Author Topic: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?  (Read 2477 times)

jamesbond007

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Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« on: January 18, 2018, 10:51:19 AM »
I am an avid road biker and I ride the Bike MS: Waves to Wine century every year. But this year I signed up to ride the California Coast Classic in September. One question I have is about disc brakes. My current 10 year old road bike (Specialized Secteur) is serving me very well. No complaints. But the CCC ride along CA HWY-1 with steep rolling hills is what is concerning me. Do I need disc brakes for more predictable stopping? I don't mind spending the $$ for safety but I need to make an educated decision.


Could anyone here who has ridden both rim brakes and disc brakes (mechanical/hydraulic) help me understand?

zoltani

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2018, 10:58:06 AM »
IMO disc brakes would be more important in the rain or other averse weather. You will be fine with what you have. FWIW i have biked hwy 1 with a fully loaded touring bike on rim brakes with no issues.

PaulMaxime

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2018, 10:59:01 AM »
Disc brakes are better when they are wet.

I've ridden with regular brakes for over 30 years all across the US in every kind of condition (Snow, Ice, Mountains, Rain, etc) and they've been fine but I like the disc brakes on my mountain bike.

The real advantage in my mind is if you ever have something happen and your wheel goes out of true - like breaking a spoke.

I'll probably spring for disc on my next road bike but it's not necessary. It's just the new shiny to get you to part with your money.



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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2018, 11:39:41 AM »
As far as I can tell Disc brakes are primarily deemed better than rim brakes for three reasons:

1. They work just as well in the wet as in the dry.
2. Every time you brake you are wearing out a cheap disc instead of an expensive wheel.
3. Modulation, more controlled smoother braking.

However having used both I think in my case there is a 4th. I am a rubbish descender. Iím quicker going up than I am coming back down! I have grown in confidence massively by having disc brakes and now descend much better. My enjoyment and smiles per mile has increased dramatically and thatís what itís all about.

If you are confident descending then it may not benefit you enjoyment/safety wise. The three main benefits above are still relevant though. How much value would you get from these? If you do upgrade I would definitely go for hydraulic over mechanical as there is a lot less maintenance involved.

jamesbond007

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2018, 12:08:06 PM »
Thank you for the responses. I am very conservative descender. I am scared of super high speeds. Mainly because of traffic, winding roads and minor errors magnify at high speeds. I pull the levers so badly that I average about 15mph downhill. I don't it would change just because I have disc brakes. I guess I will keep my rim brakes and save the dough. :)

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2018, 12:19:08 PM »
Absolutely fine. You sound a bit similar to me though. I found I was hitting loads of PRís on Strava on my downhill segments when I changed to a bike with disc brakes. I wasnít trying to go any faster but the way that the brakes feel and the fact that disc brake wheels generally have wider internal rim widths (which shape the tyre better) meant that I felt so much more in control than I had before. They really grip on corners and I felt more confident. As a result I started to take 30 seconds or so off of segments without trying.

Worth bearing in mind when it does come to the time to change your bike.

jamesbond007

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2018, 02:22:37 PM »
Absolutely fine. You sound a bit similar to me though. I found I was hitting loads of PRís on Strava on my downhill segments when I changed to a bike with disc brakes. I wasnít trying to go any faster but the way that the brakes feel and the fact that disc brake wheels generally have wider internal rim widths (which shape the tyre better) meant that I felt so much more in control than I had before. They really grip on corners and I felt more confident. As a result I started to take 30 seconds or so off of segments without trying.

Worth bearing in mind when it does come to the time to change your bike.

That's actually a very good point.

jamesbond007

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2018, 02:24:59 PM »
One other reason that I love my current bicycle is that it has a triple chainring for those really nasty climbs. I don't think any new models come with a triple. Also, does having a carbon frame make a HUGE difference?

frugaliknowit

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2018, 02:41:44 PM »
I own a 2010 Secteur and sometimes do 30-35 mph down hills.

I have heard complaints that disc brakes require much more maintenance...?

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2018, 02:55:32 PM »
Compact chainrings often come with an 11-32 cassette. 34-32 should handle most hills ok. Iím in the UK and have found that more than enough in the Dales.

A good frame regardless of material is important. I prefer steel myself. A good aluminium bike with a carbon fork will be better than a lower end carbon frame. Budget is important here.

Frugaliknowit - I believe mechanical disc brakes can require constant tinkering but hydraulic disc brakes are extremely low maintenance.

