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Disc brakes or rim brakes?

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Disc brakes or rim brakes?

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Old 11-07-18, 03:30 PM
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zachgins
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Disc brakes or rim brakes?

Hey everybody!
I'm planning to do a tour this year across the country, and a little touring in Puerto Rico and Spain. I've been told that disc brakes are much safer than rim brakes because they are less likely to slip in the rain and your tire could drag on a rim brake if it gets slightly out of alignment. What are y'all's thoughts on the matter?
Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-07-18, 04:30 PM
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In before the fight starts.

Either will serve you well in the areas of the world you plan to travel. Disc brakes have more stopping power but that power produces more friction so disc brakes can overheat easier on lengthy down hills. Rim brakes are more field repairable, though cable pull disc brakes aren't far off. Rim brakes can be fiddly as you mentioned but some disc brakes can be too. Hydraulic disc brakes are taboo to many traditional tourers. Again, where you want to tour, they will be fine too.

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Old 11-07-18, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by zachgins View Post
Hey everybody!
I'm planning to do a tour this year across the country, and a little touring in Puerto Rico and Spain. I've been told that disc brakes are much safer than rim brakes because they are less likely to slip in the rain and your tire could drag on a rim brake if it gets slightly out of alignment. What are y'all's thoughts on the matter?
Thanks in advance!
Frankly, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. A large part of the “fight” that CreakingCrank is talking about comes from those who think that you can’t ride a bike without disc brakes. I have bikes with discs, bikes with rim brakes and a bike with both (disc front, rim rear). The type of brake is less important than how you use it. Learn how to brake properly and the type of brake makes less of a difference.
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Old 11-07-18, 05:25 PM
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I have done many tours on a bike with Cantilever rim brakes and lived to be here, now.


I would not suggest touring , completely without any Independent, mechanical problem solving skills.
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Old 11-07-18, 06:55 PM
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Get the bike that you think will serve your needs best, that fits great, is not too light or too heavy and that will handle well with the load on it. If it has good rim brakes on it, great. If they are disc, that can be great too. Don't let the type of brake system drive your decision, you want fit and function and adequate gearing for steep hill climbing.

Most of my bikes have rim brakes, but one bike has disc on back, rim brake on front. My experience is that in rain the disc is slightly better. But not so much better than I would rule out a rim brake bike. The most recent bike I bought has rim brakes, I bought that even though I already had experience with a disc brake.

If you get a bike with rim brakes, consider putting Koolstop Salmon pads on it. They can make your braking a bit better. And one guy I know says that a rim lasts longer if you use Koolstop Salmon pads.

It takes some skill and mechanical aptitude that not everyone has, but if you can learn how to make minor adjustments on a wheel to true it up if it is out of true, that would solve your concern about brake rub. I learned how to true wheels when I worked at a bike shop, so I really have no idea on the best way for an amateur to learn. Perhaps Youtube? But if it was a well built wheel to start with, it should not need much adjustment over time. Most of the wheel truing I have to do is after shipping a bike when it can get handled roughly by baggage handlers.
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Old 11-07-18, 08:21 PM
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[you forgot to ask abot drum brakes. brakes inside the hub.
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Old 11-07-18, 08:22 PM
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Old 11-07-18, 08:34 PM
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TBH I have not found hydraulic brakes to be of any concern in daily use and racing mtb in rough territory. As long as they are a reputable design from a reputable manufacturer I would take a hydraulic on a tour any day over a cable or rim system due to being closed from contamination within the mechanism. A spare set of pads would be a miniscule weight in case a random occurrence of contamination would happen, but a fear of system failure would be so low as to not even enter my radar. A rim system on the other hand in a tropical territory such as PR (I grew up in Guam) can be prone to sand grit kick up and some concentrations of super sticky mud that would cause rim pads (and rims) to wear at a pronounced rate. That was a large part of why the mountain bike club I was in at that point would not run a trail race if it had rained within 2 days of the event. The mud was strong enough to inhibit v-brakes pretty harshly. Rain and wet was not the issue.
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Old 11-07-18, 10:17 PM
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Either brake is fine. I tour and commute year round with rim brakes. Deep snow is problematic. Everything else is fine .
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Old 11-07-18, 10:28 PM
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If I were to tour with discs in the middle of nowhere, which I often do, I would strongly consider throwing an extra rotor and pads in the bottom of one pannier "just in case", because finding exactly what you may need can be problematic at times.
Rim brake repair generally requires more widely available parts.
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Old 11-07-18, 11:45 PM
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Hydraulic disc brakes here. Can’t imagine going back to rim brakes ever. For remote areas I might consider bringing spare pads and maybe even a spare rotor.
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Old 11-07-18, 11:51 PM
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1) how many long tours have you taken and did you wear out your brakes doing it ?

