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Are disc brakes worth the extra money on a touring bike?

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Are disc brakes worth the extra money on a touring bike?

Old 06-20-13, 09:34 AM
  #1  
ShartRate
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Are disc brakes worth the extra money on a touring bike?

It's my ambition to get a touring bike one of these days. For one I like the idea of going on a self-supported tour someday plus I figure touring bikes are bit more heavy duty for my 260-pound frame. I'd mainly be using it for my 10 mile round-trip commute, plus maybe some longer rides in the range of 15-20 miles after work.

A local store has a Long Haul Trucker in my size that's been sitting on their rack for awhile (it's a 2012 I think?) and they've marked it down to $1000 (I'm assuming it's still there). I took it for a test ride and it rode nice, at least as well as my hybrid, but the main thing for me is that I thought the canti brakes were really weak. When I told the salesman that he said they were just loose and needed to wear in a little but I still was not very impressed.

Another local shop has a Disc Trucker in the same size but that's a $1400 bike. Without the discount on the old-stock LHT (which could have been sold by now for all I know) the difference isn't as great but it got me thinking.

Is it worth the extra $$$ to get disc brakes (especially if you are girthy like me) or can the canti brakes be adjusted to a point where they are sufficient?
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Old 06-20-13, 12:35 PM
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ShartRate, I don't think it's a deal buster, but there are some who would.

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Old 06-20-13, 12:40 PM
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If it's between buying a discounted LHT and a non-discounted DT, I'd go for the discount. But between the new models, the price is low enough that I'd say it's worth it.

However, I don't know that discs should be necessary for you. I prefer them and weigh 145 - I don't think rider/cargo weight is generally the issue that makes one brake type better or needed.
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Old 06-20-13, 01:07 PM
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Is pretty hard to beat/match wet stopping power of disks with caliper brakes.....So,if that's important to you,than it's worth it.
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Old 06-20-13, 01:58 PM
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The only real value to disc brakes, IMO, is no rim wear. They are heavier, fiddlier, and cost more. If the brakes that come on the discounted trucker don't measure up for you, they can be changed out to Paul brakes with Koolstop pads.

If I were going to reconfigure my brakes(I'm not,) I'd split the difference and go with rim on the front, disc on the back.
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Old 06-20-13, 02:01 PM
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Thanks for the input, guys! I'm more tempted to go back and look at that discounted Trucker now... Not sure I can afford it, maybe I can borrow money from my wife lol
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Old 06-20-13, 02:23 PM
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This is usually a contentious subject, with devotees on both sides with good arguments. I've tried most all brakes, and found that I prefer the sure braking of discs even with all the "cons". I own a LHT and a DT, and the disc brakes don't cause significant complication.

Pro

1 disc stops much better in rain than rim brake

2 disc can be modulated better, so that panic stops in wet or dry conditions are more controlled, less chance of skid

3 disc can be used on mountain descent without fear of brake damage or tire blow-out from rim overheating

4 disc require little maintenance once set up, and are simple to adjust

5 disc brakes don't wear rims, so wheels may last longer

Con

1 disc adds 2.0-2.5 lbs weight to bike over rim brakes

2 disc brake rotors are susceptible to damage (bending), but can usually be repaired quickly

3 disc can complicate fitting of racks and fenders (doesn't apply so much in the case of Surly DT and other frames with chainstay-mounted brake)

4 disc compromises front wheel longevity by causing reduced drive side spoke tension (this is mostly an academic consideration, in practice the dish is minor compared to typical rear wheel and most users never notice a difference)

5 disc are a little more attractive to bike thieves
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Old 06-20-13, 02:31 PM
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You can probably just drop in some Kool Stop salmon pads if you're really worried about brake power. Might also consider which one is more serviceable if you're in the middle of nowhere.

Though I do like the disk stopping power in the wet on my bike.
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Old 06-20-13, 02:48 PM
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My guess is, at 260, you're going to be unhappy with the stopping power of the off-the-self, canti-braked, LHT. For about $100 you can upgrade it to V-brakes.
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Old 06-20-13, 03:52 PM
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I have disc only "mostercross" bike. I'm not that impressed with cable discs and integrated road levers.
Cable discs have more ultimate stopping power but they're not as nice to use the rest of the time which is the vast majority of the time. I'd go with mini v-brakes. The latest Shimano hydraulic disc brakes put any other brake to shame but the levers are not meant for drop bars.
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Old 06-20-13, 05:14 PM
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The more I look at discs, the more I like the idea for certain types of cycling. There is a minimal weight penalty, as far as I can see. The calipers I have in the garage at the moment, including a pair of BB7s, and a lower-level pair, aren't particulary heavy.

However, my preference would be for cable-pull brakes, which, depending on the variety of caliper, can mean using STIs (I am currently looking at the Bengals for the rear of our tandem). I have cable-pull brakes on my MTB, and I like them very much, and for anyone used to cabled rim brakes, they are a cinch to set up.

As to caliper adjustment, I've never had an issue on my MTB.

The reduction in rim wear, to me, is one of the significant stand-out features of discs. Replacing a disc and/or pads is cheap compared with a wheel rebuild, and even though the rim replacement might take a while to come around, it's an expense that can be avoided.

