We have this chat with our customers in the shop on a regular basis. Why is this bike 100€ more expensive than this other one? When we answer "hydraulic disc brakes", people wonder if it is worth the pricetag. Below is a bit of an explainer

So what is the difference between rim brakes and disc brakes?

The main difference between traditional rim brakes and disc brakes is where the force is being applied. With a rim brake, the stopping force is applied to the outer edge of the rim itself. Disc brakes, on the other hand, move the braking surface away from the rim to a rotor. The rotor is mounted to the hub, like you see on a motorbike. Because they can handle mud much better than rim brakes, they have been in existence on mountain bikes for a while. 



The other advantage is how the power gets to the brakes. Rim brakes use a cable system to close the caliper on the rim. With a disc-brake system, hydraulics are often used instead. When the levers are grabbed, fluid pressure builds, causing pistons inside the calipers to move toward the rotor. The friction that’s generated is what creates the stopping power.

Advantages of disc brakes

We love hydraulic disc brakes at Rothar. In our wet climate, they ensure you stop in any weather and require very little maintenance. Also:

  • Disc brakes offer greater stopping power, which can be helpful on long descents or in the case of an emergency braking (think College Green)
  • Disc brakes don’t heat the rim, which has been known to cause tire blowouts on long descents when rim brakes are used (that mostly applies to road bikes)
  • Disc brakes allow for more precise braking, making wheel lockup less likely.
  • They self-adjust

So are they worth the investment?

We would say yes. If weight is not an issue for you, and if you are looking for something reliable that would require little maintenance, you will recoup the investment very quickly by not visiting your local bike shop too often to change pads or cables.

If you are a roadie, disc brakes add friction and weight, so it is very much a question of personal choice. If you are on the market for a new bike, disc brakes can make a real difference in terms of weather and braking power. Ultimately they are safer and can be used with a wider tire — which also improves your control, comfort and bike handling at high speeds.

For urban cyclists, considering what the weather is like in Ireland and what the conditions are like on the streets (clogged up and distracted drivers), they are a good option to consider. That and some good puncture protection tyres and your bike will be as close to be hassle free as it can.