The great disc debate!

It’s by no means new information that several companies are moving to the dark side of Road Cycling and releasing their new range of high-end road bikes with disc brakes. This has sparked questions as to what the pros and cons of this somewhat controversial switch over are. Well, I’m here to shed a little light on the subject and hopefully clear up some questions you might all have.

Let’s start with the Pros. The most obvious advantage is the improved power and consistency in all weather conditions. We all know that no one likes to ride their nice bike in bad weather but sometimes it’s unavoidable, and in this situation, disc brakes perform faster and more efficiently. Point number two for the disc brake camp is a combination of rim wear and clearance. The longevity of wheels is significantly improved by removing any wear on the sidewall and focusing the brake wear solely on the disc rotor, making it easier to justify the extra cost for those Zipp wheels you’ve always had your eye on. In recent times people are starting to run wider tyres for more comfort and improved traction, which previously was hindered by the width of the brake caliper, however, disc brakes solve this problem giving you as much width as the frame and fork will allow. This is also a benefit if you buckle a wheel mid-ride and don’t want to worry about the wheel binding and slowing you down.

Onto the Cons. The three biggest cons being, cost, weight, and maintenance. For those that are used to doing home maintenance, disc brakes add a new level of technicality to overcome. On top of this, they both cost and weigh more than standard rim brake calipers, which ordinarily everyone wants the opposite! The final point worth mentioning is possibly the most concerning for people, and that is the element of increased danger from the rotor. This is something that is hard to get away from and for this reason they are still banned from UCI pro races and even some amateur races, so worth bearing in mind if you’re planning on racing!

In conclusion, the choice to disc or not to disc simply comes down to personal preference. As they become more commonplace across different brands they will undoubtedly improve and the cost will decrease, meaning more people will make the switch, however in the meantime, it is purely up to the individual. Chances are when you make the change to discs you will never go back, but until then I’ll leave it to you to make the decision.

Glen Harris
Bike Mechanic and Cycling Performance Expert