In Defense of Rim Brakes

Paul Neo Retro Touring Canti

Paul Neo Retro Touring Canti

It was a long struggle with pneumonia. It was close…real close. I am still not back on the bike but I am getting there. While I recover, I wanted to talk about brakes.

Probably the most invasive technology in the cycling world (aside from crabon everything) is disc brakes. They are becoming more common on bikes these days and it seems you can’t event spend as low as $770.00 on a bike without getting some hydraulic discs in the package. Indeed, where just a couple of years ago, hydraulic disc brakes were the sole property of bikes costing over $1,500.00. Nay, mountain bikes costing over $1500.00. Now they are everywhere. And for good reason: they stop a bike more efficiently, function on warped rims and are great in wet weather. Hydraulics do not suffer a much from that annoying zing-zing sound that mechanical disc brakes are so fond of making. Once the exclusive domain of mountain bikers, they are sneaking onto every other type of bike being offered for sale to consumers. The drawback to these things? There are two that I can think of: weight and maintenance.

Weight is a minor issue on entry-level bikes. Most riders who are out getting exercise and enjoying the fresh air are not looking to shave grams, They are looking for a solid bike for the lowest price. The trouble with putting hydro discs on an entry-level hybrid is evident immediately to the entry-level rider purchasing said bike: the maintenance. If I were to mention reservoirs, brake fluid and bleeding to this type of bicycle consumer, they would imagine a greasy-faced auto mechanic in coveralls holding up a master cylinder in front of their face saying: “Now there’s your problem!” But the truth is, today’s hydro brakes can be maintained with just a little practice or for a modest fee at you LBS. Even a brake-bleeding kit only costs $25.00.

So are rim brakes obsolete? Some may say so, especially the members of the weak-minded spandex army of Freds because they are easily moved by marketing. However, the other drawback that I mentioned before, weight, can have a serious effect on a sub-16-pound road bike. There are some companies, like Giant for instance, that have appropriated side-pull brakes for their road bikes. I think this is an interesting concept. Take the 2015 Giant Propel Advanced SL 0. This is their highest-end road bike and it retails for a whopping $10,800.00! And it has side-pull rim brakes. Granted, they are getting pretty aero with these, mounting them behind the forks, so there’s a good way to subtract some milliseconds to your stage time. The weight is pretty light, too. Just when you thought manufacturers were going disc crazy, here comes Giant with the weakest style of rim brakes on their most expensive consumer road bike. It is truly mind bottling…you know, when things get so crazy it gets your thoughts all trapped like in a bottle? But hey, these brakes are super easy to maintain and they are super light as well. That should be very pleasing to the Freds out there.

To be honest, I am rather fond of a good set of cantilever brakes. Sure they may be a pain to adjust, but they are the best at stopping power aside from some of the higher-end calipers out there. Plus they make my bikes look all steam-punky. That’s always a plus with the ladies. End of line.



We spent most of our time today on Ie Island, a large island off the west coast of central Okinawa. It’s very isolated as far as bikes are concerned. So after we got back to the main island, I went in search of any bicycle I could find. This far from the main city all you get is rust and disuse.

As far as bikes are concerned. Regular upkeep in Okinawa is a must. On this island, every piece of steel that is not coated or painted will immediately start to decay. In any case, it still makes for good photos.

CycleMAYnia 2014

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

CycleMAYnia 2014. Giant dude with reverse pennyfarthing.

So nobody told me Durago was going to show up to the Velo Vogue fashion show on the first of may. Even though I first caught sight of the bike, the big dude holding it was even more fascinating. I am wondering what a tweed ride would be like with this guy. He would probably upstage everybody. In any case, it was a fun fashion show and a lot of people were there to showcase their bicycle-style clothing and some really awesome bikes. Even though I think fashion shows are silly to begin with, I still cannot say anything bad about this. Anything that promotes the use of bicycles or makes bikes seem cool is alright by me. See below for more pictures.



Jenny and her Trek 7.1 Hybrid

Rides a Trek 7.1 Hybrid.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
On vacation.

Jenny rode up on her Trek and instantly started being nice. She is originally from New York City. She lives in Marin County now. Even though she was from New York, she had never ridden a bicycle until she got to California. This sort of surprised me. Judging from books and movies and certainly a lot of bicycle-related clothing ads, it seemed to me that everyone in New York rides. But I guess it is just like every other big city: it’s intimidating enough with all the traffic and noise to not want to ride a bike.

People from the East Coast of the US are also cut from a different cloth than your average Californian. Even with all this space around us, we tend to be standoffish. But Jenny was from New York. She instantly started telling me all about where she was from and how cool cycling made her feel. We talked about Brooklyn and Williamsburg. Hipsters and messengers. I told her about Bike Snob NYC. I hope she is having a fun time in Marin and continues to cycle.


James and his Raleigh Misceo 2.0

Rides a Raleigh Misceo 2.0
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
On his way home from work.

The one thing about Santa Barbara is that it is relatively flat. Perfect for riding a bicycle wherever you need to go. For some, a single speed will do. For others, many gears are required to get to their destination if it is on the top of one of the few hilly parts we have around here. The core of downtown is filled with commuters. There are many people who find using a car in such a small city ridiculous. However, Santa Barbara has its share of casual drivers who don’t give any relief to cyclists out on the road. This is due, in part, to our transient student population and the insane amount of tourists with rental cars. Surprising that such a convenient town for cycling is wrought with motorists who just don’t care.


Being a bicycle mechanic can be a very stressful job. There’s always someone coming in to interrupt the project you are working on. If you’re trying to build a bicycle for a customer, you have to drop what your’e doing for walk-ins. Flat fixes, brake adjustments, loose derailleur cables. Whatever the case may be, you are still running around while the work order pile builds up.

However, every now and then, it can be weirdly peaceful. You can relax, complete your project with care and maybe even hear the music that is playing. This is cycling’s other half. For the majority of riders out there, it’s days like this and the opposite that keep your bikes on the road. Remember, we enjoy cycling just as much as you do. Please bring your bike to a qualified mechanic to keep your steed healthy. Tip your local bike mechanic, too.



Rides an early 80s Trek road bike.
Shot on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA.
In for routine maintenance.

I am in no way belittling George as a person. He is a very cool guy. I’m just saying that sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Let me explain: Working in a bicycle shop on State Street in Santa Barbara, I see many different types of people. A lot of the time, there are guys who are down on their luck and can’t afford a new tube. Most of the time, these folks come in looking for a free tube and they ask for it. Nothing wrong with that, right? Curiosity only kills cats, I always say. But George here (and I know I am going to get flak for this, sorry in advance) didn’t look like he needed anything. He was a really nice guy who came in to get his bike checked out. He didn’t ask for anything for free. While conversing with him, I found out that this old bike, which he picked up at Bici Centro for a song, was his only transportation. I would have at least pegged him for a 10-year-old BMW.

Sorry again, if I have offended anyone. But it goes to show that people’s money and how they look or act don’t always equate. Like today, I had a woman come by today that looked like she had been sleeping outside all her life. She didn’t smell so great and her clothes were super tattered. She asked for a lot of advice on what kind of bicycle to buy for her son for college if he was going to live off campus. So I showed her a really nice 2013 Kona Dew Plus hybrid. Plenty of gears, hydraulic disc brakes, great 700c road wheels and upright riding position. Without even so much as a protest about the $899.00 price tag, she bought it. And I helped her load it and the helmet, floor pump and lock into her Mazda SUV. Let me just say that nothing surprises me anymore. I do get kind of annoyed, though, at people who try too hard to look they they have money when they actually have money. What’s the point of that? Just keep it real like George here.