Disc brakes and Powertaps as separate topics.

The story of disc brakes rages on. Some seem dogmatically in favor of, some seem the opposite. Shockingly, we’re fairly middle ground here. We see the benefit in use cases, but our own use experiences give a more complete story. 

My personal inventory is four bikes: road rim brake, road disc brake (otherwise identical to road rim brake), cross with disc brakes, and mountain bike. In theory, the mountain bike is far and away my favorite to ride, simply because I like mountain biking the most. In reality, the road rim brake bike gets like 10x the use of the others. For the winter, I foresee the cross bike getting a fair bit of use when it’s attractive enough to ride outside. Until I have a bit more time on my hands (house project now getting towards its vinegar strokes), the mountain bike is going to be dusty, and the road disc brake bike just doesn’t get a ton of use. Why is this all the case?

Where I ride, you ride on roads. There’s no gravel or not still road but not yet mountain bike option (and it strikes me that the label we’ve all struggled for with “gravel” and “groad” and “croad” etc is actually “taint” - we should call it “taint riding”) around here to speak of, so you either drive (or quite long ride) to mountain biking, or you road ride. For road riding, the rim brake bike with 26mm actual tires (and who gives a darn what the label says) is nearly perfect. Simple, elegant, a perfect Occam’s Razor solution to that question. For the winter, you want to use maybe a bigger and lightly textured tire since there’s all manner of sand and crap everywhere, and I also use some clip-on finders. The cross bike accommodates them quite better than the road rim- or disc brake bike does. So the road disc bike that doesn’t accommodate big tires seems odd man out. It’s nice for the occasional super hilly gran fondo or whatever, but the rim brake bike does pretty frigging well on that use too, and fleet minimization is attractive to me. I didn’t race a ton last year, but the racing field’s adoption of disc seems near to zero in New England, so people seem somewhat in line with where I am, at least around here. 

This article from a bit ago articulates the ongoing point about carbon clincher safety better than we have. From our perspective, with the aerodynamics knowledge about the latest gen alloy rims, plus their armload of other advantages, there’s just no there there anymore. Rims brakes brake on aluminum, period, full stop, end of story. 

So then will we do carbon for disc? We’ve fully stated that we’ve no interest in carbon with bead hooks (they are a huge liability point) so that would relegate that to low pressure stuff. We were just solicited yesterday by one of the more major-ish US-based carbon rim brands to sell their products, and I’ve got to say that although saving maybe 150g in rim weight per set has an attraction, when we have absolutely killer builds that cost the same as one of these carbon rims does at retail, boy unless you are burning money in a way that we just don’t see, they don’t make sense. And more new alloy rims are coming on line, and there are some new hub options we’re vetting (apparently our vetting is more stringent than that for judicial nominees) as well. 

Ok, so that’s that. But now it’s winter, and the worst and best day of the year. I can deal with cold but the short daylight hours destroy me. This is the shortest of said days, so all up from here. To help you muddle through these days when it gets late so early, we’re running specials on Powertap builds, both sets and rear wheel only. Powertap wheels give you a one wheel racing and training solution, are still just about the most accurate power meters out there, have crazy reliability, easily swap between your different bikes, and turn your dumb trainer into a much smarter trainer. Plus they really help alleviate trainer boredom and make your time on the trainer much more efficient. So you can make that time shorter and more beneficial. Huge win. Huge. There’s never been another win like this, believe me. 

Okay, I’ve run long. Gotta go.


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  • BYcycles on

    Powertap, even for us non-racing, just-for-fondos fat-body types, is really the bees-knees. In some ways it is like buying your own torture chamber but there is really no more effective way to deal with trainer time…and get a heaping dose of objective humility with respect to your fitness. For me, disc brakes are in the same category as electronic shifting and “road tubeless”— I.e., Why bother? The traditional status quo options are so damn good— and comparatively simple— that it makes little sense to change. The stopping power and speed modulation available from modern rim brakes is fantastic even in wet and steepish conditions. And, yeah, if every carbon rim instantly disappeared from the planet I wouldn’t notice or care.

  • North on

    Wow, thanks for the link to the carbon rim clincher test article — very eye opening! I am sure I will be called a heretic, but I have taken this one step further…I got rid of all my carbon bikes and all my bikes are metal now, either aluminum road bikes or (gasp!) a steel mountain bike. My carbon bikes just got scratched and damaged too easily and I didn’t like worrying about them or having to treat them like sacred artifacts. Plus they weren’t really that much lighter or more comfortable. One time I was examining the underside of the down tube of the carbon bike I owned and the handlebars flopped over, struck the top tube and scratched it…just like that. Of course aluminum, steel and even titanium will fatigue, crack and break, but hopefully there will be more warning before it happens and they seem to be more durable in my experience. My favorite bike was a Ti frame that I crashed during a race, slid the frame across the road…and it didn’t even get scratched. I’m saving up for another Ti bike. I only wish I was smart enough not to use a carbon fork but I like the vibration damping. I also wish all carbon forks had to go through CT-scan testing before being sold, like Canyon does.

  • Dave on

    I should also mention that we wouldn’t consider rim brake or hooked bead carbon from anyone, they’re complete nonstarters for us. Even if we aren’t in the line of strict liability, we’re not exposing our customers (about whom, it must be said, we care a great deal) to those risks. So it would only be low pressure large tire disc brake type stuff.

  • Dave on

    Thanks for the input. Question I need to ask is “why?” What’s the benefit?

  • JLP on

    My vote is for November to sell carbon again. All you have to do now is buy the rims from the rim company (like you do with all your aluminum rims) and not have to deal with molds/design/test/research/factories in Taiwan/warranty issues, like you used to do with the “Rail” rims.

    Yup, carbon for sure.

    thanks,


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