Do share the specifics..

facts not theory.
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Old 11-08-18, 05:09 AM
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The brake choice shouldn't swing your bike decision either way, but if all else equal on your bike choice, I'd go with disc brakes. On multi-day rides, often don't have a choice about riding in the rain and the braking performance in rain is much better. Often on the same bike model, the disc version will allow wider tires - another plus for touring. Carrying extra pads is no harder than carrying extra rim brake pads. Just about every bike shop carries and repairs disc brakes these days.
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Old 11-08-18, 07:16 AM
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Either can work and I don't think this is the most important consideration in picking a bike.

That said, I have a preference for disc brakes. I am both heavy and cautious and thus end up using my brakes a lot. I've worn through a lot of brake pads. On my disc bikes I've worn through rotors and on my rim brake bikes I've worn and cracked rims. I like discs because I have a preference for wearing down rotors over wearing down rims. However, even in my setup it takes a lot more than a single cross-US trip to wear down a rim.

Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Do share the specifics..

facts not theory.
Failures are rare overall and some noise in the data, but among my longer trips, I've had the following brake/rim issues:
92 - crossed US, no brake or rim issues.
97 - crossed Canada, cracked three rims but don't believe they were necessarily brake related; did switch to better rim/hub after that
01 - crossed US, no brake or rim issues
01 - circled Austraila; one rim unrelated to brake issue
07 - crossed Europe+Russia; one rim worn and cracked, believe brakes influenced
13 - crossed Africa; disc brakes - one rotor, three sets of pads; two cracked rims - believe was mfg related
16 - crossed the Americas; disc brakes - two rotors at least half a dozen brake pads; no rim issues; front brake pad fell out underway, rear brake severe vibration/issue.

So my experience isn't overwhelming reinforcement of a particular point of view
- rims have failed for reasons other than braking
- adjustment of brakes hasn't been a big issue, did have some issues with my disc brakes
- also had some experience that can reinforce my bias: a cracked rim in Russia, no rim issues crossing the Americas

So I still believe disc vs caliper brakes is not the most important consideration in picking a bike and either can work fine; and overall failure rates are low enough that even with my weight/caution they aren't high.

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Old 11-08-18, 08:58 AM
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My main concern with brakes is not wearing out or needing repair, but how well they stop the bike. I’ve found disc brakes to have superior stopping power in all conditions. All my touring bikes are primarily used as commuting bikes, and in that setting, especially on crowded roads and paths, even a small difference in braking between rim and disc can make all the difference. Plus, my bike gets extremely dirty due to riding on the C&O towpath every day, so rims would wear out quickly with rim brakes.
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Old 11-08-18, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
If you get a bike with rim brakes, consider putting Koolstop Salmon pads on it. They can make your braking a bit better. And one guy I know says that a rim lasts longer if you use Koolstop Salmon pads.
I can't really compare to other brake pads because I'm not sure when in my life I owned one bike so long and rode it so often. I rode a lot, but once I started commuting on my LHT, I racked up more miles than I had on any single, previous bike. I always used Koolstop Salmon pads. Commuting and touring, rain or shine, over maybe 15,000 miles and 5 years, my brake pads ate through the rim. I don't know if that's a good life for a rim or not. I do know that the hub was fine, and went on to serve on another bike for a couple of years. Five years for a rim seemed short to me, so when my next bike had an option to take disc brakes, that's what I did. I haven't regretted it at all.

I agree with the folks who say that you shouldn't let the brake options scare you away from the bike you have or the bike you want. I still have a bike with rim brakes (although if I can convert it from rim brakes, I likely will), but if I have two similar frames to choose from, and one takes disc brakes, that's the frame I'm going with.
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Old 11-08-18, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
I can't really compare to other brake pads because I'm not sure when in my life I owned one bike so long and rode it so often. I rode a lot, but once I started commuting on my LHT, I racked up more miles than I had on any single, previous bike. I always used Koolstop Salmon pads. Commuting and touring, rain or shine, over maybe 15,000 miles and 5 years, my brake pads ate through the rim. I don't know if that's a good life for a rim or not. I do know that the hub was fine, and went on to serve on another bike for a couple of years. Five years for a rim seemed short to me
Unless there is a failure in a short period of time I think it's difficult (if not impossible) to make an assessment based on years and mileage alone. I got about 7 years out of the rims of my LHT and used Salmons for several years (but not all of them). Used the bike for commuting/errands, touring and day rides, including many miles of unpaved roads. Have no idea have many thousands of miles. One thing that I suspect led to rim wear is the nature of my commuting/errand miles. Lots of traffic control in the big city. Slowing down and/or stopping every 500' if not less is the norm. Those rims also saw a lot of hilly and mountainous riding, some of which was on unpaved roads in both wet and dry conditions. On top off all that, I like to keep my speed manageable for me, so I believe I brake a lot more than the average bear.
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Old 11-08-18, 09:58 AM
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Use Plans?

