The Disc Road Dilemma

Let’s be honest, road bikes are well beyond lightweight these days.  In an era where weight is being added to top end production bikes to make them UCI legal, competitors are looking for other advantages and one of those is turning out to be disc brakes.

Think about a race car.  The next most important thing after the engine is the brakes.  The longer you can hold off before braking into a corner, the more speed you can carry.  Yep, better brakes make you faster.

More importantly, average riders like us have higher expectations and want a lot more versatility from our road bikes.  The do-everything commuter, gravel grinder, take-to-the-races bike is closer to reality than ever. Adventure riders are riding over every type of terrain while bike packers are spending a lot of time on trails.  It is a great time to be a roadie.

Major advancements in materials and equipment technology have made lightweight disc-equipped road bikes that seemed almost impossible just a decade ago, highly prevalent today.  Shimano and SRAM both offer high-quality systems. Modern carbon road forks and frame stays can handle the torsional loads created by disc brakes. The brake systems themselves are svelte yet can dissipate heat effectively.!

Disc Vs Traditional



Traditional road calipers are light, simple and for the most part easy to service.  This can be appealing to many riders and there are still several models of road bikes so equipped.

Disc brake bikes are a little more complex to service, but good quality systems require only minimal maintenance.  At some point, they will need to be bleed and this can be completed by a mechanically inclined user or with a short trip to your local ACF store.

Winner: Tie

Stopping power

This one is easy.  Disc brakes have more stopping power.  You can use less hand (forearm) pressure and save your energy for accelerating on the other side of the hill.

Winner: Disc

Tire Clearance

The disc brake system mounts at the hub and has no effect on tire selection.  Rim brakes mount around the tire and need to be able to contract as they are applied thus potentially limiting tire clearance.

Winner: Disc


The ability to vary braking pressure is key to maintaining efficiency and safety.  Good quality rim brakes will modulate well under most conditions. Disc brakes will modulate even better and under all conditions including more challenging situations such as wet or dusty.

Winner: Disc

Wear and tear

A rim brake is, by definition, contacting your rim every time you stop.  Now add in dirty brake pads and rim life can be significantly shortened, especially for commuters and gravel road riders.  Disc brakes use rotors and rotors last a long time and are much less expensive to replace than rims or wheels.

Winner: Disc

The Disc Road Solution

Rim brakes are still the lightest option and lend themselves to a more traditional looking bike that many still find appealing.  If you want increased versatility and better overall breaking disc brake road bikes are very compelling. Fortunately, Trek still offers both, but we suspect one test ride with disc brakes, and you will be looking to trade up!  Did I mention we do trade-ins?

Keep Riding,
Michael Reuter, CEO
American Cycle & Fitness