Wet weather and muddy/gritty conditions are also where discs stand above others.

As to the power, I think loaded touring is where the additional perceived power can be useful. If the bike has panniers on the rear (as I tour regularly), then (a) the chance of an endo under hard braking is reduced and (b) the rear wheel can make a greater contribution to the braking process. In writing this, I do accept that some (but not all) rim brakes can be adjusted to provide the same sort of braking power, but discs just seem to do it better, based on my MTB experience.

Getting back to the OPs conundrum, no I don't think a $400 difference in price between the two LHT models would be enough to put me on a disc-braked version, in normal circumstances. However, having said that, if this is to become an all-round bike, and you ride in conditions on your commutes that may be gritty, muddy or just plain wet for a significant amount of the year, then start factoring in some of the running costs further down the line -- good quality pad replacements front and rear, labour to do that if you can't do it yourself and rim replacement.

And I do have to say I would be a bit concerned with the blow-off attitude of the shop guy in that the brakes were loose and would be better worn in. The thing is, you've got be confident right from the start with a test ride; evidently you weren't.

If there is no urgency, you might wait a little before committing yourself. A Disc Trucker might come up at a price more on a par with the $1000 one.
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Old 06-20-13, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
My guess is, at 260, you're going to be unhappy with the stopping power of the off-the-self, canti-braked, LHT. For about $100 you can upgrade it to V-brakes.
+1

I don't like cantis. I'm about 250 and I could never get them adjusted well enough that I felt confident in being able to really stop quickly if I had to. I personally always recommend replacement with "v-brakes" or linear-pull because they are super easy to adjust and very powerful. I think if you get the LHT and swap out the cantis for linear-pull you'll be very happy with that setup and would have saved yourself and few hundred. There are cheap linear-pull brakes on amazon (as low as $10 for F or R for something that will work great).

https://www.amazon.com/TEKTRO-Brake-L...ar+pull+brakes

As for rim brakes in contrast to disc...you're weight isn't going to play in too much here. Infact, in terms of mechanical advantage, the rim brakes are superior because their position with respect to the center or the wheel grants them better leverage. A disc rotor has to apply more force to achieve the same stopping action and thus (in the long term) wears on the hubs/spokes more quickly.

I had a touring bike with disc brakes (raleigh sojourn). I did like how precise the braking felt but for the added weight/cost/maintenance, unless you're actually going to be riding off road a lot, I don't recommend it.
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Old 06-20-13, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by urbanescapee View Post
There are cheap linear-pull brakes on amazon (as low as $10 for F or R for something that will work great).

https://www.amazon.com/TEKTRO-Brake-L...ar+pull+brakes
You'll need to swap out the levers too. Tektro RL520 linear pulls are a good way to go.
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Old 06-20-13, 07:12 PM
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V brakes are probably a good idea. I've always been pretty satisfied with the v brakes on my hybrid, I guess I didn't know if there were supposed to be other advantages to the canti brakes.

You guys are getting me thinking about customizing a bike I don't even own, this could be trouble lol
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Old 06-20-13, 07:28 PM
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I've used disks on a tadpole trike, and standard brakes von a CLWB recumbent. The disk brakes have much better feel and control, crucial on the trike as it's quit easy to lift the rear off the ground or lock either side front, or even set it up for corners at higher speeds.

I ride in a lot of dusty, gritty and muddy conditions, so that's another advantage.

Both were used for touring. IMHO either (but especially the trike) makes an excellent touring platform for a new or larger rider. Very comfortable, very easy to ride.
The trike has a 12.8 gear inch bottom ratio that makes cranking up really steep hills a cinch.
That's low enough to spin the wheel when unloaded, but full saddlebags change that.
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Old 06-20-13, 07:49 PM
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So, to go to V-brake and to swap out levers as well... you will have to keep a running tab on this. Include labour as well if you can't do the work yourself.

The difference between the Disc and non-disc bikes is narrowing. And remember, the price difference between the two bikes is based on being discounted to move it out of the shop, and the other is presumably close to list price, so the comparison based on brakes is somewhat artificial. Just as a matter of interest, what is the price difference between the two models on MRRP?
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Old 06-20-13, 08:12 PM
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As others had said there are many options for you.

No I dont feel that disks are worth the extra money.

a set of good pads will make a huge difference.

cantilever brakes were the top dog at one point and can definitely be set up to stop on a dime.
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Old 06-21-13, 03:50 AM
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Another vote for saving your money.

