Should You Upgrade From Rim to Disc Brakes?

Advantages of Rim Brakes

  1. Lighter: It's simple math—rim brakes are lighter than disc brakes. Climbers who are looking to save some grams should steer away from disc brakes. The weight difference is a substantial 500 grams.
  2. More aerodynamic: While huge strides have been made to fix this issue, rim brakes have less surface area and therefore have less drag—especially in crosswinds.
  3. Maintenance is easier: Triathlon bike brakes aside, traditional rim brakes are much easier to work on than disc brakes. Even the most novice bike owner can re-center and adjust rim brakes.
  4. Safer in a crash: This is where the point of controversy enters the conversation. Those hot, spinning discs have occasionally filleted cyclists’ legs open in high-speed crashes. True, chainrings can create the same carnage, but some pros are vehemently against a peloton full of discs for this reason.​

Parting Thoughts

First, note that upgrading a bike with traditional rim brakes to a one with disc brakes isn't possible. You’ll have to buy a new bike entirely to have a complete disc brake setup.

If you're in the market for a new bike, though, disc brakes deserve a second glance. The increased stopping power and better handling makes for a safer and more controlled ride, but these benefits come with a weight and aerodynamic penalty.

Keep in mind your application: Are you an experienced climber who excels in the mountains? If so, traditional rim brakes are your best bet. But if you’re more of a weekend warrior who rides in rain or shine, disc brakes might be a better choice.

With competing price points for each and large jumps in disc brake technology, both are solid, dependable options. Test a few bikes at your local shop to truly feel the differences between the two for yourself.

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