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Mountain Bike Brakes

Mountain Bike Brakes

April 02, 2018

 Mountain Bike Brakes 

   There are many different brands and models of mountain bike brakes from a range of manufacturers. The varieties of brakes available in the market today is so overwhelming that unless you know exactly what you are looking for, you might bypass the perfect set of brakes for your mountain bike. You may end up buying brakes that do not fit onto your bike at all. Or maybe you might find one that fits your mountain bike but is not as effective as you want it to be.  Braking, when calibrated just right can be a beautiful feeling.  I remember purchasing a mountain bike with standard equipment, riding down a steep hill and having brakes that just couldn’t stop me fast enough.  Not the best feeling in the world.  So lets take a look at some of the basics in braking to try to better understand what we can do to slow down a bit faster.  

     Mountain bike manufacturers such as Avid, Shimano and Sram produce high-quality brakes. Despite the quality, you need to know some more about mountain bike brakes if you are to get the perfect upgrade for your bike.  The most popular type of mountain bike braking system used today is the disc brake. Disc brakes can either be the mechanical type or the hydraulic type. When shopping for a disc brake, you need to consider the rotors, the brake pads, and the brake modulation. If you are having a hard time choosing disc brakes for your mountain bike, the information in this article will make the task a piece of cake.  

Types of Mountain Bike Brakes

Basically, there are two kinds of mountain bike braking systems. Although we are concentrating on the disc brakes in this article, it is useful to go get an overview of rim brakes. Since mountain bike frames are made to accommodate disc brakes and rim brakes, it is important, to find out the type of mount you have before you choose any type of brakes.  Rim brakes come in different varieties such as the “V – brakes” and “Y – Brakes”. In the rim braking system, there are two pads fitted on both sides of the wheel. They grab the wheel when the levers are depressed, hence slowing down the bike. Rim brakes have a limited stopping power which gets even worse in wet and muddy conditions. This is why the popularity of rim brakes has reduced significantly over the years.  On the other hand, disc brakes have gained its popularity because of its effectiveness and efficiency. They provide a shorter braking distance and are not affected by the weather conditions.  

Hydraulic vs. Mechanical Disc Brakes

Great video on Hydraulic vs. Mechanical Disc Brakes for road bikes and mountain bikes.  



Disc brakes are made in two flavors. Hydraulic brakes are the ones that use a piston-cylinder system that is filled with a special kind of fluid. It is similar to the brakes being used on vehicles and motorcycles. On the other hand, mechanical brakes use a steel cable which converts the pull on the lever to a pull on the brake caliper on the disc.   Although hydraulic brakes provide more stopping power and an improved modulation, they are quite expensive to buy and maintain. They also require a lot of skill to service and perform operations such as bleeding. Mechanical brakes are cheaper to buy and maintain. They are also easy to service and maintain compared to hydraulic brakes.

Considering the Brake Rotors



In a disc brake system, the disc itself is also called the rotor. It is the circular disc that is mounted on the wheel, which when grabbed by the pads, slow down the bike. It functions very well in dissipating heat from the friction during braking.  The diameter of the rotor will determine the amount of heat transferred. Therefore, gravity-oriented mountain bikes should use larger rotors than cross-country mountain bikes. The size of the rotor can also be dictated by the position on which the caliper is mounted on the frame of the bike. For this reason, many manufacturers have adopted and now include an adapter that fit various rotors.

Disc Brake Pads

Here's a great video on how to change your own disc brake pads on your mountain bike.  Some people take their mountain bikes in for this but the process is pretty simple.  You can do it at home if you follow the steps in the video...

    The basic brake pads available for disc brakes include the semi-metallic pads, sintered pads, and organic brake pads. Most out of box bikes will come fitted with some kind of semi-metallic pads. They are famous for providing stronger stopping power and do not wear out quickly compared to organic brake pads.  Sintered pads, also known as metallic pads, are suitable for heavy gravity riders because of their elevated friction values. As a matter of fact, metallic brake pads produce more friction in high temperatures as opposed to low temperatures. As a result, they perform well in extreme conditions.

Resin brake pads, which are the organic pads, provide an improved modulation. It generates less noise but wears and tears quicker than the semi-metallic pads. They also do not cope very well with wet conditions.  

    Now that you understand some more about the types of mountain bike brakes, the difference between the mechanical and hydraulic brakes, the brake rotors and the different types of brake pads, you are in a position to select the perfect brakes for your mountain bike. All you need to do is keep in mind that manufacturers make the different types of mountain bike brakes depending on the riding style the bike is meant for. The hydraulic and mechanical brakes are the two flavors available for the disc braking systems. The size of the brake rotor contributes significantly to its power, and brake pads also come in three flavors: the metallic, semi-metallic, and the organic brake pads. You can get more information on bike mountain bike braking system on the wiki page.  Also, remember that heavy riders should go for a braking system that has more stopping power.  If you have any questions please feel free to email us or leave a comment!  We thank you for reading!   


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