Road Bike Brakes – When it comes to purchasing a new road bike, the question of which brake is better, whether the caliper or the disc brake, never goes away. For decades, caliper brakes have dominated the cycling industry. However, disc brakes have grown in popularity in both the professional peloton and the cycling industry as a whole in recent years. Although disc brakes are now featured on hybrids, mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, time trial bikes, and road bikes, a significant number of riders still prefer rim brakes such as calipers.
So, what exactly are road disc brakes, and why is there such a buzz over them? Are they truly distinct from other recent advances in bike technology? And which braking system wins when disc brakes and caliper brakes are compared? In this article, we will compare the benefits and drawbacks of caliper versus disc brakes to help you take the right decision.
Caliper vs Disc Brakes: Understanding the Basics
The caliper brake is most likely the most common type of bicycle brake. It’s a rim brake since it operates by clamping down on the metal rim. It is standard on practically all road bikes and the majority of kid bikes.
The terms ‘disc’ and ‘rim’ brakes refer to where the braking force is applied: disc brakes are used on many cars, motorbikes, and trucks, and they apply braking force to a rotor (disc) positioned on the hub of the wheel. Meanwhile, a rim brake applies braking force directly to the wheel’s rim.
Caliper vs Disc Brakes: Why Caliper Brakes Are Better
If there is one quality that makes caliper brakes superior to their contender is that they are lighter. Although the weight of disc and caliper brake components isn’t much different, once the rotor gets involved, the system weight of a disc brake setup is typically a few hundred grams more. Well, there are super-lightweight disc brake setups out there, but they are somewhat pricey. Meanwhile, caliper brake parts are generally cheap and widely available, and there is a high level of compatibility between multiple manufacturers. Just imagine how light your bike will be, especially if it is a carbon road bike which is the best option in the lightweight road bike world.
Additionally, caliper brake systems are simple to fix when they mess up, even on the side of the road or in the middle of nowhere with minimal spare parts supply. Caliper brakes are also simple to adjust to, in contrast to some disc brake systems, where disc brake rub and squealing can be persistent problems. A disc brake’s pads are significantly smaller and more tightly adjusted than caliper brakes, which is fantastic for keeping water and grit out but also makes maintenance much more challenging.
It’s also important to note that squeezing the brake lever with the wheels off the bike has no negative consequences for your reliable rim caliper. It is, however, should be avoided while using a disc brake. When you do this, the pistons are activated, and you will quickly see that there is insufficient clearance for the pads to clear the rotor.
Caliper vs Disc Brakes: Why Disc Brakes Are Better
Disc brakes are available for those who do not fancy rim brakes such as calipers. Since disc brakes stop your wheel at the center rather than the outside rim, they take far less energy to bring your bike to a complete stop. This can be highly beneficial on long and steep descents where ‘arm pump’ might develop, or for bigger riders who have failed to get enough power from standard brakes, such as kids, beginners, and older riders.
Disc brakes offer modulation, allowing you to feather the brakes and apply them lightly, hard, or somewhere in between. You can apply them gradually as you approach a traffic signal, or you can apply them completely if something jumps into the road in front of you. The control is on you!
Moreover, disc brakes perform effectively in all weather, including rain, sleet, and mud. Weather conditions variable might affect the performance of caliper brakes, leaving you unsure of how or when to use your braking power in order to stop. Simply explained, disc brakes are stronger, more reliable in harsh settings, and are immune to heat (from friction caused by use). It’s no surprise that disc brakes are popular among off-road riders as well, from mountain bikers and cyclocross racers to gravel lovers and bikepackers.
So, which one should you get?
Do you think both types of brakes are equally superior? Well, we can’t blame you for that being the case. Still, in order to make the best selection possible, it’s better to consider the following factors.
- If you’re never going to experience wet or rough weather, caliper brakes are enough since you’ll get more than enough braking power performance on your fair-weather dry rides.
- If you’re out regardless of the weather, then choose disc brakes. You’ll have more consistent braking regardless of the weather, and your wheels will last longer because you won’t be wearing out your rims in such scenarios.
- If the weight of your bike is your number one priority, go for calipers since they are lighter!
- If you don’t have a problem with the budget and you want to get the best one, you’ll never regret taking disc brakes with you. Their braking performance is unmatched!
There is always a place for both on the roads. So, be confident in picking what works best for you after balancing the pros and cons listed above. Grab one and enjoy the ride!