Choosing a bike with disc brakes or rim brakes is a choice more riders have to make. Disc brakes have been a feature on mountain bikes for some time but now are a common feature on road bikes.
Disc brakes give a more consistent performance in all conditions but are more expensive and usually add more weight than rim brakes.
Mountain bikes started with cantilever brakes then progressed to U brakes and V brakes which perform well in most conditions. However in wet and muddy terrain rim brakes don’t work well. Mud from the tires will clog the brakes and cause wear on the rim.
Disc brake technology had been used on motor vehicles for many years but only became a feature on mountain bikes in the 1990 s. Early teething problems were overcome and they are almost standard features on mountain bikes.
Disc brakes are more sensitive, requiring less force to be applied and are not affected by mud from the tires and rims. There is a lot of discussion on the advantages or disadvantages of disc brakes on road bikes, but it’s generally accepted that they are very efficient in slowing the bike. Any rider progressing from rim brakes needs to take care as applying too much pressure can result in the bike coming to a rapid stop and the rider continuing over the handlebars.
Some of the main problems you can encounter with disc brakes are:
Getting lubrication on the disc pads or rotor can cause a loss in braking performance. If you do get some on the rotor, remove the wheel and clean the rotor. If the pads are contaminated you may need to replace them or sand them back to remove any of the material that has impregnated the pads. Be sure to avoid touching the brake surface of the rotor especially after braking as a lot of heat is generated making them hot to touch. Any skin oils on your hands will be transferred onto the rotor affecting the braking performance.
Check the thickness of the brake pads from time to time as the pads eventually wear out. If removing a wheel don’t press the brake lever as it will compress the pads together and will require you to use a tool to push the pistons back into the body of the brake.
Make sure you use the correct fluid for the brakes as the wrong type can damage the brakes or affect performance.