM
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Rim brakes are absolute dinosaurs in every way, there's no avenue of their use that discs don't cover, why would i ever intentionally go back to rims?

Actually, there's one - rim pads generally last years. Perhaps because they don't really do very much, and they weigh a ton.

Discs then; Feel better, modulate better, grip better, work the same in any terrain or weather, or how much or little you use them.

I'm running a 100 lb (45kg) 2,600w e-tandem with Shimano Zee hydro brakes, semi-metal pads and floating 203mm discs, with repetitive launches and slowdowns of 10-50mph several times a mile, and the brakes are up to the job.
Can you imagine trying to run rim brakes..??!!! Jesus, i'd be in a hedge in the first half mile.
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Old 07-27-19, 02:38 PM
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In my experience, mechanicals which move only one pad WILL warp the rotors. They can't help it, it's how they work, deflecting the rotor until it presses against the inside pad. The problem is worse if you like to leave more gap to the inner pad - and it squeals more that way. I haven't had that problem with the newer Spyke/Spyre calipers. Adjust them so the rotor is centered between the two moving pads and nothing gets bent.
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Old 07-27-19, 02:52 PM
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The very last concern I have when looking at a bike is the brakes. The ride is everything, every rim brake I've had and tried stopped me.

There were many good observations about disk brakes made here though, thanks all for the comments.
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Old 07-27-19, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr View Post
But I find it even more encouraging that rim brakes with Koolstop brake pads feel about as good as disc brakes...
I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong. I think this is going to be different depending on who you ask. I personally don't think Koolstops are remotely close to as nice as disks. Both brakes will lock up a wheel, but to me Koolstops modulate like **** compared to even "OK" disk brakes. I've tried Koolstops on a couple different brake set-ups because people recommend them. I gave them multiple chances. They just have such an "on or off" quality to them that I ended up donating two pair of barely used pads in a box of stuff to the local co-op. I think it's due to the very soft compound. Once they dig onto a rim, they just squish in and grip it. No slipping along the rim. Particularly the rear wheel goes from barely braking to skidding the tire. I've actually used the Jagwire pads and definitely prefer them to Koolstop. But rim brakes with organic compound pads are superior to both. And pad squealing is often related to pad compound. I've found it worth it to spend a little more on decent organic pads. Cheap disk pads squeal when they get wet.

That said, and as much as I love disk brakes, it sounds like rim brakes are probably just dandy for your needs. You aren't out bombing hills, zipping through traffic, hauling a lot of gear, etc. Rim brakes are fine for casual cruising along. The Koolstops might even be good for your use. If you aren't braking hard, you aren't going to lock a wheel. They might reduce the pressure you need to apply to the levers.

Last edited by 3speed; 07-27-19 at 06:30 PM.
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Old 07-27-19, 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by MikeyMK View Post
Rim brakes are absolute dinosaurs in every way, there's no avenue of their use that discs don't cover, why would i ever intentionally go back to rims?

Actually, there's one - rim pads generally last years. Perhaps because they don't really do very much, and they weigh a ton.

Discs then; Feel better, modulate better, grip better, work the same in any terrain or weather, or how much or little you use them.

I'm running a 100 lb (45kg) 2,600w e-tandem with Shimano Zee hydro brakes, semi-metal pads and floating 203mm discs, with repetitive launches and slowdowns of 10-50mph several times a mile, and the brakes are up to the job.
Can you imagine trying to run rim brakes..??!!! Jesus, i'd be in a hedge in the first half mile.

I can definitely see where the discs would be necessary for this bike. I think there are plenty of other bikes where the increased power wouldn’t be utilized.
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