Disc vs Drum Brakes
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Thread: Disc vs Drum Brakes

  1. #1
    Senior Member LuvNot's Avatar
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    May 2015
    Hampton, VA

    Disc vs Drum Brakes

    The TW is the first bike I've owned with drum brakes on the front wheel. I've noticed braking seems 'softer' than with a disc brake, but I may need new springs (there is still 1/8" pad left). Braking isn't bad, it's just different. I do like the fact I don't have to mess with hydraulics and associated issues with fluid levels, air bubbles, etc. But if I buy another TW for strictly off-road use, I may look at buying a newer model and wondered about the difference.

    So my question to those who ride off-road and have experienced both disc brakes and drum brakes:
    Is there a real performance difference between the two (or is it just a weird perception of different handling on my part?) Are disc brakes preferable off-road, or do drum brakes have an advantage?
    TWilight likes this.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member scotti158's Avatar
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    May 2013
    Groton, NY
    I've got an older and a newer TW. To me the main difference is just feel. I do notice that the drum front brake does fade a little with hard stops from 55mph. Off road I don't have a preference.
    The disc brake is easier to work on with the parts being external, no pulling the wheel off to work on it.
    littletommy and TWilight like this.
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  3. #3
    Super Moderator littletommy's Avatar
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    Mar 2013
    Spokane, Washington
    Haven't tried both of them, but my 87 stops just fine with drum brakes on any surface. This has been addressed many times on the forum. The general opinion is that they are about the same.
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  5. #4
    Senior Member Ski Pro 3's Avatar
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    May 2014
    El Dorado, California
    Let me ask you this;
    Is the braking fairly even between front and rear brake? Do you find the rear brake to be good? I have the disc front brake and all TW's have drum rear brakes. I find the rear brake darn near useless compared to the stopping power of the front brake. In order to get the rear to do anything close to the front brake, I really have to press on it. The front brake is a two-finger operation with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel compared to the rear's clumsiness of dragging a rock to try and slow down.
    TWilight, littletommy and Bduff007 like this.
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  6. #5
    Senior Member RockyTFS's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
    Hailey, ID
    The real difference between drum and disk only occurs in two scenarios: One, if you are riding down a very steep and very long dirt track (like two + miles) using 99% front brake there is a tendency for the drum to fade. Most of us will never encounter this in our entire riding experience. The other is when you go through a river above the axle and get the brakes thoroughly soaked. It will take a few applications of drum brakes to dry them out enough to work well. Again, only people like Admiral like to use their TW's as submarines.

    The disc does have more ultimate stopping power than the drum but few of us will ever need it. Both of them are capable of locking the front wheel, which most of us don't try twice.

    Ski Pro: Have you checked your rear shoes for glazing or other issues? My rear brake will lock the rear wheel at any speed on any surface.
    TWilight, Mel, littletommy and 1 others like this.
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  7. #6
    Senior Member kelly b's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
    Indianapolis, IN
    Hahaaaa he said performance and TW in the same sentence.

    Ive be rode both, no massive difference.

  8. #7
    Senior Member elime's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I sanded the rear shoes and inside the drum and put on an extended arm and the rear brakes work very well and it is very easy to skid the rear tire.
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  9. #8
    Senior Member ejfranz's Avatar
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    Feb 2015
    Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
    Fine mud, the soupy stuff, will play havoc with a drum brake.
    Just remember that the old 500cc 2 strokes use to have them.
    TWilight and admiral like this.
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  10. #9
    Super Moderator Purple's Avatar
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    Mar 2015
    Ynys Môn
    The drum brake is cable operated — this means it will feel slightly spongy due to the cable, but the bonus is, it will work in the rain (first time)

    The disc brake is hydraulic — this means it (should) have a harder feel to it — but as the working parts are exposed to the elements, it may take some persuading to stop in in a downpour.

    In a water crossing situation, both will suffer from ingress of water — “feather” to dry off as above.

    In ‘yer modern bike — twin disc four pot fronts will pretty much stop you underwater — and twin leading shoe drums will stop on a sixpence - but this bikes design is 30 years old — treat it as such.

    I’ve had bikes with in-board discs (great, but prone to fade) — cable operated discs (utterly useless) — you name it, I’ve tried it. Just ride accordingly, (and never underestimate the combination of the rear brake and the power of engine braking on these little thumpers, which used together with a TW34 will seriously test your front suspension) …….
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  11. #10
    Senior Member TopPredator's Avatar
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    Jun 2014
    Bel Air Maryland
    It appears that you all have covered everything in reference to the two breaks I have a question on servicing the front disk break. I have 9000 miles on my TW should I change the break fluid and is there any other service required?

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