Buying a road/mountain hybrid bicycle. Do I need/want disc brakes?

Looking at bikes similar to theSpecialized Cross Trail.
The disc brakes look bad-ass but there is quite a price jump with them. I used to ride a road bike a lot but haven’t ridden or paid much attention to bikes in about 15+ years. I’ve looked at Trek, Specialized and Cannondale bikes at the local bike shop. Any opinion or advice on these types of bikes welcome. I’m looking at mainly urban bike trail riding but would like to be able to do some moderate trail riding on camping trips a couple times a year.

They are worth the price in my opinion. They are much stronger, easier to modulate, and less affected by rain and snow (that’s the deal maker for me)

Any new bike I were to purchase would have either those or possibly hydraulic rim brakes like Maguras but probably not.

Are you planning on riding down 45 degree dirt trails in the rain? The worst brake system can put you over the handlebars. I’d rather have the shortest brake cable and the lightest bike.

Get disc brakes. They are far more powerful, clear mud and water much more quickly and have finer modulation. These qualities are a great trade-off against the higher cost and weight.

You have a further choice with disc brakes: hydraulic or cable. Hydraulic brakes are more powerful, have a better feel, and stay “in tune” longer, provided you don’t have any leaks, rendering them useless. Drawbacks include higher cost and mechanical complexity, and brake fade if you place high, continuous demand on them. Also, you will have to get them bled once in a while to remove any air that has accumulated in the lines. This is a task beyond the capacity of most riders. You’ll have to take the bike to a shop.

You mean the best brake system can put you over the handlebars. If you are going over the handlebars while braking, that means that the brakes are working. It also means that you are riding incorrectly.

Sorry about the multiple posting.

All three of those brands you mentioned make excellent bikes. You can’t make any mistakes buying a bike from one of those brands. I ride a Cannondale with a lefty fork and I absolutely love it: It’s strong yet light and responds very well.

No, I mean the worst brake system can stop with enough force to put the rider over the handlebars.

If the op is indeed riding down steep trails or likes to ride in the rain and wants a finer degree of modulation then a test drive of a disc brake system will answer any question he has. Heck, if he just likes the looks of it then that’s a good enough reason. There is nothing wrong with a little style.

Myself, I wish I could trim a few pounds off my mountain bike. After riding my other bike it’s like pedaling a car. I’m not sure what an urban bike trail means to the op but in my area the park systems have a theme involving the identification of tree roots. There’s no room for speed, it’s all rough terrain.

If you are mostly riding urban trails, but still want to do some moderate trail riding, check out a rigid 29er like the Redline D 440. You won’t miss the suspension fork at all.

If you haven’t paid attention to bikes in 15 years, then I’ll tell you that a 29er is a mountain bike with 29 inch wheels, rather than the standard 26 inch mountain bike wheels. A 29er rim is the same diameter as a 700c rims. The advantage is that these bigger wheels roll a bit better. If nothing else, take one out for a spin when you are shopping for bikes.

Disc brakes are pretty much standard now on most racing mountain bikes. It’s getting very hard to find a good front shock that has tabs for mounting v-brakes. Get the discs, they work very well.

Oh, and besides disc brakes, many mountain bike tires and wheels are tubeless now. Takes a bit of time to get used to working with them, but in my short experience with them they don’t get flats very often (you pretty much need to get a huge hole or gash in the tire), and when they do you just pop a regular tube in them until you get home to fix it.

10 speed drivetrains are common on road bikes and are now being used on some mountain bikes. I’d skip on it if I were you (though I doubt you’ll find it on low to mid priced bikes). I don’t think the 10 speed chains can stand up to mountain biking (I broke a 10 speed chain in 4 month of riding, where my last 9 speed chain lasted well over 5 years). The 8 speed being offered on that Redline really is enough gears for what you want the bike for.

Edited to add - I just noticed that the Redline I linked to has v-brakes, rather then discs (though it has the disc brake mounting tabs and disc hubs). If you think you’ll be riding in wet conditions, the v-brakes won’t be as nice, though they are adequate in dry conditions.

Ah, you are talking about brakes that offer modulation as opposed to off/on type brakes. Gotcha.

I’m not sure what an urban bike trail means to the op
My city has a paved bike trail that covers large parts of the city with breaks where you have to get back on regular city streets and ride to the next stretch of bike path. I’d like to be able to ease into off road stuff. I’m not aware of any unpaved trails here in town, I’ll ask the guys at the bike shop.

“Are you planning on riding down 45 degree dirt trails in the rain?”
Not as a regular thing but there is a 45 degree hill right by my house I’m going to try at least once! Who knows, I may be riding UP 45 degree trails in the rain. (Not likely).

The Redline looks exactly like the kind of bike I’ve been looking at and the same bike shop that I’ve been going to is a dealer. What do those sell for, I didn’t see any prices. The guy I talked to at the bike shop didn’t mention them.

Another question. What does lockout mean in regards to front suspension. I’m assuming it means you can lock the suspension to be rigid?

