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It’s all just marketing. Is this the main reason why rim brakes on racing bikes have disappeared from the market? Just recently I was reading an article in Roadbike 03/2024 about the availability of spare parts for rim brakes. The thought occurred to me that rim brakes were being deliberately pushed out of the market. From today’s perspective, this makes perfect sense.

The rim brake is good

In previous articles I already described why I believe that rim brakes on racing bikes are justified. I think that the rim brake is in many cases the more sensible option for hobby riders than the disc brake. The main advantages are the lower weight, the lower price and the simple technical handling. The well-known disadvantage of lower braking effectiveness in wet conditions is put into perspective for hobby cyclists. For us the tire grip is much more the limiting factor. In other words: hobby cyclists go carefully in wet conditions and pay attention to grip. The better braking effect and the possibility of braking later with the disc brakes is of less importance for me in wet conditions. In dry conditions the differences disappear anyway.

Alles nur Marketing? -
Hobby cyclists got hit only few times by heavy rains

Why should rim brakes have been pushed out of the market? What’s the point of repositioning the racing bike market? A look back.

The road bike market 10 years ago

When I started riding a road bike a little over 10 years ago, almost everything was about weight. The UCI has stipulated that a racing bike may not be lighter than 6.8 kilograms in competition. I remember that my entry-level Rose road bike with triple cranks weighed 7.8 kilograms. It cost 1,700 euros and had an Ultegra groupset.

Alles nur Marketing? -
Climbing Alpe d’Huez requires a light bike

The situation of the manufacturers at that time

The racing bike with rim brakes was well planned and technologically sophisticated. There were hardly any development opportunities left. Many racing bikes scraped the weight limit. Hardly any bike was really heavy. Basically, the difference between the groups was very small. The prices were very cheap compared to today. In general, the majority bought the Ultegra group from the middle price segment. Of course, this situation was not good for manufacturers and their margins. A significant innovation was necessary in order to have new development potential again.

The technical innovation came and helped out

In this environment, the disc brake appeared and offered many development opportunities. Initially it cost around 500 euros more and had around 500 grams more weight. Then wide tires were added, then aero rims and aero profiles. The weight increased. Racing bikes changed fundamentally through numerous technical innovations. And we racing cyclists love technical innovations. The market was turned upside down, probably much faster than manufacturers could have imagined in their wildest dreams. Within just a few years, rim brakes on racing bikes disappeared from the market. Today it practically no longer plays a role.

The market today

Today the price level in the market has increased significantly. The disc brakes made the wheels more stylish. The optics determine the market. Weight has been pushed aside as a factor. There are currently no racing bikes on the market that focus on weight.

Virtually no racing bike manufacturer still offers a bike with rim brakes. Maximum in the entry-level segment. And bikes at the UCI weight limit have become exceptions. There are very stylish bikes instead: cool frame designs with cool rim profiles dominate the market. In order to get close to the UCI weight limit, one hat to look in the price segment of a small car. Technically, especially in terms of weight, the bikes in the three top groups differ significantly. It makes sense again to spend more money on a higher quality group. The spread between the groups is again clear. There is again a lot of development potential. Prices have skyrocketed.

No criticism of market developments

I’m still surprised and astonished as to why I haven’t read a word of criticism of this development. All cycling magazines simply followed the development. The price increases were taken as given. The development was not questioned. Nothing was explained. Why did light mountain bikes fall completely out of focus?

Alles nur Marketing? -
Where have the mountain road bikes gone?

Advantages of disc brakes in the professional sector

No doubt, disc brakes have their place. At the top level, especially in professional sports, it is undoubtedly justified. The technical skills of the professionals certainly benefits from the better braking effect. The price of the bike has a minor role in the professional sector. Their mechanics can also cope with the more sophisticated technology.

What bothers me?

Why does this development actually bother me? There are many reasons. Riding a light bike is just really fun. It takes off like a rocket. Uphill, every gram counts anyway. Why do I need an aero bike if I love the mountains?

I take care of my bike myself. Why should I bother setting up a disc brake when I can handle the rim brake much easier?

Alles nur Marketing? -
The rim brake is robust and brakes reliably

I don’t understand why there doesn’t seem to be a need for lightweight mountain bikes anymore. Why doesn’t anyone ask about these bikes? I was once on the verge of giving up and buying a bike with disc brakes. But why should I spend many thousands of euros on a bike that is no better than my current bike and also causes me more technical problems than necessary?