I've got plenty of experience with disks on my MTB, and I definitely love them there. The braking power and modulation is really nice when bombing a rock/dirt descent at 15mph+ and heading into a corner. But I can't see the need for them on a road bike. I've always been able to get brakes dialed in to have sufficient stopping power on the road, even in the rain(assuming modern brakes and aluminum wheels). Disks also get Many complaints about the horrendous squeal when wet. I've heard this first hand coming from other riders bikes even when completely dry(which is likely due to pad contamination, poor set-up, etc). If my brakes did that, even if they stop me in the wet, I don't think it's worth it when I'm reluctant to hit the brakes because it sounds like there's a high pitched, high decibel air horn on my wheel. Even the cheapest of v-brakes work great and I'd bet those cantilevers could be set up OK too. As mentioned, maybe some different pads would be needed. I bet if you commented on the brakes and asked them to throw on some new pads before you go through with the sale, they'd throw them on at no charge. They can just use the pads from your bike on another bike.
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Old 06-21-13, 06:46 AM
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mini v

Or just get Mini-Vs. I used them with my 105 levers without any issues, and as far as I can tell they work just as well as regular V-brakes.

Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
So, to go to V-brake and to swap out levers as well... you will have to keep a running tab on this. Include labour as well if you can't do the work yourself.

The difference between the Disc and non-disc bikes is narrowing. And remember, the price difference between the two bikes is based on being discounted to move it out of the shop, and the other is presumably close to list price, so the comparison based on brakes is somewhat artificial. Just as a matter of interest, what is the price difference between the two models on MRRP?
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Old 06-21-13, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by period3 View Post
Or just get Mini-Vs. I used them with my 105 levers without any issues, and as far as I can tell they work just as well as regular V-brakes.
Mini V's really limit your tire/fender size. I wouldn't put them on a touring bike. They were great w/ <35c cx knobbies and no fenders.


At 260lbs, plus the weight of the bike, plus your gear, I'd recommend disc brakes for sure.
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Old 06-21-13, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by calyth View Post
You can probably just drop in some Kool Stop salmon pads if you're really worried about brake power. ... ...
On the Long Haul Trucker forum on Google Groups, Kool Stop Salmon pads was a common suggestion for better stopping power over the past three or four years. Buying some different pads is a lot cheaper than passing up that discount.

I just try to anticipate my braking a bit better when I have my bike loaded down that heavy, I have not bothered to try to get different pads to improve braking. I am quite happy with cantilevers.

Regarding rim wear, that dark gray dust on your rims and pads is Aluminum Oxide. That is the same stuff they use to make grinding equipment in factories and is much harder than the Aluminum rims. I regularly file off the gray stuff on my brake pads with emery boards thinking that I would rather replace the pads more frequently than replace the rims. And when my rims have been used on any muddy trails and my brakes start to sound really bad, I wash off my rims with a brush and soapy water. I actually have not had to replace any brake pads for a long time so my filing off the Aluminum Oxide from the pads has not really cost me any more for pads.
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Old 06-21-13, 09:08 AM
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So I think one of the main things that I'm taking away from this is that cable-actuated disc brakes don't seem to be THAT much more, if any more, powerful than cable-actuated rim brakes. I think this is a misconception I have coming from the world of motorcycles that disc = power. Now, if I could get a touring bike with hydraulic brakes that would be pretty slick, except that I'd probably lock up the rear wheel at every stop.

Payday is coming soon, I'll crunch the numbers then and see if that discount LHT is still there. I feel like I'm going to buy it eventually, why not now?
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Old 06-21-13, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by ShartRate View Post
...Payday is coming soon, I'll crunch the numbers then and see if that discount LHT is still there. I feel like I'm going to buy it eventually, why not now?
I remember a newspaper article I read last January or February about the old Lay-Away plans making a return to business. Just a thought.

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Old 06-21-13, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
I remember a newspaper article I read last January or February about the old Lay-Away plans making a return to business. Just a thought.

Brad
This is at a relatively large sporting goods store (which is why I think the LHT has sat neglected among the road bikes and hybrids). I think their "layaway" plan is getting you to sign up for their credit card.

Just to confirm, I'm probably not ever going to find a better price on a brand new Trucker with the Shimano shifters am I?
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Old 06-21-13, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by ShartRate View Post
Just to confirm, I'm probably not ever going to find a better price on a brand new Trucker with the Shimano shifters am I?
Perhaps not, but I think it's foolish and shortsighted to consider spending $1000 for a bike that you already know from test riding has "unimpressive" braking. You will be even less impressed with those brakes when you add 40-60 lbs of food, water and gear. That will be a total load of ~350 lbs (you+bike+gear). Can you imagine trying to stop that load going down miles of mountain road? Don't be cheap now and regret it later - get the DT!

If you go to Google Groups LHT+CC forum and search for "brakes" you will discover this is one of the more popular subjects. Inadequate braking is probably the most common criticism of the LHT by actual owners, which is why Surly now makes the DT.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/SurlyLHT

I don't think it's been mentioned, but you should also consider getting the DT in 26" wheeled version, since these wheels seem to have a longevity advantage over 700c, and you need all the wheel you can get.

Finally, get the bike fitted properly. If your LBS is not somewhat obsessed with determining your proper fit before pushing a sale on you, then you should find another LBS. Many sales people will push an ill-fitted bike just to get the odd touring bike out of their shop before summer hits and sales die-off, and many customers will snap up a deal if the price is low enough without worrying about the fit beyond whatever the salesman has pitched them. Be smart and learn about bike fit before you seriously consider a purchase. Here are some good ideas on bike fitting:

https://www.rivbike.com/kb_results.asp?cat=23
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