November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Building bike for touring and commuting: road, cantilever or disc brakes?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
Building bike for touring and commuting: road, cantilever or disc brakes? on 11/20/2011 22:21:59 MST Print View

Hey bikers, I'm building up a bike for my wife who commutes about 10 miles a day. I'd like to build something nice and light and fast, but still be able to do UL touring.

Any advice on whether disk brakes are worth the weight and/or cost? Her bike will have a steel frame, likely SOMA, and I want to hear some opinions before I make the purchase. Would she even be able to get by with regular road brakes?

We live in the SF Bay Area, so rain is not our main concern. But, she does commute everyday regardless of whether, so it certainly is a factor.

For reference, I have a steel CX frame with Winwood Carbon Fiber fork and Avid Shorty canti brakes. This is my one bike that does everything - commuter for 5 years so far, touring, and weekend road rides.

Thanks for the help!

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Building bike for touring and commuting: road, cantilever or disc brakes? on 11/21/2011 02:07:01 MST Print View

My personal pick in this situation would be to go for road or canti (pref V) brakes. Discs really aren't worth it, PITA cf the other options on maintenance, unless you are happy to pay for a good store to maintain them regularly and change the pads for you. Mind you some disc brakes are better than others (I wish I had avid BB7s rather than Shimano junk on my MTB). Good V brakes are pretty good in the wet with good pads anyway if you are careful, and will build wheels with less dish, which is important if you want to save weight and still want it to be relatively versatile for UL touring.

The SOMA CX frames look pretty nice :-) How much are they worth matched with a fork?

One thing that will help decide how you go is what are her bar preferences, and thus lever options are. Drop bars and levers mean you are better off with road brakes or cantis, flat bars are easier if you want to run disc brakes or v brakes.

I think if you are relatively light and carry light loads, and are a proactive cautious cyclist not doing extreme downhill, most any modern brake (except maybe drums on big wheels) are more than good enough to stop you.

Post what you end up building for the bike freaks :-)

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Building bike for touring and commuting: road, cantilever or disc brakes? on 11/21/2011 04:28:51 MST Print View

I agree, the road canti brakes are generally cheaper and lighter. And, they can still lock a tire up. 'Corse rain/mud/snow can really effect them... Generally, you won't see much mud on the roads, nor snow in SF.

Have you checked into aluminum or ti frames? These are quite light with the ti also preventing salt water from corroding things...a problem with shore side cities. But the expense of ti may put it out of reach. (I still use an older aluminum Fuji.)

I have heard some bad things about older carbon forks (though, I do use one for exactly what you want it for...relativly beefy, though. You could easily do better.) Not too sure about the newer stuff.

Anyway, shoot for about 19-20lb all tricked out. Heavy enough to be rugged for every day without being too heavy to use on the upgrades. I would recommend a front fender for rain, if she uses it every day. I was blinded on a couple occasions by heavy rain looking up and spray looking down...not a good thing in traffic. Perhaps a light rack over the rear tire if she needs to carry stuff. I generally used a small laptop bag that carried a few folders and a computer before I retired.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Building bike for touring and commuting: road, cantilever or disc brakes? on 11/21/2011 04:46:06 MST Print View

Personally, I refuse to use anything other than discs. My first experience was Avid BB7s and all of our current bikes have hydraulics.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Brakes on 11/21/2011 06:24:37 MST Print View

I personally would skip the disks. I really like STI brifters and they work fine with Cantis or caliper rim brakes. I use cantis if the bike has bosses for them and calipers if not. I have done fairly heavily loaded touring all over the US including very mountainous areas and found the Cantis fine. I am planning another coast to coast tour, this time very lightly loaded and am using caliper rim brakes this time.

Edit: I am back from the trip and can report that the dual pivot 105 caliper brakes worked out very well.

Edited by staehpj1 on 04/06/2012 09:20:52 MDT.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
this is for your WIfe ? on 11/21/2011 06:45:11 MST Print View

your wife, you say. is she a nice lady ? do you like her ? is not the bay area full of ridiculously steep hills ?

if i had a wife, and i didn't want her splattered into the side of a lexus/saab/volvo, i'd install very sweet disk brakes.
then she could hit curbs with abandon and not worry about keeping the rims perfectly straight, and still retain the fantastic braking power which i'd want her to have at all times.

and if i had a daughter, then i'd put disks on BOTH sides.