Syonyk

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2018, 03:48:05 PM »
Also, does having a carbon frame make a HUGE difference?

Absolutely!  The reduced wallet weight makes a significant difference in hill climb speed!

Disc brakes make a difference in braking, but unless you're doing serious mountain work, I doubt you'll notice a real difference.

Where disc brakes make a big deal, as noted, is in the wet.  And if you have wet and grit (like Seattle does), you'll want disc brakes to avoid tearing up your rims.  Disc brakes + grit = grinding your rims badly all winter long.

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2018, 04:31:12 PM »
You definitely do NOT need disc brakes. I've ridden parts of Highway 1 in all weather. Rim brakes will give you all the stopping power you need. Don't worry.

If you love your bike, keep riding it!

zoltani

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2018, 05:45:44 PM »
I've done 45 on a fully loaded bike and stopped just fine with rim brakes, HTFU!

Eric

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2018, 06:37:05 PM »
So you're riding along Highway 1 in September?  What happens when you come to the parts that are closed?  South of Big Sur and North of Cambria is supposed to be closed until the end of September.  Or maybe it'll be close enough to completion that bikes will be allowed?  Just curious.

Current conditions here:

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/display.php?page=sr1

Quote
[IN THE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA AREA]
    IS CLOSED FROM 4.6 MI NORTH OF RAGGED POINT TO 10.3 MI NORTH OF
RAGGED POINT /AT MUD CREEK/ (MONTEREY CO) 24 HRS A DAY 7 DAYS A WEEK THRU
9/30/18
- DUE TO MUDSLIDE REMOVAL - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE
ROUTE

This is on the map here for those interested.


While I have never biked Hwy 1, I have driven it a few times.  It's not really that steep.  You're not going down any mountains.  I'm sure disc brakes are nice, but I doubt they're necessary. 
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 06:38:43 PM by Eric »

rothwem

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2018, 07:01:21 AM »
You definitely do NOT need disc brakes. I've ridden parts of Highway 1 in all weather. Rim brakes will give you all the stopping power you need. Don't worry.

If you love your bike, keep riding it!

Agreed ^^

The bicycle industry marketing machine will make you believe that you NEED discs, but in reality, they're a luxury, like driving a Mercedes when a Honda works fine.  Hydraulic road discs are awesome, but a good set of aluminum clincher rims will have all of the braking power you need. 

I really think a lot of the road disc hype came from people racing on carbon rims.  Carbon fiber rims with a carbon fiber braking surface are really awful.  Some of the newer, high end options are less bad, but I've owned and raced on two sets, and they all have a really abrupt grab at first and then the power drops off a lot.  I rode them because they were light and aero, but I'd never do a hilly race with them. 

Syonyk

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2018, 08:36:56 AM »
Ebikes also benefit from disc brakes - thereís typically more weight and a lot more energy to deal with.

I think theyíre actually heavier than rim brakes as well.

GuitarStv

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2018, 08:57:47 AM »
I'm 200lbs (brakes are more important when you're slowing more mass) and ride year round on rim brakes (cantilevers on my summer bike and V-brakes on my winter bike).  I've ridden several disc brake equipped bikes.  Properly setup they are very good when it's dry, OK when it's rainy, barely tolerable when it's muddy/rainy, and poor in cold/wet/snowy conditions.

The main benefits to hydraulic disc brakes are that once you get them setup they require very few adjustments, they offer similar stopping power no matter what the conditions, they don't grind away at your rim, and brake modulation is much better.

Unless you're doing a lot of unpaved stuff or a lot of snowy riding I'd say that you don't really need them.

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2018, 09:43:25 AM »
Hm?

Try different pads then. They should be fine in the cold and mud.

GuitarStv

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2018, 10:45:18 AM »
Hm?

Try different pads then. They should be fine in the cold and mud.

When a lot of snow is actively falling, it's -5 to -10 degrees, and you're riding on slushy/salty/muddy roads, braking performance not good at all.  On a long ride in these conditions brown ice tends to accumulate at the brake arms and will eventually cover the arms/tops of the pads.  It might be breaking free and then falling down and jamming between the rim and the pad, or maybe it's the compound in the slurry that is sprayed on the roads that gets stuck to the rims.  I can feel the brakes contact sometimes and there's no resistance at all for several seconds.  It's like trying to brake with those old steel rims in wet.

I'm currently running Kool-stop's dual compound black/salmon pads.  They work really well when the weather is warm, but much below -5 and slushy their performance is noticeably worse.  What pads would you recommend?

