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Disc brake or skate brake: how to choose

Disc brake or skate brake for road bike: Which one to choose?

Posted on May 9, 2022 

« The absolute stop power is not what makes discs pleasant, it is rather the ability to stop using that one finger, whatever the weather ».

« In the long term, it is a battle lost in advance: the world will go to records. In the short term, I buy the old wheels with skates brakes of my friends for a fraction of what they paid. »

This is in two sentences what we hear in most cycling cafes about the evolution of the road bike brake market ...

So what exactly is the disc brakes for road bikes, and why all this agitation? Are they really different from other recent advances in the world of bicycle? And what braking system is the most efficient when you compare the disc brakes and the rim brakes? For a complete review on all types the brakes for road bikes, refer to our Beginner's guide on the brakes of road bikes !

Skate or disc brakes: basic principles

The most fundamental difference between the brakes on traditional rim and disc brakes is the place where braking forces are applied.

As their name suggests - and as it has been done for decades - the rim brakes are attached directly to the sides of the rim itself. In this way, the rim serves both as the main structural component of the wheel, the basis of mounting for the tire and the braking surface.

Brake on skit on carbon rim front wheel bike

On the other hand, the disc brakes transfer all the braking functions to a separate rotor, of much smaller diameter, mounted directly on the hub, as is the case for cars or motorcycles, and for practically all other vehicles wheeled.

The brake stirrup is always mounted on the frame and the fork, but it is located much closer to each wheel axis.
Road bike front wheel disc brake

Another essential difference is the operating mode of each type of brake. With a few rare exceptions, the skate brakes are operated by cable, which means that the levers are connected to the stirrup by braided steel cables (Bowden cables, to use the technical term) which slide in a sort of box.

You shoot the lever, which then pulls on the cable, which forces the stirrup to tighten the rim.

The disc brakes are most often completely hydraulic type, and the cable and the case are replaced by an incompressible fluid and a hose in a fully waterproof system.

There are also cable disk brakes. They are cheaper and slightly less effective than hydraulic disc brakes, mainly due to cable friction and stretching, and they are generally found on more affordable road bikes.

6 advantages of disc brakes

Disk brakes have been used on road bikes for years, but in the past two seasons, they have become widespread, the main bicycle manufacturers offering models equipped with discs in all market segments, Gravel bikes at endurance bikes, including the different Road racing bike categories. The UCI now authorizing them in the professional peloton, the records are increasingly part of the road cycling landscape.

1. disc brakes provide power in all circumstances

The road disc brakes offer constant braking performance by all time, with a lighter action on the lever and better control of the braking power for a wide range of driving styles. This can be very useful in long and steep descents, or for heavier cyclists who find it difficult to find enough power in traditional brakes (the same problem applies to heavier bikes, such as bikes and tandems).

"The absolute stop power is not what makes the discs pleasant, it is rather the ability to stop using only one finger, whatever the weather."
Disk brake Brake power Bauch weather

An additional bonus is that the braking power can be increased (or temperate, depending on your preferences) by changing the size of the rotor. A larger rotor will increase the mechanical lever effect and heat dissipation, while a smaller rotor will allow cyclists who do not need an additional braking force to gain lightness. And as braking goes hand in hand with speed and transmission, do not forget to read our guide Criteria of choice between electrical and mechanical transmission !

2. Disk brakes offer more braking precision

Disk brakes offer better modulation than skate brakes, which means that it is easier for the cyclist to precisely dose the generated tightening power. The maximum braking power is located just before the blocking point, and the bikes equipped with discs are better equipped to flirt with this limit without crossing it.

3. The disc brakes allow more flexibility in the width of the wheels

All-terrain cyclists, whether mountain bikers, cyclo-cross runners, gravel lovers or cycle tourisms, love disc brakes because they allow the rims to be widen and clearer tires more . Without brake stirrup, there is more room for the wheel, and some disc bikes with disc brake can now accommodate tires 38 mm wide.

4. The disc brakes are more robust

The performance of disk brakes are not affected by the alignment of the wheels; The brakes work even if the wheels are not properly aligned. On the other hand, the rim brakes will not work properly if the wheels are damaged or veiled. In addition, a bike equipped with disc brakes can always be used with a broken radius or damaged rim, problems that can stop a bike equipped with skate brakes.
More robust disc brake maintenance
For more advice on how to take care of your brakes and Pack well your bike before transport (Believe us, this is often the main cause of damage), do not hesitate to consult our guide.