John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Re:brakes on 11/21/2011 08:35:00 MST Print View

I echo others comments on cantilever or v brakes. Simple, effective, and light.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
brakes on 11/21/2011 08:47:33 MST Print View

pre-disc days were dangerous indeed. people were dropping like flies, it was carnage & bloodshed at a massive scale. Wives would almost suredly find something large enough to bend rims to the point of no braking... naturally, the bike itself was unharmed in these imapacts BUT - as soon as those delicate hands reached for lever? These women would vaporize!

what you need to do is get discs the size of cars, bolt 'em up to more discs that double for wheels and JB weld discs on the skin covering your wife's vital organs. I've even sharpened up the edges of some discs for my loved ones, they make great "throwing discs" when confronted by dangerous canti and v-brake users. Simply behead these irresponsible rim-using neanderthals well before they come into striking distance.

I logged nearly 20,000 miles on my, rim brake, road bike in 2007 alone. I was forced to build an altar to the disc gods and pray for my safety... my family thanks you disc gods. These gods were, indeed, smiling upon us when we hurled ourselves down the Mammoth Mtn. Kamikazi races at 60+mph with nothing but - oh noes! - rim brakes.

Remember, JB Weld

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
A World of Thanks! on 11/21/2011 16:29:20 MST Print View

Thank you all for your opinions, insight, and comic relief. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard while reading BPL.

This is my setup now.

My one-bike to rule them all

Interloc Crossfire CX steel frame, Winwood Carbon fork, Avid Shorty6 canti brakes, Ultegra kit, Ritchey WCS and Thompson parts, and hand-made Mavic Open Pro wheel set. I could only afford this rig because I was working at a bike shop at the time, and built the wheels myself. It weighs in at about 19lbs.

I am looking for something similar for my wife, but probably less expensive components. She has a fast alum/carbon racing bike already.

Like I said, I used to work in a bike shop. I can still get discounts there and put together her bike. But I don't mountain bike anymore and don't have any personal experience with disc brakes. So that's why I'm asking the UL bike touring experts (you!).

It seems like the majority of you think I should go with the canti brakes. That's what I was leaning towards as well. I am satisfied with my Avid brakes, and I've done some major touring in France, Italy, and the Pacific Coast. Kristin's bike will be strictly used for commuting and touring. It'll have drop bars, road shift/brake levers, and probably CX brakes levers as well. If I did go with disk brakes, I think I'd stick to mechanical and not fuss with hydrolic.

If I get a SOMA frame with canti brakes, it would have to be the Double Cross or Double Cross DC, the latter of which has both canti and disc brake mounts. If I settled for caliper brakes, then I'd get the Smoothie ES. I'm not sure of the cost. I'll be getting it through my shop at about 35% discount, so I'm not too worried.

Another steel frame w/ canti is the Pake C'mute (any experience with those?)

I'd love to get her (and me!) a titanium frame bike, but no way we can afford it. My dream frame would be a Steve Potts titanium softail.

Haven't considered aluminum. Should I? Cinelli makes the Zydeco CX frame.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: A World of Thanks! on 11/21/2011 19:49:38 MST Print View

great ride in the pic!

"Another steel frame w/ canti is the Pake C'mute (any experience with those?)"

my buddy swears by this bike and one of their track bikes, he's an oldish bmx'er as well... I watched him put that c'mute through serious drama trying to do a set at sheep hills, it still rolls true

"Haven't considered aluminum. Should I?"

I'll let my dad know about this thread, he's been building frames for a minute. Geeks out on this stuff pretty hard (frame material applications & geometry ((he explained to me about how he views fork rake, eff me if I didn't think I was reading about string theory))

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
aluminum on 11/22/2011 08:30:09 MST Print View

