Advantages of Rim Brakes
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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