Our Guide to Buying: Disc Brake Road Bikes

What are Disc Brake Road Bikes?

Disc brake road bikes are simply road bikes that come with disc brake technology. Having been used on mountain bikes for many years, this disc brake technology is now being used on Road Bikes. And not just high end models as brands have identified the advantages for all road riders.

With the trickle down affect, this technology is now appearing on entry level road bikes. Our buying guide to disc brake road bikes will help you decide on the best bike for your needs.

What is the Difference Between Traditional Rim Brakes and Disc Brakes?

Rim brakes have been the defacto standard for many years, with the braking force as the name suggests applied to the wheel rim. The brake calipers clamp to the rim and the force applied allows you to slow or stop altogether. With disc brakes the force is moved away from the rim to a dedicated braking area, namely a separate rotor fixed to the wheel hub.

The obvious difference is the wheel rim serves as an integral component of the wheel, an area that the tyre is fixed to and then your braking force applied to. With disc brakes this force is applied to a different, smaller area.

How are disc brakes operated on a road bike?

The other major difference is how the brakes are operated. Rim brakes are connected from the lever to the caliper by a cable. You pull on the lever and this in turn pulls the cable which closes the caliper on the rim. The majority of disc brake bikes available use a hydraulic braking system. The cable system is replaced by a hose connecting the lever and the brake which is filled with non-compressible fluid. So when the lever is pulled the pressure forces the fluid into the caliper.

This has the effect of pushing the pistons in and the caliper outwards, making the brake pads grip the rotor. A more affordable version of disc brake technology is the cable activated option. Rather than using hydraulic fluid to activate the pistons it similar to rim brake as it works using a cable.

Where can I get Disc Brake Road Bikes?

Disc brake equipped road bikes do not have to be complicated or expensive. The cable activated version has cheaper parts and more widely available parts as there is more compatibility between brands.

There is the additional ease of maintenance at home or on the roadside. Hydraulic versions are more widely available and given the success of this technology on mountain bikes which are generally ridden in conditions far worse than road bikes, that has to be a big plus.

How do Disc Brake Road Bikes Perform?

The most noticeable difference occurs in the amount of effort required to bring your bike to a stop. Disc brakes have the advantage of offering a huge amount of stopping power. In all honestly more than most riders will need but it means less effort is required to bring the bike to a standstill. This would be extremely useful on long descents. With this amount of stopping power it is useful for larger riders or heavier bikes.

Using disc brakes provides the rider with a more even application of braking power so a rider can gauge how much pressure is required in most situations. This last factor can be extremely useful in wet, grimy conditions. With traditional rim brakes, the brake pad has to first displace any water or grime from the road before biting on the rim. This can cause a ‘lag’ before the speed is scrubbed off, which can be a little disconcerting at the best of times. This is more pronounced when using carbon rims.

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