As mentioned above I build frames. Do not try to use an aluminum cross bike to tour, cross bikes have short chainstays to aid in climbing which don't allow heel clearance for rack mounted equipment, no panniers, no problem.
I live 2 moountain passes into a west to east tour of the northern route across the us, I have taken on 7 repairs of bikes that have had troubles, this is only 200 miles into the ride. 6 of these were aluminum and aluminum must be heat treated after rewelding. Almost any radiator guy can repair a steel bike anywhere in the US and Canada.
If all are one is doing is carrying a credit card and a lunch you can ride anything you want.
The dynamic design of aluminum frames also does not lend well to touring, at least until you movee into the modern CAAD 9 & 10 Cannondales which are out right race bikes. It is simply too harsh a ride, throw in some equipment mounted all over the place and it is a formula for tubing fatigue.
So first define the type of touring you want, then look for bikes that fit that niche.
100,000 of miles have been done with cantilever brakes, discs are a nice bonus but finding a replacement fror a rotor that warped in Wilbur, Washington is a challenge.
Use oversized rotors like the tandem riders do.
A brief note, If you choose titanium make sure it was designed by someone familar with the material. It is the opposite of aluminum with too much of a forgiving ride unless the tubing is oversized.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
No no, go disc on 11/22/2011 09:40:45 MST Print View

If you go "disc", you have to have a frame, fork and wheelset that are compatible. Once you're there, the Avid BB7 is exactly what you want: light, more braking power than any canti and very, very easy to tune and maintain on the road without any tools.

That's right: you can swap brake pads, adjust and tune the brakes without a single tool. Fingers will be used. They set up so easily that you will laugh out loud and get it perfect the first time. Remember how easy Vees were compared to canti's, to set up? Even a larger jump in ease to the Avids.

The brakes develop more braking, with much less fade and much more modulation, than do even the most bomber of vee brakes. Are you descending a mountain pass with a loaded bike? Are you stopping in the rain or after riding through puddles or even mud? Did you knock a wheel out of round? Discs.

There are lighter units than the mechanical BB7's, but none simpler and more reliable. Temperature, weather, moisture, extended braking, all favor the disc brake. For my fellow crusty Luddites, I'll qualify this with decades of cycling and brake systems in my current stable of bikes ranging from Sturmey Archer departure brakes, to canti's, vees and both mechanical and hydraulic discs.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
avid bb7 on 11/22/2011 10:21:08 MST Print View

A mechanical disc is a fine product, the Avid can be had with a 160, 185, or 203mm rotor. Its a matter of torque. the diameter of the rotor provides more Newtons-M of torque than a smaller rotor. The Avid BB7 applies about 150 Newtons, the formula is t=Rf -
t=torque,R=radius,f=force applied, you can get more complicated with all the angle of attack and lever arm with heat dissapation analysis but torque for a 160mm rotor would = 11,500 Newton-Meters. 185mm rotor = 13500 Newton-Meters, and a 203mm rotor = 15,000.
It beocmes a matter of leverage. The further you put the Fulcrum (central axis, aka the axle) from the force of resistance (brake pistons on the rotor) the more leverage you have on the rotating mass (the wheel.)
Think of loosening a big rusty bolt, the longer your wrench (and better grip you have on it) the easier it is to break the torque, because you have more "Leverage."
Of course other minor factors affecting braking is more surface area due to a larger circumference, and more material on the rotor to absorb and dissipate the heat.
If you are touring get the bigger rotor.

Edited by pyeyo on 11/22/2011 10:22:39 MST.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
I agree with Eric!!! on 11/22/2011 10:31:43 MST Print View

What Eric said:

"If you go "disc", you have to have a frame, fork and wheelset that are compatible. Once you're there, the Avid BB7 is exactly what you want: light, more braking power than any canti and very, very easy to tune and maintain on the road without any tools."

I agree 110%! Some hydraulics may develop more power, but the Avid BB7s are excellent, easily serviceable brakes which have more than enough power for touring, even when descending long steep downhills!

One other thing: If you're seriously thinking about touring (as well as commuting), get a touring bike frame. It's much easier to commute no a touring bike than to tour on a regular road bike!

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
go this, go that - work at a small midwest bike shop on 11/22/2011 12:27:55 MST Print View

warping rotors is super fun, no worries though - small bikeshops in BFE will always have that rotor you're looking for, they'll never have replacement brake pads. bwhahaha

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Warp 7 Scotty! on 11/22/2011 14:27:04 MST Print View

I'd love to see someone manage to warp a rotor that's been installed correctly (ie with even torque on the 6 bolts), having ridden descents with such extended braking that my rotors have glowed and I have cooked the brake fluid --without rotors warping. But **were this amazing thing to occur**, one could easily do the same thing we do when we "bend" the rotors: straighten them. It's an act of patience, but pretty easy. That same kind of braking would pop tires with rim brakes. Progress is so frustrating, but if it makes anyone feel better, these brakes we're discussing are old hat and actually obsolete. Ha ha!

