As 2013 cyclocross bikes begin to appear in advertising and in physical form, those in the market for a new cross bike are faced with a decision: disk brakes or canti?

A quick rundown of PEDAL’s 2013 cyclocross offerings:

  • Jamis:  4 disk brake bikes ranging in price from $850 – $4000.
  • Scott:  3 cantilever brake bikes ranging in price from $1422 – $3400
  • Kona:  2 disk brake bikes ($1150 – $1700) and 2 canti brakes ($1650 – $3500)
  • Guru: Disk or canti, your pick

What’s the educated CX shopper to do? Honestly, I’d say disk is the future. A short story: When I bought a decently high-powered mountain bike several years ago, all of my friends told me to pass on disk brakes. Too heavy. Too much stopping power for West Michigan. Too much complexity. Too much money. Just too darn much. In the end, I got some very nice rim brakes on my bike. Not terribly long thereafter, I competed in an adventure race with three friends, all of whom had disk brakes. We biked trough some icky stuff and only one of us could not stop. Me. I later essentially purchased the bike again when I put disk brakes and compatible wheels on the bike. Ho hum.

Are disk brakes more maintenance intensive? It depends. Cable-operated or mechanical disk brakes are pretty darn straightforward and introduce no new systems into the bicycle mix — it’s all still cables and leverage. Hydraulic disk brakes require almost no maintenance… until they do, and then it can be something of a process. Bleeding a hydraulic system is not the most difficult thing in the world, but it does require special equipment, a willingness to mess with nasty fluid and a steady mind/hand. For 2013, Jamis and Kona offer only mechanical disk brakes, so we won’t need to worry about brake fluid for another year or so.

Personally, I’m hesitant to jump on the disk bandwagon w/r/t cyclocross, largely due to legacy issues. For starters, unlike the mountain bike I wrote of above, my personal cross bike is not disk compatible. Thus, I’d need a new frame, which I don’t want. Then there’s the fact that I have a pretty nice pile of cross wheels that are incompatible with disk brakes. I cannot say that I’m anxious to abandon what I have *or* repurchase a few wheel sets. Thus: I’m probably rim brakes for a while yet.

You? If you have legacy wheel issues like me, you’ll probably want to stick with a rim brake bike. Otherwise there’s no reason not to be happy with whatever brakes come on the bike you want.

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