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Disc Brakes on a Road Bike

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Disc Brakes on a Road Bike

Old 05-07-11, 08:39 PM
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Chuck K.
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Disc Brakes on a Road Bike

Iím writing to solicit input from people who have more biking experience than I do. Iíve been cycling for about 9 months.

I have a road bike (an OCR 3) with standard rim brakes that I use for weekend riding and occasional commutes. I bought it used, and itís in good shape. Iím pretty happy with the bike but I might be interested in upgrading at some point, a year from now say.

My commute has several hills that are quite long (the longest being 1.5 miles). I donít mind the climb, but I know when I descend the rims are constantly wearing. Also, when the commute is wet, the brakes donít work as well. (This is also true of my weekend rides, though for this I have a wider selection of route choices.)

My question is this: Does it make sense to consider disc brakes when I upgrade? Iím pondering the Gunnar Fastlane, which is a disc brake road bike, pure and simple. Iíve heard good things about the Avid BB7s. Re frame choice, a Salsa Vaya with somewhat narrow tires might also fit the bill. (I find appeal in a steel frame. I'm no weight weenie.)

Another possibility would be the Fastlane frame with a non-disc fork. This would mean I would have disc brakes in the back and rim brakes up front. (Someone referred to this as a mullet.) For the long descents, I would use the rear disk brake more than the front rim, thus sparing the rim. Also, in wet conditions at least one of my brakes would be relatively unaffected. A friend has tried to steer me away from disc brakes on a road bike, claiming that the likelihood of locking the wheel and possibly taking a spill wouldnít be worth the upside.

Any thoughts on the matter? (Sorry to be so long winded; I don't want to upgrade to the wrong bike.)
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Old 05-07-11, 08:43 PM
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JustinHorne
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Are you running carbon rims?

I assume not. If so, get training wheels to save the carbon wheels.

If you aren't, you're really not wearing the rim at all by braking. Really, it'll be fine.

Most likely you just have crappy brake pads. I suggest getting some Swisstop Green pads. I just started using those, they brake scary fast. I haven't used them extensively in the wet, but they're supposed to work almost better than in the dry.

A much simpler, cheaper solution that changing bikes // getting a disc brake setup.



For the long descents, I would use the rear disk brake more than the front rim, thus sparing the rim. Also, in wet conditions at least one of my brakes would be relatively unaffected. A friend has tried to steer me away from disc brakes on a road bike, claiming that the likelihood of locking the wheel and possibly taking a spill wouldn’t be worth the upside.
EDIT: Yeah, he's exactly right. I forgot to mention that part. When I read you saying you wanted a disc on the rear, I was going to say what a bad plan that was, then saw what your friend said. Go try this in the dry: Get up to a medium speed, try to brake as fast as you comfortably can using only the front brake. Now, do the same with the rear. Notice how the rear locks up really easily? If ANYTHING, you'd want the disc on the front. That said, you don't need disc brakes on a road bike.

If you're buying a brand new commuter only hybrid, for instance, and there's a disc brake model? I guess you could get it. Would I feel 100% comfortable using good dual pivot (road bike) brakes with good pads in the rain? Yep, do it all the time.

Last edited by JustinHorne; 05-07-11 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 05-07-11, 08:50 PM
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I don't know much about the Gunnar in question, but sounds to me like it's a worthwhile consideration, esp if you're using the bike for commutes and long descents. There have been more than a few times I wish I had disc brakes myself. Of course, then I'd likely have to sacrifice my carbon fork and lightweight wheels since stopping with discs puts a considerable amount of stress on each.

I guess one thing to consider is if you ride in a group and it's wet out, you'd certainly be able to stop faster than those around you so be very careful of others running into you from behind.
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Old 05-08-11, 01:29 AM
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Now that the UCI has made disc brakes legal for cyclocross racing, I would imagine that when the 2011 cross bikes hit the market you'll see a few more of them come with disc brakes. I've considered the same thing i.e. disc brakes for a drop bar bike for errand running.

