Road calipers have evolved tremendously since they were first conceived. Road calipers used to just grab the rim to slow a bike down, but they have become so much more with the release of disc brakes for road bikes. Rim brakes are still prominent in the road bike world but are slowly being taken over by disc brakes even though disc brakes for road bikes are heavier on average.
Yup, they’re still around. Cantilever calipers are still used in the cyclocross and touring world since they are easy to maintain, have great tire clearance, and they have excellent mud clearance too. Most cantilever calipers use standard road pad inserts like road rim calipers. This option is lightweight and easy to maintain if you’re looking to upgrade your brakes or are building a dream cyclocross rig.
Road Disc Calipers are taking over the road, cyclocross, gravel, and adventure style bikes. Disc brakes, although slightly heavier than road rim calipers, provide excellent stopping power and perform better in various weather conditions. If it’s raining outside or your rims get a little dirty or muddy, disc brakes won’t let you down. With disc brakes, you normally use slotted rotors that dissipate the heat building up from the friction between the calipers and rotors. Other brands, like Shimano, have calipers that use pads with cooling fins. Road disc calipers also come in two different types: mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical road disc calipers are cable actuated and are typically not as powerful as their hydraulic counterpart. Hydraulic disc brakes are the more expensive option, but have a much higher stopping power. Road disc calipers are the best option for riders who are looking to do longer rides that involve rougher roads, rain, dirt, or longer descents.
Road Rim Calipers are the lightest-weight option when it comes to brake systems for road bikes. These brakes are usually interchangeable for the most part, which means you can use SRAM, Tektro, Shimano, or Cane Creek road rim calipers with your road brake levers. These types of brakes typically come in two different styles: standard and direct mount. Standard rim calipers just use a bolt that goes through the center to mount to the frame while direct mount brakes use two bolts to mount to the frame. Direct mount brakes often add aerodynamic benefits to the bike since they are more in line with the fork, and are also stronger and stiffer than regular caliper brakes.
Ultimately the choice boils down to what frame type you have. You can’t mount disc brakes to a non-disc brake bike and you can’t mount rim brakes to a disc brake bike. If you’re thinking of building up a dream rig and want advice from expert cyclists, then talk to our Gear Advisors. Chat, email, or call at 951-234-7554.