Mountain Bike Brakes
Most people buy a pre-built mountain bike. The manufacturer makes the decision, based on the price of the bike, which type and grade of brakes they install on the bike. You may or may not like the brakes, but that’s no problem. There are a multitude of choices for aftermarket brakes you can upgrade to.
In general, there are three types of brakes for bikes.
- Coaster Brakes: these are usually seen on the cheapest of bikes. The braking action happens when you counter-rotate the pedals. Commonly seen on toddler sized bicycls. Nowadays, there should be no adult mountain bike that comes with these, so don’t worry about them.
- Rim Brakes: these are also uncommon nowadays on adult mountain bikes. When I raced BMX bikes, they all came outfitted with rim brakes. Basically, there are brake pads on either side of the rim. When you squeeze the brake lever, the pads would come in contact with the rim of the tire and provide the braking action.
- Disc Brakes: the majority of adult mountain bikes come with disc brakes now. These are very similar to what you have on the front brakes of your car. There’s a disc affixed to the wheel, and when you squeeze the brake lever, it puts the brake pads in contact with the disc. Disc brakes have come a long way, and there are two types to consider:
- Mechanical Disc Brakes: The brake lever connects to a steel cable, that is connected to the brake caliper. Squeezing the brake lever pulls the cable which in turn applies pressure thru the brake pads to the brake discs.
- Hydraulic Disc Brakes: Extremely similar to a car. The brake lever is attached to a piston-cylinder, which in turn uses hydraulic fluid and a hose to attach to the brake caliper. When you squeeze the brake lever, it actuates the piston-cylinder, which compresses the hydraulic fluid, that applies that pressure to the brake pads, with the result squeezing of the brake disc.
Today, the only brake system you should buy on a pre-built mountain bike should include disc brakes, at any price point. It is difficult and very expensive to convert from a Rim Brake system to a disc brake system. But its extremely easy to upgrade a disc brake system to a better one.
Below is our collection of reviews, thoughts, and cool things happening with mountain bike disc brakes.