Disc Brakes vs. Rim Brakes
A look at the ‘Controversy’ at the 2023 UK National Hill Climb Championships
The cycling world witnessed a surprising twist at the 2023 UK National Hill Climb Championships when the winner, Andrew Feather, triumphed on a bike equipped with disc brakes, a first in the competition’s history. This unexpected choice surprised fans and competitors, leaving many to question the preference for disc brakes over traditional rim brakes. In this blog post, we look at modern disc brakes, exploring what makes them the seemingly go-to choice for modern bikes.
Rim Brakes: A Classic Choice
Rim brakes have been a stalwart in the cycling world for decades. These trusty brakes work by rubbing against the braking surface on the rim of the wheel, gradually slowing down and stopping the bike. They have stood the test of time and continue to evolve, becoming lighter and more efficient. The weight savings offered by rim brakes are substantial, which is precisely why Andrew Feather’s choice to ride a bike with disc brakes in a hill climb raised eyebrows.
In a recent interview with road.cc, Andrew Feather explained his decision to embrace disc brakes and their additional weight.
Disc Brakes: A New Dimension in Braking
So, what exactly sets disc brakes apart from the classic rim brakes? While rim brakes operate by engaging with the wheel’s rim, disc brakes employ a different mechanism. In this system, brake pads press against a metal disc attached to the wheel hub.
Furthermore, connections for disc brakes work differently than for rim brakes, often using a hydraulic fluid to depress the pads rather than pulling on them with a mechanical cable. This leads to improved performance and control for riders, making them a tempting choice for both professional cyclists and commuters alike.
The Weight Dilemma
A pivotal factor that has sparked debates in the cycling community is the weight issue, a very important subject in professional racing where every gram counts. Rim brakes, known for their lightweight design, have long been favoured by riders looking to shed grams for enhanced speed. In contrast, disc brakes are relatively heavier as they have more components (eg. by using a separate disc rather than the wheel rim as a braking surface). This difference in weight could be the main point of contention that led Andrew Feather to stand out at the National Hill Climb Championships – other than his impressive fourth national title.
But, one cannot ignore the advantages that disc brakes bring to the table. Their superior stopping power, especially in wet or muddy conditions, provides a sense of security for riders tackling unpredictable terrains and conditions. The improved consistency in braking performance make them a compelling choice for riders who prioritise safety and control over shaving off a few grams.
FLIT’s Choice: Disc Brakes on Folding Electric Bikes
Considering the weight-conscious nature of many cyclists looking for a folding bike, one may wonder why a company like FLIT would opt for disc brakes in their folding electric bikes. The answer lies in the balance between weight and performance. While lightweight design is essential for folding bikes, disc brakes offer enhanced stopping power and control, particularly crucial in urban settings.
The 2023 UK National Hill Climb Championships have sparked a lively debate about the choice between disc brakes and rim brakes. The lightweight advantage of rim brakes has been long-celebrated, but the rising popularity of disc brakes indicates a shift towards prioritising safety and performance.
As technology advances and the weight of disc brakes comes down, it looks like they will be the more common choice in the years to come.