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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Braking News

Some years ago I bought a new Claude Butler mountain bike which had an option of rim or disc brakes.
I chose the rim brakes for two reasons, namely that I did not see the need for disc brakes (of which I had no experience), and also that I had salvaged a pair of  wheels from the previous bike (rim braked) and wanted to have those as spares.
Since then disc brakes have become pretty much standard on mountain bikes and it looks as though they will be much more available on road bikes in the not-too-distant future.
My recent acquisition of a second hand bike which came with disc brakes fitted, has given me another opportunity to evaluate this technology.

Firstly, with regard to riding, these brakes are way ahead of any rim brakes that I have ever experienced,  giving reliable and powerful stopping power in all weather conditions. No reduction in stopping power in the wet, no wearing out of rims (which is becoming increasingly common as rim metal thickness is reduced), and no mismatch of pad and brake shoe materials giving that horrible grating sound as fine gravel grinds away your rims.  One our Rangers  wore out new brake shoes in a few days riding in the Peak District rainy season which turned the local grit-stone mud into very effective grinding paste.        
The actual friction pads are quite small (see photo) and cost about £12 a pair to replace. They should last for several thousand miles.
Pads shown about 1.5 x actual size and the tiny clip, which secures the pads and holds them  away from the disc  except when brake is applied. A small pair of pointed nose pliers required to re-fit these items.
To see if they needed replacing, I removed the pads for examination and found this to be quite easy. It was a different story getting them back, which is quite a fiddly job, but as with so many things it becomes easier with practice.  Removal of the wheel is first necessary, then the small spring clip is removed to release the two pads. Dropping this tiny clip onto grass or gravel would be an absolute disaster, as you would never find it again.
Brake adjustment is very straightforward, by means of a toothed hand wheel on the inner side of the calliper and is reached through the spokes.
So - conclusions?
Yes. If I ever buy another bike (unlikely at my age) it would have disc brakes. These are cable operated and seem to be more than adequate.  Difficult to imagine  that hydraulically operated disc brakes would be significantly better and those would be both more expensive and require more complicated maintenance I would think.

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