It may feel as if rim brake road bikes have gone the way of the dodo, overtaken by road bike disc brakes for the most part.
However, while the selection of rim brake road bikes out there isn’t quite what it once was, there are still plenty of bikes out there with rim brake stoppers.
But there are also some surprisingly modern bike options with rim brakes. Italian brands have clung to rim brakes longer than others, but even Giant has rim brake options in its performance road bike range.
Here’s a rundown of 13 top rim brake road bikes available today. This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are certainly other rim brake bikes out there that we haven’t included, but it should whet your appetite for old-school stopping power.
Entry-level road bikes with rim brakes
There are quite a few entry-level bikes that come with rim brakes and we’ve picked out a few that we’ve reviewed here at BikeRadar.
Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1
The CAAD Optimo is Cannondale’s entry-level road bike option, with an alloy frame, dropped seatstays and part-internal cable routing.
There are four specs, with this range-topping build equipped with Shimano 105 shifting, although the in-series rim brakes are swapped out for Tektro R741 dual-pivot calipers – a common theme with entry-level bikes.
We liked the fast-handling ride quality and comfort level on offer from the CAAD Optimo.
Trek Domane AL 2
An alloy bike option that’s the entry point to Trek’s extensive Domane range, the Domane AL 2 has a Shimano Claris 8-speed groupset.
We enjoyed the ride quality, but the no-name brake calipers weren’t impressive. They’d justify a swap-out for a more performant option such as Shimano’s in-series 105 brakes.
Specialized Allez Elite
The Specialized Allez Elite is another lower-priced road bike and part of Specialized’s Allez range, none of which has yet gone for disc stoppers.
It won our £1,000 Bike of the Year category in 2020, although sadly its price has increased since then.
We liked the quality of the frameset and the tubeless-ready wheels felt better than those fitted to many lower-priced bikes. But Specialized has, like many other brands, swapped out the brakes to save money, which we felt led to a loss of stopping power over in-series 105.
Giant Contend 1
Giant still has quite the stable of rim brake bikes (see below) and the Giant Contend 1 has an alloy frame matched to a carbon fork with an extra-wide steerer top bearing.
There’s a 9-speed Shimano Sora groupset, again with a swap-out to Tektro rim brakes, which we found effective and fuss-free.
It’s a quality ride on the 28mm tyres and tubeless Giant wheels, along with a D-shaped carbon seatpost and decent saddle.
Boardman SLR 8.6
Boardman Bikes still has a number of rim brake bikes in its range, alongside disc brake options.
We’ve reviewed the entry-level bike, the Boardman SLR 8.6, but rim brake options stretch up to the £1,000-plus Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon.
Impressively, the Boardman SLR 8.6 hasn’t increased in price over the last couple of years, when bike price inflation has been substantial. It’s yet another bike with Tektro calipers, which we found gave so-so braking. We reckoned an upgrade to better brake pads should up braking performance.
Decathlon’s Triban bike range has largely shifted over to disc brakes, but the budget Triban RC 120 still sports rim brakes.
It’s an impressive bike for its price, which we gave five stars in our test.
That’s in no small measure due to the inclusion of rim brakes with cartridge brake pads rather than the one-piece numbers more usual on lower-priced bikes, which we commented led to positive, well-controlled braking.
Like Triban, Vitus is another brand that has well-priced bikes, mostly with disc brakes.
The Vitus Razor is its starter bike and is equipped with rim brakes though. It has the same geometry as Vitus’s carbon Zenium, along with Tektro R317 brakes. We found these a bit grabby, although they worked well enough and an upgrade to better-quality cartridge pads would again probably improve things.
Performance road bikes with rim brakes
There are still plenty of more expensive rim brake bike options available too.
We haven’t reviewed many of these bikes in their rim-brake guise, and even finding photos of them in their non-disc version was a challenge, but if you look hard enough, you can still get a high-end road bike with rim brakes.
You can have a recent Tour de France-winning bike with rim brakes too. Despite Colnago being an early adopter of disc brakes with the C59 Disc in 2012, it still continues to ride both braking horses.
Like Pinarello, Colnago buries its rim brake option for the Colnago V3Rs down in the depths of its website. However, Tadej Pogačar has been known to be partial to occasional outing on the rim brake bike, particularly when the road points uphill.
Giant TCR Advanced 2
We were seriously impressed by the Giant TCR Advanced 2 – offering an exciting ride in a relatively affordable package.
Giant also still sells the Propel Advanced with rim stoppers, despite the majority of its performance bikes – including the latest model 2023 Propel – now sporting disc brakes.
Outside the UK and US, there are even more rim brake options on Giant’s international site.
Merida Scultura Rim 4000
Like Giant, Merida is another big brand to keep a couple of rim brake bike options, in this case in its Scultura range.
The Scultura Rim 4000 has a carbon frameset and Shimano 105 11-speed mechanical groupset, complete with in-series Shimano 105 brakes.
Pinarello Prince FX Ultegra
You may have thought Pinarello had finally abandoned rim brakes when the Ineos Grenadiers pros made the switch to disc brakes with the latest Dogma F, but dig deeper into Pinarello’s site and rim brakes live on.
The Pinarello Prince FX Ultegra Di2 and Prince FX Ultegra 11S come with the option of either disc brakes or direct-mount rim brakes.
Pinarello also lists the Dogma F Dura-Ace Di2 with rim brakes and a Dura-Ace R9200 12-speed groupset.
Titanium and rim brakes? Now that’s a classy combination.
The Reilly T325 really impressed us with a thrilling and divinely smooth ride quality, but you certainly pay the price for such luxuries.
At just under £3,800 as tested, it presents a serious investment for most of us, but really could be a bike for life.
Wilier GTR Team
Introduced at the cusp between rim brakes and disc brakes taking off, the Wilier GTR Team has a rim brake option alongside a disc brake bike. You can save yourself €450 by opting for the rim brake spec with Shimano 105.
Wilier has a few other rim brake bikes too, including the alloy Montegrappa and the copper-metallic painted, retro steel Superleggera.
As a curious side note, Wilier previously offered a range of bikes that were compatible with both rim and disc brakes for those who simply couldn’t decide.