It's complicated, so we made you this flow chart:

Bikes with disc brakes can be pricier than those with rim brakes, but not always - it depends on whether the brakes are mechanical or hydraulic, and on the mix of other parts. Beyond cost, consider the other key factors in the chart when deciding whether to go disc.


1) Some racers and team managers push for the improved braking with discs while others cite safety concerns and equipment inefficiencies. After cutting short a trial period for disc brakes in UCI races last year because of injury concerns, professional cycling’s governing body sanctioned a new trial period that began in January 2017, requiring rotors to have “smooth or chamfered” edges. Cycling Australia announced in July that disc brakes could be used with immediate effect in club, state and non-UCI national championship road races. 

2) Disc-brake systems aren’t necessarily heavier than rim-brake systems, but the wheels, frames, and forks designed to handle their greater and asymmetrical braking forces can be. In some situations (wind at certain angles, for example), discs incur a greater aerodynamic penalty than rim brakes. But that can be offset by the additional control offered by discs (you can typically brake later, for one) and as companies continue to improve frame aerodynamics.

3) If wrenching is not your thing, you might find disc brakes to be more complicated to maintain and fix (rotors can bend out of true, pads can get stuck or misaligned, hydraulic brakes must be bled regularly, dirt on the pads can cause brake squeal, and other issues).

4) Disc brakes offer greater modulation and better and more consistent stopping power than rim brakes on any terrain, but are particularly well suited to the frequent and prolonged braking necessitated by off-road descending.

5) Rim brakes got nothing on discs in the rain.