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Dream Bike Quiver: The best rim brake bikes

By Bruce Lin

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The #savetherimbrake crowd might be small, but they are passionate. Just look at any of my tech articles and you’ll find more than a few comments preaching the benefits of old-school brakes. Personally, I’m not going to buy a rim brake bike anytime soon, but I get the appeal. Rim brakes are lighter, simpler, cheaper, and often quieter. Top teams like Ineos Grenadiers are winning big races with rim brakes (well, they were until recently). And plenty of dedicated riders still shun discs. 

For this week’s dream quiver, I picked some bikes that will please the pickiest rim brake connoisseurs. If you’re a recent disc brake convert, look away. These bikes might make you want to dump your current ride. 

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2014 Cervelo RCAUltralight road: 2014 Cervelo RCA - $8,318.99

I just want you to look at how little this bike weighs: 12 lbs 7 oz. Let that sink in. This Cervelo RCA is absurdly light. At 667 grams, the limited edition RCA frame is one of the lightest road frames ever produced. This one has a climb-conquering, weight-weenie build using a Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain, AX Lightness carbon wheels, and crucially, some AX Lightness carbon rim brake calipers. Can it actually stop? Who cares, it weighs 12 pounds! 

2019 Trek Madone SLR 8 Project OneAero road: 2019 Trek Madone SLR 8 Project One - $6,342.99

Normally, I’d pick my favorite road bike, the Allez Sprint, as the aero road option, but this custom-painted Trek Madone Project One is so sleek that I couldn’t resist it. The direct-mount rim brake calipers are neatly tucked away, out of the wind. For the time being, rim brakes designs like this still have an aerodynamic edge over discs. It will be perfect for attacking off the front of my weekend group rides. 

Rock Lobster CX ALCyclocross / gravel: Rock Lobster CX AL - $2,499.99 

I’ve always had a thing for Rock Lobster bikes and their cute lobster head badges, so this is the perfect opportunity to add a bit of quirky California charm to my quiver. The tough, aluminum Rock Lobster CX can fit 40mm tires for everything from CX races to long gravel rides. When I rode rim brakes on my old ‘cross bikes, I always used cantilever brakes, so I’ll be curious to see how the TRP V-brakes perform. 

2020 Casati Espresso XCRHandmade Italian: 2020 Casati Espresso XCR - $4,799.99 

In search of a fine Italian steed, I came across plenty of enticing options like a 2019 Colnago C60. Then I saw this Casati Espresso XCR on the shop floor. The steel frame is handbuilt in Italy using Columbus Spirit tubing and it looks absolutely beautiful with its light blue paint and clear coated stays. I just can’t stop looking at it. It’s a bike that will last a lifetime and turn heads on every ride. 

Seven Axiom SL S&S BTCTravel bike: 2019 Seven Axiom SL S&S BTC - $4,999.99 

Travel bikes are one niche where rim brakes still rule. Bikes like this titanium Seven Axiom can be built with S&S couplings also known as a BTCs (bicycle torque coupling). The couplings allow the frame to separate so you can pack it in a small travel case, bring it on a plane, train, or bus, and reassemble it at your destination. It’s a snap with a wireless AXS drivetrain and rim brakes that have quick-disconnect cables.   

Shinola The Detroit ArrowCruiser / Townie: 2020 Shinola The Detroit Arrow - $914.99 

Just like I don’t need hydraulic disc brakes, I don’t need a townie bike. But this singlespeed Shinola looks gorgeous and it’s under one grand! I can imagine myself riding this bike through the countryside, rolling past lush green pastures with my Orange Tabby riding in a basket on the handlebars. Maybe I’ll enjoy all that pastoral beauty better without disc brakes squealing every time I stop.  

Tinker Jaurez Klein Adroit Team StormVintage mountain: Tinker Juarez’s 1993 Klein Adroit Team Storm - Priceless

Obviously, hydraulic disc brakes are the standard for mountain bikes. I need a mountain bike in my quiver though, so I dipped into our vintage bike museum to find the perfect bike. I used to sit next to Tinker’s race bike in our old office, and I loved telling visitors about its history. Plus, the anodized purple components just scream of ‘90s nostalgia. I might die trying to ride this bike on the gnarly local trails, but at least I’ll look good.  

Total cost: $27,876.94

This quiver may be pricey for just rim brake bikes, but I included more bikes than usual. When hunting for rim brake bikes, I just saw so many great looking options, it was hard to narrow it down. So yeah, I guess rim brake bikes are still pretty cool. 

I said earlier that I’m not going to buy a rim brake bike, and that’s still true. But the Casati Espresso has been very hard to ignore. Or, a rim brake bike built with S&S couplings makes a lot of sense for traveling. Plus, the Shinola townie bike has gone in and out of my shopping cart several times now. Somebody stop me! 

Did I make good choices? Would you have picked different bikes? Are people still into rim brakes? Let me know in the comments!

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