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  1. #1
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    Seattle commuters. Do you need disk brakes?

    Seattle (wet weather) commuters-

    I have a question about the necessity of disk brakes on a new commute I'm thinking of starting. I now live about 5 miles from my office. I live on the very top of Beacon Hill and now will commute down to SODO. And back up. I don't see myself commuting every single day but I'd like to start.

    Is anyone feeling they really need disk brakes? I have a FS long travel carbon 29er and I understand the benefits on trail but on pavement? Also, I'm not "heavy" at 175 lbs. Would I ever see the benefit of disks on pavement besides maybe in the winter (rain) here? I'm not even 100% positive I'll winter commute.

    I'm not set what bike I want to buy (hopefully used) and that's a whole 'nother decision. I'm thinking a Cross Check (canti or disk) since any type of off road adventure can be done on my full suspension. I love the idea and especially the look of an Ogre, Fargo, and the like but I'll honestly never bikepack with the bike. I have a mountain-specific bike that'd work fine. The bike I want will only need a rear rack and fender and bottle mounts. I gotta get real. Fat tires aren't necessary for 99.9% pavement. Seattle pavement isn't good, but it's still pavement.
    Last edited by JNKER; 08-11-2016 at 01:57 PM.

  2. #2
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    If you have the options discs offer much better wet weather stopping and hydros are much better than cables. They also don't wear out rims and coat everything with grime. I would not buy a commuter without discs and fenders. You also might prefer a flat bar with a more upright position.

  3. #3
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    For commuting, I'd rather have disc. rim brakes work well, so it's more of an issue of stopping ability in the rain, and needing to replace rims because you wore them out. Disc rotors are cheap and easy to replace. Get a simple hybrid bike (flat bar) or cyclocross bike (drop bar) with disc brakes, and commute away. Not looking at crazy performance. Just the ability to safely get you to and from home.
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  4. #4
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    I rode through winter this year and wore through a set of rims on a v-brake equip CX bike. Started with them in September and by April I had worn through them to the point that the rim sidewall just folded over one day.

    I bought a disc gravel bike and am waiting to see how quickly I go through pads in the winter. As others have said fenders are a mandatory accessory. Additionally for me the ability to fit a 700x36C tire was a nice option, run them low pressure (45-55psi max) and enjoy a cushy yet efficient ride.
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  5. #5
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    Ok. I'm not too concerned about wet stopping power but riding through rims makes a really solid point for disks. Thanks for the info. It's greatly appreciated.

    Now to find a bike.....

  6. #6
    jrm
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    Something like the giant tough road would work.

  7. #7
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    As far as a bike goes I would go for a flat handlebar hydro disc commuter. Whatever your price point is I would try to get it with those items. The drop bar hydro pushes you into a much more expensive bike and much less available parts. I wore through the pads on my ridley X-trail commuter and had a crazy hard time even finding replacement pads online. Flat bar bikes use mountain components generally so stuff is much more available. My $0.02
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  8. #8
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    I was thinking this weekend about the disk brakes. How do road bike commuters (that use canti/v-brakes) not have the same problems of rim failure? Or do they?

    I ask because I happened to see a Surly Flat Bar Crosscheck. They are ~$800, steel (which is what I prefer), but not disk. It seemed like a capable ride.

    By the way, I will not be commuting in the rain. My disk question is mostly about coming down Beacon Hill into SODO when I do. That's a lot of brakin'! I was mostly concerned about longevity, needing the power of disks, etc.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JNKER View Post
    I was thinking this weekend about the disk brakes. How do road bike commuters (that use canti/v-brakes) not have the same problems of rim failure? Or do they?

    I ask because I happened to see a Surly Flat Bar Crosscheck. They are ~$800, steel (which is what I prefer), but not disk. It seemed like a capable ride.

    By the way, I will not be commuting in the rain. My disk question is mostly about coming down Beacon Hill into SODO when I do. That's a lot of brakin'! I was mostly concerned about longevity, needing the power of disks, etc.
    My rim failure was based on commuting all winter. I think the grime just grinds down the rim super fast. I have read you should wipe your rims down after each ride but frankly I just never did that. For my disc brakes were a no brainer as I am lazy and didn't want to do that much maintenance after each ride.

    I commute thousands of miles in Arizona on my rim braked road bike and never wore the rims out so wet weather was definitely the culprit. If you do ride in the wet occasionally i would recommend wiping the rims down after your ride, just in the name of maintenance.
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  10. #10
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    Ah. Got it. Makes sense. I don't know if I'd ever wipe down the rims after every ride either. I absolutely hate washing my mountain bike after rides in mud/rain.

    Thanks for the info. I think the flat bar cross check just might be my ticket for around-the-town and sometimes-to-work bike. I appreciate the advice.

  11. #11
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    The rim failures I've seen have come from a combination of massive miles and riding in poor conditions. Granted, I live in a fairly flat state, so no real sustained downhills where you're on the brakes for miles. Add elevation change to the equation, and you won't need massive miles.

  12. #12
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    Honestly, commuting in traffic is just a lot more fun with disc brakes. You can zoom up to stop signs at the bottom of a hill, follow cars more closely more safely, etc. I also concur on rim wear, I have gone through 4 rims from brake-age, 2 crossbike wheels and 2 MTB wheels. For reference it is hilly and gritty and snowy and rainy and sunny and warm and cold and salt-laden and all kinds of weather here in VT.

  13. #13
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    Seattle is sunny and like 75 year 'round............until it's rainy. I grew up in the Midwest so I know salt and snow. I don't miss it or the rusty cars that comes with it. But, again, I won't ride this bike in the rain unless it's unexpected.

  14. #14
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    "Need" is a strong word. But when I was living in Seattle and switched to a disc road bike, I sure appreciated it.

    I didn't really believe the rim wear thing until I rode a rim braked bike through a winter. The grime on the street is a lot worse than anything you'd find on a trail and for brake a lot more than you would on a road ride outside of town, even just something like the Lake Washington loop. Seattle commuting is really tough on equipment.

    I was commuting on a Trek Portland when I left. Since I still have it, I'd probably throw some cage pedals on it and start commuting on it again if I was doing a five mile commute.

    Starting from scratch, I dunno. I appreciate the function of hydraulic brakes, but they are expensive. I guess I'd have to see what's on the market lately.

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  15. #15
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    My commute is 3.8 on the way in, I make it longer on the way home. I have a disc on the front, rim on the rear, I ride that bike quite a bit on trails in the winter too. If you're going to be a nicer weather commuter, rim brakes would work fine and not cause excessive rim wear. I live in Tacoma btw. I really like knobby tires on the mtb, with all the potholes, and other dirt sections I ride, the mtb works great, the commute is short enough that the added effort is minimal, and welcome.

  16. #16
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    I commuted from Ballard to cap hill and back on v brakes for a couple winters. Rear ended a car coming down 10th once when I couldn't stop in time due to wet conditions...probably could've been avoided with better focus. If disc brakes are an option why not? Wouldn't buy a new bike over it tho.

    Until a few months ago I was commuting beacon hill to downtown...what an easy ride in! Spin out on the bridge and cruise down Jackson, done.


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