I’ll get it out of the way from the start — yes, I know I’m beating a dead horse.
The ol’ rim vs disc brake ‘debate’ is trivial at best and we’ve discussed the merits of each system in roughly a zillion other articles on this site — in fact, Matthew Allen previously penned a piece that covered almost exactly what I’m going to discuss here.
So why am I here, taking on this debate once again? Am I just a masochistic brake-troll who finds pleasure in arguing with people about bikes over the internet?
Absolutely not. There will be no negativity here. Instead, this is a sweet, whispered reassurance into the ears of the many who don’t want to adopt disc brakes just yet - rim brakes are here to stay and they’re getting better.
Nearly every time we feature a new bike on the site that has disc brakes, there’s a backlash from some readers who claim that ‘the industry’ at large is trying to ‘force’ this not quite so new-fangled technology down their throats. Honestly, some of the comments on this article are vicious!
I’m here to say that this is simply not the case.
I was recently lucky enough to spend a few weeks riding the new Shimano Ultegra groupset and the highlight of the package is undoubtedly the BR-R8000 brakes — the level of modulation and power that these brakes offer is astounding and presents a significant improvement over the previous generation. If rim brakes were an outgoing technology, then why would Shimano spend so much time and resources developing them?
Likewise, there’s not exactly a shortage of new bikes that use rim brakes being released.
Nearly every large manufacturer has a rim and disc brake version of their best selling road bikes (yes, there are exceptions) as it would make no financial sense to alienate a huge portion of their potential buyers who perhaps don’t want a disc bike.
Looking outside of the mainstream, lots of smaller manufacturers are still developing and refining all manner of brake designs.
Paul Components is a good example, selling no fewer than four designs of cantilever brakes and two different centre-pull brakes. When was the last time that you even saw a high quality centre-pull brake in the wild?
Likewise, Compass Cycles has long been championing and refining the designs of Mafac, offering its Compass centre-pull brakes since 2014, with cantilever brakes currently in development.
The concerns of the ever-weight-conscious roadie also continue to drive the market.
We’ve been speculating for years about when the day might actually come, but when the UCI does eventually lift the 6.8kg limit, I suspect there will be a rush to significantly lighten many parts on bikes — perhaps disc brakes will be a part of this, but until then, lightweight rim brake designs will reign supreme for the weenies out there.
My request to disc haters
So this is my request to our dear readers; before you go full keyboard warrior and think about throwing shade at the industry for forgetting the not-so-poor-ol’-as-it-turns-out rim brake, remember that you’re not alone in your love for the ol’ rim squidger.
Rim brake technology is in good health, and while they may lose some ground to discs in years to come, they’ll always have a place in our hearts.
Likewise as Matthew remarked once, “a manufacturer bringing new products to market doesn’t somehow invalidate the ones you already own”. If you love rim brakes, that’s super! We may think that disc brakes are the bees knees, but more power to you and I promise that no one thinks less of you, regardless of what you use to stop your bike.
Besides, don’t we have more important things to hate on, like presta valves?
Want to indulge in more disc vs rim debate? Here’s an (ever growing) list of articles on the issue;
- Could disc brake guards be the solution (to a problem that may not exist)?
- Why it's time to consign cable disc brakes to history
- Five reasons why roadies should embrace disc brakes
- Fausto Pinarello: We don't think a high-performance bike needs disc brakes
- The problem with disc brakes in road racing is…
- Will disc brakes be banned in British sportives?
- Road discs are great, but do you actually need them?
- ABS braking is coming to an e-bike near you