Same Bike Model: Rim vs Disc Comparison

I’m interested in buying a used best in class aero rim brake bike, like an older Canyon Aeroad or Bianchi Oltre XR4. I figure I can get a lighter bike for cheaper and I’m not so sold that newer disc brake aero bikes are actually more aero or better (more compliant) than older rim brake counterparts. They might be better relative to past disc brake models, instead.

Curious about others’ opinions if they’ve been able to ride both a disc and rim brake version of the same bike.

I currently ride a 2018 disc brake Canyon Ultimate.

Rim brakes are insanely simple and work perfectly fine if you get a nice set of wheels. It’s easier to get a disc brake to work with carbon, i.e. the wheelset options can be cheaper. I used ENVE 5.6 rim brake for a long time and they were phenomenal, but they were $2600. You can get extremely decent wheelsets for disc brake bikes for less than $1000.

If weight is important then the rim brake is lighter every time, all other things being equal


Disc brake bikes can usually take much wider tires than rim brake bikes. Rim brakes bikes max out at 28 mm (limited by brake caliper clearance) whereas disc brake aero bikes often take 32 mm, sometimes even 35 mm tires. That’s definitely something you can feel.

My 3T Strada takes up to 30 mm (width-as-measured), perhaps 32 mm if you are ok with minimal clearance, and was probably the aero road bike that started the wide tire trend. Tire width makes a huge difference.

Nowadays, there are no rim and disc brake bikes of the same model as there are very few rim brake bikes left. Even as of a few years ago, bikes might have the same name, but frames were actually very different. BMC’s Teammachine comes to mind, they simply re-used the old frame from 2016ish or so whereas the disc brake frame was completely new.

IMHO right now is a good time to buy a bike, but I feel that it is a bit too late to get a good bargain on a rim brake bike. There are enough newer (disc brake) bikes on the used market.

Disc brakes are insanely simple, I’d argue even simpler as they self-adjust. I’ve had disc brake-equipped bikes for literally 20 years now. (Boy, I am old. :stuck_out_tongue:) The only thing that is easier to gauge on a rim brake bike is how worn your brake pads are.


I know disc brakes are simple, but saying they are simpler is misleading. We are most likely talking hydraulics, which means brake-line bleeding, which means complication. Not to mention changing the pads on a disc bike is more complicated than rim. I get it that you are good at it, no argument there, but they just aren’t simpler.

Unfortunately I think this is probably true. I’d love to see a couple of companies come out with rim brake models, and I think they will, but not mass-produced. Something like the Aethos in an even lighter weight rim brake model that rides even sweeter would be cool.


I don’t think I am misleading at all. Hydraulic brakes need to be bled every once in a while, mechanical brakes need new cables periodically and do not selfadjust. With rim brakes you have to periodically adjust the brakes with wear and make sure they are centered. (My wife’s bike has hydraulic rim brakes, so I need to do that every once in a while. Never bled them, though.) Just for that reason alone, I think it is fair to argue that they mean less fuss for riders most of the time.

Not sure if brake bleeds are slower or more frequent than changing cables. I reckon that depends on the frame (internal cable routing? easy or complicated routing?) and whether your outer cables are fine. Claiming it is more difficult is usually just a way of saying “I don’t have experience doing that.” or “I don’t like to fuss with my bike.”

I have all my bikes checked once a year at a bike shop. I would do that with a rim brake bike, too. After all, it isn’t just about brakes, but also BB bearings, perhaps a service for my fork, etc. Brake bleeds are done during the service, although I can bleed them myself. Takes about 5 minutes per brake and at most I need to bleed my brakes once per year. Got it right the first time, thanks to (I think) a Parktool video on Youtube.

There is simply no market. Most models of the Aethos are already below the UCI weight limit, and that is with disc brakes. Canyon had a 6.0 kg disc brake-equipped bikes many years before that. So I don’t think there is a reason to reduce bike weights any further in the eyes of most manufacturers. You’d just eat away at the safety margin for little-to-no practical gain.

IMHO there are only two places where rim brake bikes play a role: for cheap entry-level bikes and for very expensive high-end bikes for people who really want rim brakes.

