Editor’s Note: Today’s QT – in the form of a question from Premium Member Jim O’Donnell and answer from tech guru Jim Langley – covers a couple of different issues regarding road bikes equipped with disc brakes. Namely, it briefly addresses the differences between quick release and thru-axle designs, and it provides the foolproof way to avoid any issues with a loose QR coming into contact with the brake rotor.
Jim O’Donnell Wrote: I just bought a new road bike with disc brakes. However, the system is quick release and not thru-axle. Was this a mistake?
Jim Langley Replied: Congrats on getting a new road bike with disc brakes, Jim. There are road bikes with disc brake systems on quick release wheels and also those with thru-axles, as you mentioned. Both are available today, so it’s not a mistake, it’s just a different design. Your bike should work perfectly fine and there should be nothing to worry about.
You might have read about a recent Trek recall concerning disc brakes where the quick release lever could find its way into the rotor if the QR lever was left loose (not closed down tightly). What the industry learned from that recall is that the safest way to run your quick releases is with the lever on the right (drivetrain side) of the bike. That way, even if by accident the quick release lever comes loose, it can’t go into the rotor and cause a crash. As long as you take that precaution, you should be A-OK with your disc brake setup.
What thru-axles provide is a little more beefiness for the fork and frame and hubs to stiffen up and strengthen everything. This adds braking power and durability. If someone were riding mostly on dirt and trails, they’d probably want this extra heavy duty construction. If you were touring with a lot of weight on the bike in packs and bags, you might want the thru-axles, too. For someone mainly riding on the road for performance, it’s not that important, and having quick releases is fine.
Enjoy that great new bike!
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—John Marsh & The RBR Team
John Marsh is the former editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of "less than podium" talent, he brought our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That's what we're all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John's full bio.