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Home » Cycling » Cycling Specifics: Standard Rim Brakes vs. Aero Rim Brakes on Aero Bikes

Cycling Specifics: Standard Rim Brakes vs. Aero Rim Brakes on Aero Bikes

December 2015
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With the advent of disc brakes on road bikes, which have some negatives along with quite a few positives, disc brakes may or may not be the next big thing in the pro peloton.  I still think, at least as far as the aero bikes go, rim brakes will be around for a long time.  I reserve the right to be wrong though.  Rim brakes are an interesting topic for discussion when it comes to we avid enthusiasts as well.

My best cycling bud has a 2014 Madone 7 Series that has an integrated front brake that follows the contour of the fork, which I really like, and a rear brake that, instead of its normal place behind the seat tube, is hidden behind the bottom bracket in the chain stays

Madone brake

Madone stay

BMC has followed suit:

2016-bmc-timemachine-tmr01-black-ultegra

At first blush, this seems really cool, at least it did to me.  Having spent hundreds of miles on Mike’s wheel this summer, the lack of a brake between the seat stays just cleans up the whole back of the bike…  Kinda cool if you ask me.

However, during those several hundred miles on Mike’s wheel, I noticed that when he was really putting the power down, his brakes would rub on the rim, side to side.  Now, to clarify, he’s also got top of the line alloy wheels on his bike (Rolf Prima’s).  In other words, it’s not just the wheels.  What he ended up doing was opening the brakes a few more millimeters to give him enough clearance that the wheel no longer rubs under power.  Now, he likes to run his brakes a lot closer than I do (I like a little give and modulation when I pull the lever), so this has been a bit of a struggle for him.

Additionally, and more importantly, that brake is directly in the line of fire in wet conditions from the spray off of the front wheel.  If he rides even in a decent drizzle, his rear brake collects a massive amount of grit and gunk from the road.  You think normal rim brake stopping sucks in the rain, you should hear him complain when we’re out and getting wet.  This is a huge negative for the placement of the rear brake – enough that I’d never buy a bike with the rear brake at the bottom bracket.

Now, Trek has masterfully addressed this concern with the Madone 9 series:

Madone_9_9_H2_Compact

They got around the rear brake cable issue by making their own proprietary brake that works just like the normal road bike rim brake but with the cable coming out of the seat tube, making it a center-pull brake.  Quite ingenious actually.  This works, of course, because of the seat mast rather than seat post…  In any event, if I had to guess, there’s a reason they moved away from the cleaner look of the bottom bracket mounted brake:  Because it’s actually a bad place to put a brake.

That said, there’s one more innovation I wanted to point out:  Moving the front brake to the back of the fork:

2016-giant-propel-advanced-sl-team-dyra-ace-red-white-blue

This is also becoming rather popular (or hiding the brake in the fork for Time Trial bikes)…  I have no opinion on this, other than to say it looks a little cleaner than the normal location.  Whichever is the case, it seems to me, the fork would actually protect the brake from grime, behind the fork (though I do wonder how well the cable pull works in real-world conditions).

In any event, you might want to reconsider a bike with a bottom bracket location for the brake if you’re going to be riding in wet conditions a lot…  On the other hand, if it’s going to be your sunshine only bike, just set the rear brake a little wider than normal and ride that ride with a smile…  It’s all good.

My goodness, I almost forgot!  The new Venge Vias (I’m obviously biased):

New Venge Pro Vias

While I have my reservations about the looks of the stem/steering tube interface, the brake placements, both, are awesome and incredibly innovative and that got the rear brake up out of the muck…  While I haven’t ridden a Vias, we should all know by now how I feel about my Venge…  If I had an extra $12,000 to blow, that bike would be sitting in my bike room right now.  Pure Awesome.  Or would I get the Madone?

Maybe I should spend all winter in the office, make a ton of money and buy ’em both, yeah?  Somehow I think Mrs. Bgddy would have a problem with that.

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8 Comments

  1. Under-the-bb brakes are also a bit of a pain to work on as they are tucked right up in there and the chainset can get in the way when trying to do even simple adjustments. I’d never buy a bike with a brake under there for the same reasons as you – road muck just hammers it. Fine if you’re in the pro peloton and have a team of mechanics to wash and service your bike. Not so much fun for the everyday rider.

    I’m yet to see the new VIAS is the flesh, but as soon as it comes into the office I will be right on that!

  2. Oh and the Argon 18 Nitrogen is my favourite aero road bike. Some great tech built around simple, clean lines. Check out the front a rear brakes on this beauty!

  3. fastk9dad says:

    An interesting note about the Giant and from the looks of it, the Argon18 posted above, they aren’t even your usual caliper brakes, they are mini-v brakes. What is old is new again!

  4. MJ Ray says:

    Aero brakes are somewhat less powerful than usual road brakes (which are themselves less powerful than V or hub) and it sometimes surprises non-TT riders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7DyPCK611Y

    • bgddyjim says:

      I don’t know if that clip proves aero brakes are less powerful though. You can see clearly see he over-cooks the corner, he misjudged the speed and the apex (that much is plainly obvious). In the end, the brakes were clearly still strong enough to break the rear tire loose. I’d lay my money more on human error than a lack of brake power on that crash.

      • MJ Ray says:

        Well, the summariser on our local coverage (I think it was two-time GB TT champion Roger Hammond) seemed convinced that he would have gotten away with that on his normal road bike but he’d forgotten he was on a TT bike and they have weaker brakes… and the itv home team seem rarely wrong (compared to when they buy in the NBC or SBS coverage for some races).

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