A guide: Which brakes are best for which bike?
Brakes are a major component to consider when it comes to buying a bike or upgrading one. Let’s run through the different types of brakes and point you in the right direction of which variations will be best suited for your rides.
Disc Brakes vs Rim Brakes
Disc brakes use calipers to squeeze pairs of pads against a rotor (or disc) to create friction which slows and stops the bicycle, whereas rim brakes squeeze rubber brake pads against the rim of the wheels to slow and stop the bicycle. One of the main differences is that rim brakes are more exposed to the elements whereas disc brakes are concealed meaning it is hard for dirt, mud and water to penetrate the calipers.
Now, disc brakes are all but the default choice of brakes on mountain bikes (although we do stock some MTBs with rim brakes), but for road bikes, gravel bikes and CX bikes it isn’t quite as clear. Even the Tour De France peloton is split in terms of rider preferences, with some riders making the recent move to disc brakes and some sticking with the age-old rim brakes. Mechanical issues can cost a race in professional cycling, but for us amateur riders we mainly have to consider maintenance and performance.
Disc Brakes Pros:
- Better performance
- Last longer
- Less prone to dirt and water damage
- Don’t wear down your rims
Rim Brakes Pros:
- Less mechanical issues
- Easier to fix and replace
- Cheaper to buy/cheaper parts
In a nutshell, rim brakes are lighter and offer mechanical simplicity, but if you are looking for performance, disc brakes are best. Sure, they might take a little more maintenance over the years and cost a little more to replace pads, but they work better than rim brakes due to a cleaner brake surface.
Finally, there are two types of disc brakes to consider; hydraulic and mechanical.
Hydraulic disc brakes have a fluid inside the brake lines, much like those in a car. Pulling the brake lever releases fluid to the caliper, closing the brake pads. This type of brake line is sealed away from the elements, so they are ideal in wet and muddy riding conditions.
Mechanical brakes use stainless steel cables between the lever and caliper, resulting in a very simple brake system. Replacement inner and outer cables can be found in any bike shop in the world, and they’re easy to change yourself.
Out of the two, hydraulic disc brakes are the high-end option. Because they work with fluid and not cable tension, there is no counter-pressure - meaning you don’t have to apply huge amounts of pressure to stop quickly as is the case with mechanical brakes. The pistons also self-adjust and they’re sealed from the elements.
As things stand disc brakes beat rim brakes, especially for any off-road riding. They perform better, they’re versatile and work well in all weather conditions. And hydraulic disc brakes beat mechanical brakes because of the better performance control. Take a look at our online shop and upgrade one of the most important components today.