One thing you may have issues with is getting a second set of wheels. You can find them, but most 130 mm hubs (for the rear) do not support disc brakes. Most of the 700c rear wheels that have a disc hub are 135 mm. I believe the Fastlane using 132.5 mm spacing in the rear and I think this is specifically to use either 130 mm or 135 mm rear hubs.

Last week I was out on a ride with some friends and one was riding a hybrid with disc brakes and he had a rubbing issue. If you have an Allen key with you it's relatively easy to adjust a rim brake while out on a ride. I don't think this is as easy for a disc. For my purposes I think a disc has it's place, but for a long weekend ride I think a rim brake is my preference.
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Old 05-08-11, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Watchdog View Post
Now that the UCI has made disc brakes legal for cyclocross racing, I would imagine that when the 2011 cross bikes hit the market you'll see a few more of them come with disc brakes.
I agree, most cross new bikes should be coming with disc brakes now.

Originally Posted by Watchdog View Post
One thing you may have issues with is getting a second set of wheels. You can find them, but most 130 mm hubs (for the rear) do not support disc brakes. Most of the 700c rear wheels that have a disc hub are 135 mm. I believe the Fastlane using 132.5 mm spacing in the rear and I think this is specifically to use either 130 mm or 135 mm rear hubs.
Correct. Careful OP, road rear hubs are 130mm spacing and mtb rear hubs are 135mm spacing. I'm pretty sure both mtn and road are 100mm spacing for front hub. The 100 mm spacing in the front opens up a lot of options if you don't want to go with a whole new bike. You might just want to simply get a whole new frame and new wheelset, if that's the case, go ahead. If you want to just get disc brakes in the front (which is really the only place you need them) you can get away with keeping your frame and rear wheel. You can easily find a fork that'll accept disc and cantilever brakes. A fork like this would allow you to use your current front wheel, or a new disc wheel. My guess is that it's not worth rebuilding your front wheel into a disc compatible version, you might save like $20 by doing this, but then lose a wheel.

Also, if you get a 132.5 mm frame (i'm pretty sure the fastlane is 135) it's close enough to use either size. You can also take a spacer out to help a 135 hub fit more easily.

Originally Posted by Watchdog View Post
Last week I was out on a ride with some friends and one was riding a hybrid with disc brakes and he had a rubbing issue. If you have an Allen key with you it's relatively easy to adjust a rim brake while out on a ride. I don't think this is as easy for a disc.
Not true.

I have the road version of the BB7's (road version just has a cable pull that'll matches up with integrated shifters, aka brifters, rather than regular brake levers that match up with the mtn version of the BB7s) and got them for the same reason you are considering them (directed at OP). On the BB7s there is a red dial on each side of the caliper, each dial independently moves its respective pad in or out. So if you do have a rubbing issue mid ride, you just stop and loosen that sides pad a tick.

All that being said, here's my take on discs on a road bike.

They only really make sense in a situation like the OP's. I have a very steep hill on my commute, and with a load it's hard to stop with regular caliper brakes (canti's would help, but still...) so I got some disc brakes. The disc brakes stop me very well, which is very reassuring. They are also very consistent. It doesn't matter if it's rainy, snowy, or dry, they always behave in the same manner. If you're not going down steep hills with a big load in adverse conditions, you probably don't need them, but they are still pretty reassuring even if you're commuting along flat roads.
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Old 05-08-11, 06:08 AM
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Have you considered a mtb and convert to drop bars?
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Old 05-08-11, 06:32 AM
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Disc brakes make a lot of sense on all-weather commuter bikes; these dont have to be slow, heavy utility bikes, there is a place for lightweight, fast versions and the disc-equipped CX style bike is ideal.
For sport bikes, discs are not no beneficial, they do add weight and you are less lightly to use them in foul conditions.
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Old 05-08-11, 07:14 AM
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Here you go:

https://salsacycles.com/bikes/vaya/
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Old 05-08-11, 08:06 AM
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I ride up and down big climbs in the rain. I have not worn out a set of rims yet. When you wear through a rim because of wet weather braking, then worry about it. I expect it'll be 2015 or so, and by then there will be better disc options.