5. Disk brakes offer better safety

Disk brakes are known not only for their incredible performances but also for their safety.

It can be relatively easier to brake in dry weather than in wet weather. Bike manufacturers are now making plates that distribute heat uniformly and are suitable for carbon wheels.

6. Disk brakes reduce wheels wear

The disc brakes wear less than the skate brakes. They therefore allow your wheels to last longer.
Brake brake pads bicycle disc brake
The skate brakes can lead to wear of the surfaces of the wheels, especially when the brakes are exposed to gravel and dirt. The disc brakes do not undergo heat accumulation on the frames, which reduces the wear of the wheels. In the long term, you will therefore be happy to change only your discs (40 to 100 €) and not your full wheels (300 to 2000 €).


5 advantages of skating brakes

1. The skate brakes are lighter

The main advantage of skate brakes compared to disc brakes is that they are lighter. With all parts, platelets, components and rotor, a disc brake is generally more heavy with a few hundred grams than an brake on a comparable rim. Of course, there are super light disc brake systems, but they will cost you dearly.
If you are looking to optimize the weight of your bike, the type of braking is a criterion that is added to the choice of frame material (Vs. aluminum) and the type of transmission.

2. Patin brakes are easier to choose, install and maintain

The disk brake pads are much smaller and more closely adjusted than those of the skimp brakes on a rim, which is ideal for preventing water and gravel from entering, but also much more difficult to maintain. If the disc brake rotor deforms or is slightly quenched, many cyclists feel friction or a creak coming from their brakes. It goes without saying that the skate brakes do not have this problem.
Maintenance and replacement of skating brakes on rim
At The Cyclist House, all our bikes have been inspected and developed by our mechanics. Whatever the braking system chosen, your bike is ready to roll immediately.


3. The skate brakes are slightly more aerodynamic

Some manufacturers have said that the skate brake version of a given bike is more aerodynamic than the disc brake model, but it is not as easy to say that the rim brakes are always more aerodynamic. More extensive studies, in particular in the wind tunnel, show that disc brakes do not necessarily result in an increase in the drag. It depends on how the brakes are integrated into the system, but the general assertion that disc brakes have a negative impact on aerodynamics is not exact.

4. The skate brakes have a more refined aesthetic

The end of the skate brake means that the profile of the road bike on which many of us have learned to ride may disappear forever. The elegant Quick-Release also has its days counted, because the crossing axis (Thru-Axle) is a much safer way to mount a disc. The elegant and light tires of 23 mm, or even 25 mm, are in the process of extinction because the disc allows faster and more flexible tires of 28 mm (and more). In addition, manufacturers have almost stopped the development of new brake wheels on rim. The new Dura-Ace groups or reference bikes such as the Specialized Tarmac SL7 no longer offer a rim brake option.
Minimalist aesthetics Brake on rim

5. The skate brakes cost cheaper

Your bike will cost you more in its version of disc brakes. And this, for several reasons, including the cost of production of a frame suitable for a disc brake is not the least. Indeed, the braking forces are applied to the non -motorized side of the bicycle. In direct opposition to the center of the bicycle via a traditional stirrup.

Then there is the cost of the braking components themselves, of course. They are more expensive to produce due to the complexity of these parts. Especially in the preferred and recommended hydraulic format. As you can imagine, a lot of things happen inside an 11 -speed hydraulic gear lever.

In conclusion

The disc brakes are greater than the skate brakes in more ways than one, but for some cyclists, the advantages do not prevail over the disadvantages. Despite all the benefits in terms of performance, disc brakes can be more difficult to install and maintain, and they are heavier than the rim brakes. In addition, bikes equipped with disc brakes are generally more expensive than those equipped with brakes on a rim, and there is no compatibility between the two.

The rim skating brakes always work very well. For a road bike that does not see much dirt and mud, high quality and well -maintained skate brakes do an excellent job by controlling the speed on the descents and stopping the bike quickly. The rim brakes are always more affordable than the disc brakes, are easier to adjust and you can see when the pads are worn.

The design and functioning of modern skate brakes are better than ever, and they are not necessarily less aerodynamic than disc brakes. Just look at what the Grenadier ineos have won over the past two years: a Tour de France, two Giros from Italia and the Olympic road race, all with brakes on rims!

Whatever your decision, know that at The Cyclist House offers you a Large selection of used bikes with disk brake Where with skate brake. At The Cyclist House, each used bike is reconditionedand was the subject of strict inspection and a focus in 114 stages. The bicycle of your dreams comes directly to your home and includes a 12 -month warranty.

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