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2018, 10:50:01 AM »
Unless you ride a lot, rim wear isn't going to be an issue.

I did once break a rim because my brakes had worn the rim down. Of course I was in the midst of a coast-to-coast trip and I had probably put 10-12,000 miles on those rims over several years.

I had just crossed from South Dakota into Nebraska and as I crossed a railroad track the rim cracked and a spoke pulled out of the rim. Thankfully I'm handy with a spoke wrench and managed to get the rim straight enough to finish the day and replaced it that evening.

This is not normal wear, though.

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2018, 11:02:38 AM »
Hm?

Try different pads then. They should be fine in the cold and mud.

When a lot of snow is actively falling, it's -5 to -10 degrees, and you're riding on slushy/salty/muddy roads, braking performance not good at all.  On a long ride in these conditions brown ice tends to accumulate at the brake arms and will eventually cover the arms/tops of the pads.  It might be breaking free and then falling down and jamming between the rim and the pad, or maybe it's the compound in the slurry that is sprayed on the roads that gets stuck to the rims.  I can feel the brakes contact sometimes and there's no resistance at all for several seconds.  It's like trying to brake with those old steel rims in wet.

I'm currently running Kool-stop's dual compound black/salmon pads.  They work really well when the weather is warm, but much below -5 and slushy their performance is noticeably worse.  What pads would you recommend?

Sorry, your paragraph construction was not clear. Youíre referring to rim brakes in the snow and mud, not discs?

Discs should handle all of that fine. Rims, Iíd agree with you completely.

GuitarStv

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2018, 11:23:40 AM »
Hm?

Try different pads then. They should be fine in the cold and mud.

When a lot of snow is actively falling, it's -5 to -10 degrees, and you're riding on slushy/salty/muddy roads, braking performance not good at all.  On a long ride in these conditions brown ice tends to accumulate at the brake arms and will eventually cover the arms/tops of the pads.  It might be breaking free and then falling down and jamming between the rim and the pad, or maybe it's the compound in the slurry that is sprayed on the roads that gets stuck to the rims.  I can feel the brakes contact sometimes and there's no resistance at all for several seconds.  It's like trying to brake with those old steel rims in wet.

I'm currently running Kool-stop's dual compound black/salmon pads.  They work really well when the weather is warm, but much below -5 and slushy their performance is noticeably worse.  What pads would you recommend?

Sorry, your paragraph construction was not clear. Youíre referring to rim brakes in the snow and mud, not discs?

Discs should handle all of that fine. Rims, Iíd agree with you completely.

Yeah, sorry if that was confusing.  I'm currently running rim brakes.  I think it would probably be a good idea to get a new winter bike with disc brakes in the future.  :P

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #22 on: January 19, 2018, 12:01:23 PM »
Disc brakes on road bikes are a great idea if you:

-ride on carbon wheels
-ride in horrible weather
-ride twisting descents with poor sight lines

It should be noted that most of the professional peloton typically ride with rim brakes even when using carbon wheels on twisting descents in terrible weather, but then they are professionals.

You'll almost certainly be completely fine with rim brakes.

Syonyk

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #23 on: January 19, 2018, 12:51:13 PM »
That's partly because of tradition, and partly because differing braking effectiveness leads to nasty crashes. If everyone has equally awful brakes, it's safer in those settings.

rothwem

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #24 on: January 19, 2018, 01:11:53 PM »
That's partly because of tradition, and partly because differing braking effectiveness leads to nasty crashes. If everyone has equally awful brakes, it's safer in those settings.

I'd say that it has more to do with what their bike sponsor tells them to ride...if they've got a badass disc-brake (or rim brake, even) bike that they want their riders to be seen on, you better believe they're going to be riding it whether they like it or not. 

Syonyk

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #25 on: January 19, 2018, 01:40:39 PM »
I don't believe they're allowed in serious races, period.

GuitarStv

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #26 on: January 19, 2018, 03:29:52 PM »
I don't believe they're allowed in serious races, period.

How serious do you want?  Kittel won stages 2,6,7, and 10 of the Tour last year with disc brakes.  :P

Syonyk

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Re: Do I need disc brakes on my road bike on a steep terrain?
« Reply #27 on: January 19, 2018, 03:46:13 PM »
Fair enough.  Then that's changed since I last talked to a bike racing nut a few years ago.

Which, apparently, it was a change in 2016 - news to me.  Thanks!

https://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/news/pro-road-racers-can-now-use-disc-brakes