Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Experimenting with Disc Brakes

When I bought my Cannondale years ago, it came with V (rubber pad) brakes but was upgradable to disc brakes.  As a 100% bicycle commuter, 12 months a year, I found that V brakes were a bit of a problem.  As a large guy, going up and down the Arlington hill, in all types of bad weather, I was wearing through brakes like Chiclets. And if I was wearing through brake pads, I was also wearing through wheel rims!

At the hounding of a cycling friend, I caved.  I bought Avid BB7 disc brakes for front and back.  I have replaced rubber brake pads before, but I have never installed new brakes and I have never installed disc brakes.  It presented a certain level of anxiety as you have to align the whirling disc inside of the brake, without it hitting as it goes flying by.  This certainly cant be easy.

But in fact it was.  It's a bit hard to describe: first you get the wheel relatively in line, which should make the disc relatively in line. Then you squeeze the brake so that it clamps onto the disc, and tighten the brake bolts so that the brake lines up with the disc.  After this, there are some adjusters to make minor fine adjustments. It didn't take long before I could adjust the brakes on the fly as needed.

Disc brakes offer clear advantages over V brakes.  First there is the "not wearing out your expensive wheel's rims" thing.  The disc brakes give me better feel; there is a greater difference between lightly applying the brakes and a full squeeze emergency stop. In addition, disc brakes are less affected by water, dirt, and mud ~ all those wonderful conditions that come with off-road cycling and which will chew up a rim if you use V brakes.

Disc brakes started on mountain bikes.  They have moved into the Cross Bike category and you are now even seeing them show up on road bikes (even though they do add extra weight).

So what's the take away?  After several months of riding with discs, I love the responsiveness and I love the fact that I am no longer destroying my rims or replacing my pads near as often.


1 comment:

  1. My beater/MTB also came with V-brakes and disc brake mounts. I swapped out the front to a BB7 a few winters ago and haven't looked back! Especially useful when I'm hauling a kid. (I keep meaning to switch out the back one too.)