Disc vs. rim brakes : I love these endless debates – tubular versus tire is another good one – and as with most, I can’t help getting in the mix a little and giving my two cents’ worth.
While a lot of my cycling happens on the road (or on the turbo at the moment given the current sub-zero temperatures), I pride myself on being a complete cyclist. I have been riding TT, Enduro, CX and trial bikes most of my life, and using disc brakes for well over a decade.
Yes, discs heat up and yes you might get burnt if you touch them after a long downhill, but would you put your fingers on the hot plate just after cooking your rice? Come on. If you’re into that kind of masochism, try grabbing your aluminium or carbon rim when you’ve braked all the way down Mont Ventoux with rim brakes and stop to fill your bottles at the fountain in Malaucène. Personally, I think that’s a draw.
How about the cuts then? Surely it’s risky having so much naked flesh exposed to metal traveling at high speed? Man I wish they’d thought of that issue before they put chainrings on bikes and spokes on wheels…
Don't be such a roadie
Finally, I recently overheard a pro roadie complaining that disc braking put too much strain through the fork, increasing the risk of snapped carbon and/or bones
Mate, I’m laughing so hard right now I can’t drink my protein shake. The guy who built that bike is way ahead of you, not by a step or two, but a whole freaking marathon.
A frame built by an established brand with tested components will withstand any normal riding forces: unless you are planning on riding your bike into a wall or vehicle (not recommended, yet the probability does increase with poor handling). Your fork is not going to snap because of the brakes.
So if you can’t drop me on a hairpin because your descending skills are below par, don’t blame the engineer.
And finally, before talking about disc safety, you might also like to consider your tubulars inflated to 8.5 bars or more, glued to a carbon rim that you overheat down every single descent of a 3-week-long Grand Tour with your apparently preferred rim brakes (see afore-mentioned cornering skills).
Make your own choice
To be honest, I don’t actually give a shit what you ride. But do me a favour and change your attitude.
Personally I have tested both, be it on or off the road; I ride both with pleasure and confidence. Discs on a road bike take a little adjustment at first: smoother, more progressive, and terribly more efficient. Wet or dry, there are no surprises: your bike stops.
So stop worrying about burns, cuts or snapped carbon. Evaluate your skills, your needs, your preference and make a choice. And if you do go for the discs, here’s a quick pro tip (from someone who can actually handle a bike): you can brake later coming into a hairpin and take the apex much faster than you ever could riding rim brakes. Think about it, and maybe you won’t get dropped next time
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