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I am exhausted with all the disc brake nonsense. Rim brakes, assuming you’re not a total fatapotomous, are perfectly fine for 99.99% of the riding most of us will ever do. With a shred of common-sense, a rider can run rim brakes on carbon wheels all the way down any mountain on earth – and not explode tubes or destroy the wheels.

I think we could put a washed up has-been pro onto an 11-speed, rim brake bike from 2014 and he/she would whip the crap out of just about any mid-level dude/dudette on a 2024 aero+disc bike.

Sorry. Maybe too much wine this evening. I’m not editing my disdain.


I don’t want to get everyone too off topic, I understand both sides.

The main question was around if someone had been able to try disc vs rim models of the same bike frame and felt that one was subjectively or objectively better.

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I took my rim brake aero bike on 28 mm Conti GP5ks mounted on Zipp 303FC from the summit of Mauna Kea down to the visitors center. That includes grades of 20% on volcanic “gravel”. I was fine and my bike is fine.

I have not ridden the same frame in rim and disc. My road bike is a rim brake and my gravel bike is disc, but I put road wheels on it from time to time. The only thing I can think of that could be different from a feel perspective would be that weight distribution on the wheels would be ever so slightly different due to the presence of the rotor (call it 90-120 g depending on the size). If you want a rim brake, get it. You can get screaming deals on wheels if you poke around.

They are going to be mostly the same. What’s the point of looking for comparison tests?

I’d say that it is an insanely good time to find deals on bikes both rim and disc but especially rim in the used market.

My biggest concern would be how big of a tire it could take. I’d want at minimum a 28mm tire, if not a 30mm. The later may not even exist. Lots of “older” aero rim brake bikes needed 25mm tires.

I think cycling is discovering that 30-32mm tires are even faster than 25-28mm tires because of the way they add suspension and soak up the micro bumps in the road. (see Norcal cycling’s recent youtube video)


Does that comparison prove that pros are much better descenders and bike handlers or that rim brakes are faster? :wink:

There is something else to consider. Frames from the transition period that had disc and rim brake versions were compromised, because they were designed to handle stresses from rim and disc brakes. As far as I know the fastest aero rim brake bikes have hidden rim brakes, do not work as well due to brakes being more exposed to dirt and complicated cable routing. (Worse also in comparison with other rim brake bikes.)

A few came with hydraulic rim brakes that solved the latter issue.


When I bought the Ultimate, there were still both versions and part of the dialogue at that time was did the disc version lose a bit of something compared to the rim version. Part of what I hear from hard core rim brake fans is that there was nothing wrong with rim brake bikes (let’s talk about the frames only) and that disc bike frames (from my my interpretations) aren’t actually better,

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As far as I can tell the main advantages are weight, and at the low end price. But they also have narrower, slower rolling tires and are, as a result, less comfortable. Rim brakes, especially with carbon rims, give you much worse braking performance in the rain. Couple better braking to wider tires with more grip.

IMHO the rim to snatch up a high-end rim brake bike was 2019–2022. Now the used market is flooded with disc brake bikes from the Covid era. And you can still get good deals from shops desperately trying to unload stock. It is a great buyer’s market.

Yeah, I think I may be leaning back to a disc brake model of a Bianchi Oltre XR4 and will watch for that. Just something that looks timeless, an attractive bike.

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Find an SWorks Tarmac SL6 rim brake. Greatest bike of all time. I sold mine for an SL7 “discs are better and safer” and blah blah blah. Nothing but regret

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What is your plan for long term group-set replacement?

Offer US dollars in exchange. It has worked for me in the past

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I reckon DuraAce and Red will be the last to transition to disc brake-only. I’d give it 50/50 whether the new SRAM Red has rim brakes on offer or not. Perhaps SRAM will keep the current rim brake version of its Red groupset on sale (or keep only lever and brakes). At least on the Shimano side I feel you get less for going 12-speed, and you could go 11-speed

Looks are subjective, and I get that some people prefer the lines of a rim brake bike. And that they make purchasing decision partly based on looks. (Think cars.) You do you! :blush:

Will you try to go back?

I’m personally not so worried about replacement parts with Shimano. It’s hard to find SRAM Red rim now already. I also think there will be plenty of other manufacturers with quality rim brake alternatives, rim wasn’t some niche.