Of course if you don't know how to ride and drag your brakes the whole way down every descent, that'll make it happen sooner... like 2013. But the solution there is to learn how to descend.
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Old 05-08-11, 08:31 AM
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I'll be switching my road bikes to disc brakes, and my commuter to drop bars as soon as they come out with hydraulic road levers. I just like the feel, I don't really need them, though. So, OP, don't worry about wearing out rims, they are a wear item that you just have to accept will eventual be used up. It should take a good few years though.
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Old 05-08-11, 09:02 AM
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I converted a ti cyclocross bike from canti to disc brakes. It works great for long decents and wet and winter conditions. The cantis are really useless in those conditions, and the road brakes arent much better either. So, to the op, its definitely a good alternative. Btw, i used the avid bb7 road disc brakes, and got some easton 29ers. You need to hunt for a good light fork that takes disc brakes. They are not easy to find.

Last edited by dalava; 05-08-11 at 09:11 AM.
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Old 05-08-11, 09:08 AM
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If you commute on it, particularly in the rain, I would consider them. Most people can get plenty of stopping power from rim brakes, but the disks really shine if you ride in wet conditions often. I'm guessing most road riders aren't interested due to the excess weight. The brakes and disk assembly is heavier than rim brakes and you need a beefier fork.
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Old 05-08-11, 09:24 AM
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As for the rear brake lock-up caution, I can lock the rear wheel on my rim brake equipped bike with 24 year old original pads. I recommend practicing rear brake lock-up so you know how to react if it happens in an uncontrolled situation.

The Fast Lane is a great frame, The OP has done his homework. I recently was present for two builds at an LBS and the workmanship is worth the money if you can afford it.

I have a few very steep descents where the pavement is so bad riding the brake is absolutely necessary. When one needs fade resistant brakes, one wants fade resistant brakes very badly.

I'm in the middle of building up a disc equipped road bike, I don't have first hand riding experience just yet, but I am going through the component selection process. My rear spacing is 132.5, I've chosen a Velocity road disc hub 130 axle rear, and Velocity Light Weight ATB Disc front. I must spread the rear stays on my current road bike to R&R the rear wheel and I'm weary of that inconvenience, I'd rather the wheel go in easy and the scewer nut do the work (at least that's the plan). The wheels are a custom build, which makes them a little more costly. Brakes are BB7 Road. I couldn't afford the Gunner, my frame geometry is slightly more cyclocross/commuter than road/touring like the Gunner.

Last edited by Werkin; 05-08-11 at 09:49 AM.
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Old 05-08-11, 09:43 AM
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https://www.autoweek.com/article/2010...NEWS/101219947
"Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer rolls a 2008 BMW M3, and for the last six months, he's enjoyed a GT-R courtesy of Nissan. His time in the latter was thought by the other riders to give him an advantage in the autocross they would compete in that afternoon. Surely driving fast is less daunting than hurtling down a mountain at 55 mph on thin bicycle tires.

“I think they're very similar,” Leipheimer opines. “You've got to look well ahead and not turn in too early. On the bike, our brakes are pretty good, but we definitely need disc brakes.”"

https://twitter.com/#!/lancearmstrong/status/16755597566
"UCI approves disk brakes for cyclo-cross. Great news. I look fwd to the day they're approved for road racing."

I figure that if they already need to ballast race bikes to reach the UCI's minimum weight limit, they might as well do something useful with the added weight. Maybe they wouldn't need to worry about toasting rims and melting tire glue on long descents, along with retaining decent braking in crappy weather (race days don't wait for sunshine, ya know).
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Old 05-08-11, 10:26 AM
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Anyone know of a road carbon fork that's disc compatible?
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Old 05-08-11, 10:50 AM
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i have a friend with a hybrid canondale with drop bars that has disc brakes he's trying to sell fairly cheap...that would be good for a commuter
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Old 05-08-11, 12:43 PM
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Well, I must say I sure received excellent feedback from this forum. To which I might another comment or two.

If I was going to have just one disc brake (front OR rear, but not both), I thought the rear would be better, since a beefier fork would be necessary in the front to accomodate the disc brake, and a beefier fork means, I think, the transfer of more road vibration to the hands. For longer rides this could become annoying. However, in a mixed environment, some have recommended the disc in the front, not back. I think I need to ponder and research a bit more.