Just your summer tour bike, or you going to use it year round,
through the winter also?
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Old 11-08-18, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Unless there is a failure in a short period of time I think it's difficult (if not impossible) to make an assessment based on years and mileage alone. I got about 7 years out of the rims of my LHT and used Salmons for several years (but not all of them). Used the bike for commuting/errands, touring and day rides, including many miles of unpaved roads. Have no idea have many thousands of miles. One thing that I suspect led to rim wear is the nature of my commuting/errand miles. Lots of traffic control in the big city. Slowing down and/or stopping every 500' if not less is the norm. Those rims also saw a lot of hilly and mountainous riding, some of which was on unpaved roads in both wet and dry conditions. On top off all that, I like to keep my speed manageable for me, so I believe I brake a lot more than the average bear.
Right. Riding habits can have a big impact. I read a lot of touring blogs where they say, "It was going to rain all day, so I took a rest day." Good idea, but most of my tours are short and on a tight schedule, and when I'm not touring, I'm commuting, which happens regardless of the rain, so I get a lot of opportunities to get everything wet and gritty and grind away at my rim. Since I know that about my riding habits, I'm more likely to look at rim brakes. If you have the luxury of kicking back on a wet day, that may not be a factor.
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Old 11-08-18, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Unless there is a failure in a short period of time I think it's difficult (if not impossible) to make an assessment based on years and mileage alone. I got about 7 years out of the rims of my LHT and used Salmons for several years (but not all of them). Used the bike for commuting/errands, touring and day rides, including many miles of unpaved roads. Have no idea have many thousands of miles. One thing that I suspect led to rim wear is the nature of my commuting/errand miles. Lots of traffic control in the big city. Slowing down and/or stopping every 500' if not less is the norm. Those rims also saw a lot of hilly and mountainous riding, some of which was on unpaved roads in both wet and dry conditions. On top off all that, I like to keep my speed manageable for me, so I believe I brake a lot more than the average bear.
I suspect no two people would have the same amount of rim wear over a set distance or time period. As Alan S noted above, he commutes on gravel so rim brakes would likely wear faster.

My rims were in good shape after I did the Pacific Coast, but there were a lot of 8 percent grade hills that went through my brake pads pretty fast. (Yes these are not Salmon, I have since switched to Salmon.)

I have always tried to keep my rims pretty clean. And if my pads had any bits of metal or a heavy coating of Aluminum Oxide on them I would sand that off of the pads.

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Old 11-08-18, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
My main concern with brakes is not wearing out or needing repair, but how well they stop the bike. I’ve found disc brakes to have superior stopping power in all conditions. All my touring bikes are primarily used as commuting bikes, and in that setting, especially on crowded roads and paths, even a small difference in braking between rim and disc can make all the difference. Plus, my bike gets extremely dirty due to riding on the C&O towpath every day, so rims would wear out quickly with rim brakes.
If maximum stopping power in all conditions is important to you, hydraulic disc brakes are your best friend. As mentioned already, a good quality from a reputable manufacturer.
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Old 11-08-18, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by CreakingCrank View Post
If maximum stopping power in all conditions is important to you, hydraulic disc brakes are your best friend. As mentioned already, a good quality from a reputable manufacturer.
I have Shimano hydros on all my bikes. Bought a used fat bike with SRAM Guide brakes, and they were awful in comparison. Immediately replaced with M8000 brakes, and all was back to normal.
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Old 11-08-18, 03:40 PM
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My bike with the most stopping power has $3 V brakes. My second best one has expensive hydro disc brakes. I wouldn't make brakes any significant consideration in my purchase.
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Old 11-08-18, 05:09 PM
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Disk brakes sell new bikes because they're a new thing your old bike doesn't have.

Disk brakes do have a few advantages in the form of not having to worry so much about mud and snow. They tend to fade less in wet conditions too, though even coming down steep descents I've never found rim brakes to be unsatisfactory. They create less wear on rims, which may be advantageous for carbon rims, and to a much lesser degree on aluminum rims.

Rim brakes are simple and reliable, and have been for decades. Rim brakes are easy for anyone to work on. They can be fairly light, and they produce less strain on spokes, skewers, and drop-outs.

If the new bike you are considering has disk brakes, that's great. If the new bike you are considering does not have disk brakes, unless you have a specific need for disk brakes, don't necessarily let the omission be the reason you pass on selecting that bike. There are so many factors to consider. I would never put disk brakes in a 'must have' category because I've ridden most of my life without them, and even having recently acquired a bike with them, wouldn't consider them a tremendous upgrade in my riding experience (or even something I think about at all, once I get out there riding).

To me as I'm riding I care mostly about the things associated with how long I can be comfortable on the bike, how well I'll be able to climb, and how much energy I will have exhausted by the end of a long ride. Brakes don't play into any of those factors -- they're for stopping.

Great tires, stiff wheels, responsive frames, proper gearing, good shifting quality, good endurance fit, as little wasted weight penalty as I can justify affording, decent aerodynamics.... and way, way down on MY list, how much my braking would be affected by accumulated crud if the roads I'm riding were suddenly inundated with mud.
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Old 11-08-18, 05:14 PM
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Coaster brake. Or one disc and one rim brake. Some wheels can do both rim and disc. Use both.
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