Road bike disc brakes: everything you need to know

Road bike disc brakes - what they are, how they work and why they are better than rim brakes

Shimano Ultegra front disc brake
Shimano Ultegra front disc brake
(Image credit: Tim Russon)

There can be no doubt now that disc brakes on road bikes are here to stay. Debate raged for a good few years over whether disc brakes were better than rim brakes and whether they even had any place at all on sleek road bikes, but with discs having been used on the majority of WorldTour bikes for the last couple of seasons, it’s fair to say the debate is over. Disc brakes have won. 

The overwhelming majority of road bikes on sale today are equipped with disc brakes, with only a few models at the lower end of the price scale specced with rim brakes (and a tiny, rapidly decreasing, number of high-end bikes). Contrast this situation with 2016, when the UCI suspended the use of disc brakes in professional races and British Cycling wouldn’t allow amateurs to use discs in domestic racing. In the conservative world of bike racing, the switch to the now universal use of disc brakes has been pretty rapid. 

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Tim Russon

Tim Russon is a writer and photographer who has worked in the outdoor and cycling industry for over 20 years. He can’t remember a time when he didn’t own a bike and has road, gravel, mountain and retro bikes in the shed. His favourite place to ride is the Dolomites, a simply stunning area which has breathtaking views and incredible roads combined with lovely food and great wine.

He prefers long, hot climbs in the big mountains, but as he lives on the edge of the Peak District he has to make do with short, cold climbs most of the time instead.