I hadn't considered going the MTB route and converting it to a drop bar, but that might make some sense. So, thanks to TRANS4M for that one.

The post from Watchdog discussing the recent UCI approval suggests that time is on my side, and waiting a year or perhaps a bit longer will result in a wider selection of disc brake road bike options. Very useful to know.

Re the issue of wear, I must confess I'm not afraid to use my brakes. (I don't think I "ride" them per se.) The reality for me is that, although my bike seems to behave just fine at higher speeds, I personally don't care to go over about 30 mph or so. And the commuting descents I have will get me to 35-40 - easily. (Plus, I'm about 185 lbs, and that adds to the wear.) Re the topic of wear, my rims' wear indicators suggest I'll get perhaps another year. But two years would be unlikely. I do not use carbon wheels, but if I did, my interest in a disc brake road bike would go way, way up.

Re the Gunnar Fastlane, yes it is pricey, with the Salsa Vaya being hard on its heels. But since I've given up many of my other vices (er, hobbies, I mean) over the last decade or so, I may be able to spring for one. I wish they were cheaper, and with luck it will be a matter of time before other vendors consider this (underserved?) market.

As a coda, thanks to beerob81 for the amusing video signoff. I showed it to my son who laughed.
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Old 05-08-11, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by beerob81 View Post
i have a friend with a hybrid canondale with drop bars that has disc brakes he's trying to sell fairly cheap...that would be good for a commuter
Might you know what Cannondale model and its condition? Thanks.
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Old 05-08-11, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Chuck K. View Post
If I was going to have just one disc brake (front OR rear, but not both), I thought the rear would be better, since a beefier fork would be necessary in the front to accomodate the disc brake, and a beefier fork means, I think, the transfer of more road vibration to the hands. For longer rides this could become annoying. However, in a mixed environment, some have recommended the disc in the front, not back. I think I need to ponder and research a bit more.
No point in having a disc in the back. 90% of your braking power comes from the front - hence the extreme forces on the fork. Your rim brake should be more than sufficient in the rear to lock up the wheel. Even in the wet.
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Old 05-08-11, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by rushbikes View Post
Anyone know of a road carbon fork that's disc compatible?
Wound Up makes a carbon road fork that can be disc compatible.
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Old 05-08-11, 07:13 PM
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Discs are going to be the future of c-x for sure. Cantis just have too many downsides. Right now, they are still heavy, awkward, and the one's compatible with road levers are just OK.

In a few years though, these things will be slimmed down, sexy and ready for prime time. We need smaller diameter rotor and calipers that are designed with road, not MTB needs in mind.

I blow through a set of rims every year on my c-x / commuter bike and a couple sets of pads. Everything about canti's is a huge hassle and once the weight issue is solved, discs will take over. But not quite ready for prime time right now.
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Old 05-08-11, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Chuck K. View Post
Well, I must say I sure received excellent feedback from this forum. To which I might another comment or two.

If I was going to have just one disc brake (front OR rear, but not both), I thought the rear would be better, since a beefier fork would be necessary in the front to accomodate the disc brake, and a beefier fork means, I think, the transfer of more road vibration to the hands. For longer rides this could become annoying. However, in a mixed environment, some have recommended the disc in the front, not back. I think I need to ponder and research a bit more.

I hadn't considered going the MTB route and converting it to a drop bar, but that might make some sense. So, thanks to TRANS4M for that one.
When you brake on a downhill, your weight is constantly shifting forwards (thanks to gravity and the fact that you're not slowing down as quickly as your bike is). Translation: front wheel is taking the load, and that's the one that needs to slow down. Disc brakes on the rear are just for show.

As for converting an MTB to a drop bar. It's certainly do-able, but it's not that cheap. Have you taken a look at what the cost of road-bike brifters are? Also, the only disc brakes I've seen that are compatible with road-style brifters are the ones from Avid (i.e., the BB series). By the time you add brifters, cables, maybe switch the brakes, maybe change the gearing since MTB gearing doesn't work very well on the road, change the tires so you don't have a ton of rolling resistance... i.e., there's more to it than just changing the handlebars.
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