Note, mechanical brakes like the Avid can't cook the brake fluid...ain't got none. The rotors and brake pads are both ubiquitous and "ultralight". I carry an extra set of pads in my camelbak.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: Warp 7 Scotty! on 11/22/2011 14:45:05 MST Print View

while in my experience, I've warped Avids in one 24-hour race. Roll the dice with parts accessibility out on the road for discos, not so much with the tried and true classics... FWIW, just trying to give the simplest, most readily accessible avenue to a trouble-free trip

gee, pop tires? wow, we never pushed +60 before discs, whuh?!?

BTW - pack your discs, I've packed nada for stopping equip resting easy knowing that the shops that cater to farmer john will have what I need to roll... not much lighter than a credit card

Edited by tremelo on 11/22/2011 14:48:01 MST.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Warp 7 Scotty! on 11/22/2011 17:16:54 MST Print View

I'm sure the OP has enough info and insight to make good decisions with his wife about her touring/commuter rig.

As for warping a disc, I commend you to the merits of even torque on your rotor bolts, a technique you would obviously found to be of some value during your 24 hour race. The penalty for sloppy mechanical work on your bike usually minor, but sometimes a real bummer, eh? Now you know.

Touring cyclists know all about popping tires on long descents, and it has little to do with 60+mph, although it sure as hell would be much more of a bummer at that speed. The heat doesn't come from the massive re-entry speed of a gonzo rider, but rather from friction. You see, one side effect of friction upon a rim, or rotor, is *heat* and it is well known among touring cyclists (and especially tandem riders) that long descents with extended braking can heat rim-braked wheels up so much that tires pop, explosively. Due to this reality, many tandems were built with a heavy-duty rear drum brake controlled by a thumb shifter, so that the stoker could engage the brake and control descents w/o cooking the brakes/tires with the caliper or canti brakes controlled by the captain. Since the advent of disc brakes, this is much less prevalent and you'll find many touring bikes with disc brakes not because they're gnar-gnar mountain bikers but because they need to be able to stop reliably while carrying a load and with the possibility they knock a wheel out of round while too far from home to simply fix it. Disc brakes resolve all of that.

There, now you know that, too. Voila'.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: Warp 7 Scotty! on 11/22/2011 18:05:46 MST Print View

As for warping a disc, I commend you to the merits of even torque on your rotor bolts, a technique you would obviously found to be of some value during your 24 hour race. The penalty for sloppy mechanical work on your bike usually minor, but sometimes a real bummer, eh? Now you know.

yesh, "warping" only was formed & applies to installation failure... pffft

thanks for keeping it resl over an efftarded matter like stopping systems! haha

yepper, dad been building frsmes since I was sperm... I've been racing 22 years and working in shops for as long. NO ONE ever walked in to a shop due to hot discs and moisture. you're a rockstar!

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
Wow on 11/23/2011 10:29:39 MST Print View

I appreciate all of the informed commentary. Apparently this is a very passionate subject for some!

But, this is why I'm asking on a BPL forum. Just like I wouldn't go into REI for backpack advice, I wouldn't go to a regular bike forum or bike shop for touring advice. Their standards for touring is over built for the UL setup that we would be carrying. I am looking for comfort, lightweight, and relatively good durability (~15 years before replacing).

If I go with disc brakes, then I should get the Avid BB7. I'm in agreement with this. However, I'm still not convinced I need disc brakes. Kinda like the question of a pack frame: is a frame necessary for lighter loads? For commuting, I know canti brakes are just fine. I have to be honest, if we're doing touring, it's probably going to be in a season with relatively good weather. We'll stick to the roads. No mud or gravel paths here. I'm thinking cantilever brakes.

As for touring frames, they too seem to be too heavy for our needs. The cyclocross frames that I'm looking at are the right weight and have canti-ability, but certainly the geometry is not ideal. Any recommendations, besides SOMA and Pake, for light steel touring frames?

Thanks again for all of your input! Once I get the bike setup, I'll post pictures. Then the next step will be making the touring bags . . .