Even the most zealous cyclist would acknowledge that progress must finally come to an end (preferably under control). Your brakes play a role in this, and being aware of the variations among bike brakes will help you select the one that’s best for your riding style.
Rim, disc, coaster, and drum brakes are the four different types of bicycle brakes. But today, you’ll find either rim brakes or disc brakes on the majority of bicycles.
Rim brakes vs. disc brakes: Rim brakes, which once dominated bicycle braking systems, stop the bike by pressing two opposed brake pads up against the wheel rim. Near the upper portion of the wheels, the brake mechanisms are positioned on the frame. By pressing a brake pad on a rotor mounted around the hub, disc brakes, in contrast, stop the bike by sitting at the center of each wheel. They have better stopping power, which is particularly useful in sloppy circumstances. Disc brakes, which were formerly only found on a few road bikes and few mountain bikes, are now present on all types of bicycles.
Mechanical vs. hydraulic disc brakes: At the top of the performance spectrum, hydraulic vs. mechanical disc brakes are distinguished by the way the brake pads are managed. While mechanical disc brakes (like rim brakes) use cables to move the pads, hydraulic systems include brake lines that are loaded with fluid. Compared to the other brake systems, hydraulic brakes offer a smoother, more responsive performance. Additionally, the system automatically modifies the brake pads’ position as they deteriorate to ensure proper contact with the rotor when the brakes are applied. In nonhydraulic systems, you must frequently manually reposition the pads as they wear. The self-adjusting feature makes hydraulic disc brake performance more dependable.
Here are the main factors to consider when choosing the type of brakes you want for your bike:
- Performance in all circumstances: Because they are located further away from the moisture and mud that your wheels can spin up from a road or a path, disc brakes are clearly the winner. In order to squeegee the rims off before they need to use full braking force, skilled rim brake riders tap the brakes lightly to optimize performance.
- Response: Disc brakes, especially hydraulic disc brakes, provide a smoother, more reliable sensation over the whole braking force range. Another minor drawback of rim brakes is that they may overheat if the brakes are applied firmly for an extended period of time, which may result in diminished stopping ability.
- Rim life: Disc brakes come out on top since rim brakes will eventually cause your rims to become worn out. A new set of wheels might need to be replaced every few years for regular cyclists. Your rims will last longer if you keep them clean, and in the interim, your brakes will work more effectively.
- Even though there isn’t much of a difference, disc brakes win out since pulling the wheel free of the bike doesn’t require disengaging the calipers (metal arms that hold the brake pads on rim brakes). Additionally, disc wheels keep their rims clean, keeping your hands clean as well.
- Rim brakes are easier and less expensive to maintain than disc brakes since disc brakes need more frequent, stricter maintenance. Rim brake routine maintenance is also more commonly performed by more people, which reduces the need for shop labor. Despite the fact that hydraulic disc brakes self-adjust as the pads wear, they nevertheless require routine inspection and replacement as necessary. To make sure the lines function properly, they must also be bled frequently to remove air bubbles from the system. Therefore, bleeding your hydraulic disc brakes will be a separate shop (or home) repair task if you have them.
- Cost: Rim brakes win out here, but the more important linked factor is that rim brakes’ ongoing maintenance costs are less.
Looking for an immediate suggestion? You’ll appreciate the performance advantages of disc brakes if you frequently commute in bad weather. Hydraulic disc brakes are the best choice if you want the smoothest, most reliable braking performance. Rim brakes should be sufficient for you if you’re a casual, fair-weather rider who wants to keep costs low.
Are disc brakes an option for your bike instead of rim brakes? It’s not, practically speaking. When using disc brakes, a bike’s frame experiences different braking forces than when using rim brakes. A bike with disc brakes is designed with extra support and mounts for the disc-brake calipers in the frame and fork. Your bike may include mounts for both disc and rim brake systems if it was made when disc brakes were still a novelty, but you’ll still need a new set of wheels that are designed specifically for disc brakes. In general, you must get a bike with disc brakes if you prefer them.
Other Types of Bike Brakes
Coaster brakes are still used on children’s bikes today. If you had one of these as a child, you could lock the rear wheel in place by simply pedaling backwards. They can also be found on informal vehicles like cruiser bikes. Low-complexity technology will always have a place in this world—and supporters.
Drum brakes: These function exactly like a car’s drum brakes: At the wheel hub, curved brake shoes press outward against the interior of an enclosed drum. Drum brakes work well in rainy weather because the braking surface is protected from moisture. The drawback is that they may overheat, particularly on protracted downhill stretches. Therefore, utility bikes made for usage on flat terrain and inclement weather are typically equipped with drum brakes.
Learn more: How to Choose Mountain Bikes