Brakes allow you to stop your bike. Having a very good set of brakes not only allows you to be safe on the road or on trails but also gives you a sense of control of your machine which magically makes your ride even better.

The brake unit consists of both the levers at the handlebars, the actual braking mechanism that stops the wheel and the cables/hydraulics that connects both. There are multiple options of brake systems available, the most popular ones on bicycles are Rim brakes, and Disc Brakes. Choosing the correct brake depends on your bicycle and the kind of riding you wish to do.

Rim Brakes – V Brakes on a Specialized Bicycle

Rim brakes come in several different types, V-brakes, u-brakes, cantilever brakes or direct pull brakes. On most of the entry level mountain bikes and hybrids with rim brakes, v-brakes will be predominant.

PROS of rim brakes

  • Lighter than disc brakes
  • Less expensive than disc brakes
  • Mechanically very simple to maintain
  • Easier to repair in the middle of the ride if something goes wrong.

CONS of rim brakes

  • Braking is compromised in wet and muddy conditions
  • Brakes are less responsive and have less stopping power than disc brakes
Disc Brakes – Mechanical

On most of the non-entry level mountain bikes today, disc brakes have become the norm. They comprise of levers, cables or fluid depending on if it’s a mechanical disc brake or hydraulic disc brake, calipers, brake pads, and rotors.

PROS of disc brakes

  • Respond consistently in all riding conditions
  • Braking effectiveness is not impacted by mud, rain, and snow because the pads and rotors are near the center of the wheel
  • Better stopping power than rim brakes
  • Require less force to be effective so easier on the hands

CONS of disc brakes

  • Heavier than v-brakes
  • More expensive than v-brakes
  • More complicated to set up and maintain than v-brakes


Disc Brakes – Hydraulic

Advantages of mechanical disc brakes:

  • Easier to set up and maintain compared to hydraulic disc brakes.
  • Cost lesser than hydraulic disc brakes.

Disadvantages of mechanical disc brakes:

  • The level of modulation is less compared to hydraulic
  • Have to apply more pressure to brake than hydraulic brakes

With hydraulic mountain bike disc brakes, instead of a steel cable, hydraulic fluid pushes pistons inside the caliper, which compress the brake pads.

Advantages of Hydraulic disc brakes:

  • More precise control and sensitivity, which is good for technical riding
  • Don’t have to use as much pressure to brake
  • Have a crisper feel than mechanical brakes

Disadvantages of hydraulic disc brakes:

  • More complicated mechanically to set up and maintain
  • Can not fix on the trail if they fail because of the special equipment that is needed

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