Do bike shops generally negotiate on prices or should I assume I’ll be paying at/near list price?

I see online prices of about $700 for the redline, I’d expect it to go for about $800 at a bike shop (with the advantage that they build it and probably give you a tune up after a few month, plus they will deal with warranty issues). The next Redline in the line is the D 600, which gets you a fork, disc brakes, a lighter aluminum frame, for probably about $1000.

I also found the Giant Roam that looks like it might be what you are after.

Yes, lockout means exactly that. Some forks have a lockout that will still allow the fork to work if you happen to hit a really big bump, but are quite a bit stiffer when it is locked out.

You might get a slight discount, but I think bikes are low margin for shops, they make money on accessories. Buy the bike, water bottles and cages, gloves, pump, etc. at the same time and you can probably get a better deal overall. Oh, and you probably won’t see it at your price point, but higher end bikes are usually sold without pedals, since pedal choice is a highly personal choice.

mtbr is a good resource, especially the forums there.

I’ll be the dissenting voice here and say that disc brakes (and especially hydraulic disc brakes) aren’t worth the money for most riders. Sure, for the serious off-roader, riding down 45-degree slopes in mud and rain and snow and ice, maybe, but otherwise, not really.

They’re more complex, especially hydraulic brakes, probably heavier, and have more parts to get screwed up. Conventional V-brakes, or cantilever brakes, have more than adequate braking power and perfectly good modulation, and even top-of-the-line models (which are completely unnecessary for most riders) go for a fraction of the cost of disc brakes. They can be maintained, serviced, and replaced if necessary, by anyone with common hand tools.

Redline is a very good bike at a reasonable price. And I would definately second the recommendation for both the rigid frame and the 29 in wheels. I bought a Redline Monocog 29er (yeah, I’m a single-speed type) a couple of years ago and I absolutely love it. The 29 inch wheels roll like you wouldn’t believe and they’ll climb over stuff that would trip a 26. The rigid steel frame has just enough give that, as others have noted, you won’t miss suspension forks. And it reduces the weight.

One word of advice if you buy a Redline; Swap out the stock saddle for a good off-the-shelf one before you even leave the bike shop. Despite their many excellent qualities, Redline seems intent on applying the most damnably uncomfortable seats. That’s not just [ahem] my own posterior talking either. Read the bike reviews and that ass-busting saddle seems to be a frequent complaint.

On the matter of brakes, I have personally never been able to see why on earth riders choose to outfit their bikes with the added expense, weight and complexity of disc brakes. Maybe if they’re into some kind of extreme riding, but for ordinary use cantilever brakes are entirely adequet. I think discs are mostly just a prestige thing.

ETA. I see that Saintly Loser beat me to the punch on the brake thingy

Discs have a couple of other things going for them - they don’t pack up with mud (if mud is an issue) and having a wheel slightly out of true doesn’t affect the brakes. Sure, you still want and need to keep the wheels and spokes in good shape but if it is off by 1/8" or so, you won’t feel it when braking.

The Giant looks good and the same bike shop is a dealer but again, the guy never mentioned them. Probably a matter of wanting to sell what they have on the floor. He was mainly showing me Treks and Specialized. I saw a Cannondale online that I really liked the look of, the Bad Boy but they didn’t have one to check out. I was disappointed (but not surprised) to learn Cannondales are no longer made in USA.

I don’t usually like the look of Cannondales, but the Bad Boy is an an awesome looking rig. I like the old school look, no weird or newfangled tube shapes.

Here’s the rig I am currently riding…

2009 Scott - Spark LTD

Have conflicting views on what to recommend the OP, am interested though in the responses so far…

Nice looking ride cashew.

You’re describing a bike that will see mostly smooth surfaces. I’d suggest you test ride a light touring bike against the others you’re looking at. If you rarely see off road trails then you can buy a cheap mountain bike for the occasional abuse. This is basically what I did. I bought a folding mountain bike I could throw in the trunk when I didn’t want to get out the bike rack.

Sure, the worst they can say is no. Ask about bundled deals assuming you want a pump, speedometer, water bottle and saddlebag.

I suggest get the disc brakes if you can afford them. I’d been riding regularly (to school, to university, then to work) for about twenty five years using other types of brakes when I first did a panic stop on my commuter bike with hydraulic discs and it was a “Holy F@#$*!” moment for me. In a good way. If you have your weight back (so you don’t go over the bars) and if you are on a dry paved surface, the front brake will pull you up so hard it’s almost scary, with very little finger effort.

I’ve never had a bike with cable disc brakes: I don’t know if they have the same effortless but well modulated power, I’d suspect perhaps not.

It’s hard to get the degree of braking out of rim brakes without a lot more finger force, and finding that force in a panic situation with your hand perhaps not ideally located is not so easy. Plus rim brakes are far, far more affected by rain. You don’t have to be off road riding to get rain.

Sounds to me like the op will have to test ride a disk brake equipped bike in the driving rain to really appreciate them.