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12 Best Bike Brakes (Reviewed Nov, 2020)

Brakes are undoubtedly the most important control equipment on your bike. Depending on the quality, a set of brakes can either make or break your ride. A lot of bike owners might never need to worry about which brakes they use. But if you’re reading this article, you’re definitely a cycling enthusiast, if not a professional. We understand that for you, it does matter which brakes you use.

If you are just starting to learn about bike brakes, you might feel overwhelmed with so many options to choose from. Fortunately for you, you can find all the information you need from this article. Here we will talk about a selection of the finest bike brakes that are available in the market. Also, we have discussed all the factors to consider before buying, along with some useful tips and tricks.

We tested out a number of the top brakes from renowned brands. They have been given a rating based on their performance, ergonomics, and value-for-money. Regardless of your riding style, you will definitely find a suitable stopper. Among our picks, the SRAM G2 RSC has the top score according to our tests. Therefore, we have entitled it as the ‘Overall Best Choice’.

SRAM G2 RSC

Powerful and consistent braking, podium proven, easy installation and maintenance | Overall Best Choice

The SRAM G2 RSC is a hydraulic disc brake of the highest quality. If you want superior braking power, excellent control, and reliable performance, then you cannot go wrong with this brake. This is a very high-tech brake with multiple mechanisms that optimize the performance. Nearly every quality that you look for in a brake can be found. The G2 RSC’s record in various competitions can prove it. The price may be a bit high, but you will definitely get your money’s worth.

  • Type: Hydraulic disc brake
  • Recommended Use: MTB, enduro, trail
  • Wheel: Front-wheel (single)
  • Actuation: DOT 5.1 fluid, 4-piston
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 248 grams (caliper + lever)
  • Adjustment: Lever reach and contact point
  • Brake Pads: Steel-backed resin/sintered
  • Rotor: Centerline/Centerline X recommended (not included)
  • Mount: Post mount
  • Hose Length: 950 mm

 

A quick view of our selected bike brakes:

BrakeWeight (grams)Our Ratings
Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9100326 (pair)93
SRAM G2 RSC24895
Shimano Deore XT M8000402.591
Shimano Saint M820306
88
Shimano BR-MT200575 (pair)86
Shimano Alivio BR-T400027085
Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000360 (pair)82
Magura MT Trail Sport485 (pair)80
Avid BB732978
Avid Shorty Ultimate11577
TRP Spyre-C154 (caliper)75
Shimano BR-MX7018473

12 best bike brakes you can buy today

BrakePreviewTypeUseMaterialFW/RWWeight
(grams)
Brake PadsMount
Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100SHIMANO Dura-Ace BR-9100 Brake CalipersDual pivot caliper brakeRoad, time trial, triathlonAnodised aluminiumFW and RW326 (pair)R55C4Central fastening bolt (standard)
SRAM G2 RSCSRAM G2 RSC Disc Brake Diffusion Black, Front, 950mmHydraulic disc brakeMTB, enduro, trailAluminiumFW248 (caliper + lever)Steel-backed resin/sinteredPost mount
Shimano Deore XT M8000SHIMANO Deore XT M8000 Hydraulic Disc Brake SetHydraulic disc brakeMTB, enduro, trailAluminiumFW or RW402.5 (caliper + lever)Resin/ Metal/ Fin Resin/ Fin MetalPost mount
Shimano Saint M820SHIMANO M820 Saint Disc Brake Set, Rotor and Mount Not Included (Rear)Hydraulic disc brakeDownhill, MTB, enduroAluminiumFW or RW306 (caliper + lever)Resin/ Metal/ Resin with finPost mount
Shimano BR-MT200JGbike Shimano MT200 MTB Hydraulic Disc Brake Set for Mountain Bike Bicycle MTB XC Trail, e-Bike, Fat Bike, The Best Upgrade kit for Mechanical Disc BrakeHydraulic disc brakeMTB, XC, city, touringAluminium and steelFW and RW575 (pair)ResinPost mount (IS adaptor included)
Shimano Alivio BR-T4000SHIMANO BR-T4000 Front V-Brake, BlackV-brakeMTB, XC, city, touringAluminiumFW or RW270S65TDouble bolt mount
Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000SHIMANO Ultegra R8000 Caliper Brake SetDual pivot caliper brakeRoad, time trial, triathlonAnodised aluminiumFW and RW360 (pair)R55C4Central fastening bolt (standard)
Magura MT Trail SportMagura MT Trail Sport 2701389 Bicycle Brake 1-Finger HC Lever Left/Right Suitable Set Consisting of Two Brakes for Front Wheel 4 and Rear Wheel 2 Pistons, Black, One SizeHydraulic disc brakeMTB, trailAluminium and carbon-fibreFW and RW485 (pair)ResinPost mount
Avid BB7 MountainAvid BB7 MTN G2 Front or Rear Rotor (160mm)Mechanical disc brakeRoad, MTB, XCForged aluminiumFW or RW329 (caliper + 160 mm rotor)Steel-backed sinteredPost mount (IS adaptor included)
Avid Shorty UltimateAvid Shorty Ultimate Front Cantilever Brake (Black)Cantilever brakeRoad, cyclocrossForged aluminiumFW or RW115Standard cartridge padsPost fork
TRP Spyre-CTRP SPYRE-C Road Bike Alloy Mechancial Disc Brake Caliper Rotor Rear 160mmMechanical disc brakeRoad, cyclocross, XCAnodised aluminiumFW or RW154 (caliper)Semi-metallic TRP padsPost mount (IS adaptor included)
Shimano BR-MX70SHIMANO BR-MX70 BMX V-Brake (Rear)V-brakeBMX racingAluminiumRW184S70CDouble bolt mount

1. Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9100: Premium quality caliper brakes, ideal for pro riders

Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9100

  • Type: Side-pull dual pivot caliper brake
  • Recommended Use: Road, time trial, triathlon
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 326 grams (pair)
  • Reach: 51 mm
  • Brake Pads: R55C4
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: R55C4 Carbon, R55C4-A Carbon, R55CT4
  • Maximum Tire Size: 28C
  • Rim Width: 20.8 – 28 mm
  • Mount: Central fastening bolt (standard)
  • Assembly Pivot Nut Front: 10.5/12.5/18/27/32 mm
  • Assembly Pivot Nut Rear: 10.5 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Predictable Braking: Your riding experience is enhanced due to these calipers providing consistent, smooth, responsive braking and follows a linear braking curve.
  • Low Arm Gap: This brake is sleek looking and streamlined thanks to the reduced spacing between the caliper arms.
  • Steel Stabilizer: A steel stabilizer between the caliper axles helps to reduce flexing and noise during hard stops.
  • Lightweight: This set is a perfect fit for road and time trial applications since it is lightweight compared to other rim brakes.
  • Symmetric Pivots: Instead of the traditional one pivot on the side and one pivot at the center, both pivots are placed on the sides which increases stopping power.
  • Brake Pad Options: You can switch out the default brake pads, which are suitable for aluminum rims, for other types if you have rims of a different material

Some Weaknesses
  • These are quite expensive for rim brakes.
  • The rear brake makes a squealing noise sometimes during hard braking.

The Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100 caliper brakes are a high-quality premium rim brake set. It generates a higher braking power due to the increased lever arm of the symmetric dual pivots. In contrast to the previous Dura-Ace model, a modification has been added to improve the performance. In between the two caliper arm pivots is a steel bridge/stabilizer, that greatly reduces flexing and hence, noise levels are decreased as well. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the toe-in of the rear brake to achieve silence.

The brakes have an aesthetic look and improved aerodynamics, without any compromise in tire clearance, thanks to the anodized surface finish and low spacing between the arms. The cartridge pads allow you to replace the brake shoes with other shoe standards that will better suit your rim’s material. The default brake pads, R55C4, are made for aluminum rims and are not good for rims made of carbon fiber. In conclusion, the premium price of the Dura-Ace BR-R9100 is somewhat justified by the reliable and powerful braking performance.

Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9100

Shimano Dura-Ace BR-9100

2. SRAM G2 RSC: Powerful & consistent braking, podium proven, easy installation & maintenance | Overall Best Choice

SRAM G2 RSC

  • Type: Hydraulic disc brake
  • Recommended Use: MTB, enduro, trail
  • Wheel: Front wheel (single)
  • Actuation: DOT 5.1 fluid, 4-piston
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 248 grams (caliper + lever)
  • Adjustment: Lever reach and contact point
  • Brake Pads: Steel-backed resin/sintered
  • Rotor: Centerline/Centerline X recommended (not included)
  • Mount: Post mount
  • Hose Length: 950 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Powerful Braking: This brake features 4 pistons and a new pad compound that provide smooth and powerful braking power.
  • Adjustability: The contact point and reach of the lever can be adjusted to accommodate the needs and preferences of different riders.
  • Great Modulation: The built-in SwingLink cam system and the seal timing port minimizes the dead band and enhances modulation at the same time.
  • Lightweight: Considering that this is a disc brake, the weight of the caliper, hose, and lever combined is pretty low.
  • Easy Maintenance: The system is built to require very little maintenance. Although, if you do need it, the bleeding edge port allows easy and reliable bleeding.
  • Brake Pad Options: You can get sintered brakes for aggressive braking, or organic brakes in two different options – Quiet or Power. Each has its own specialties.

Some Weaknesses
  • The cost may be too high for many people.

The SRAM G2 RSC is part of SRAM’s G2 brake series designed especially for mountain and trail riding. The design is based on the popular Code and Guide disc brakes, also by SRAM. They are said to have the power and modulation of the Code, while also having the lever-feel and adjustability of the Guide. After testing it out, we can safely say that the claim is correct. If you want something that combines the best that SRAM has to offer in a single brake, then this is the perfect unit for you.

It comes pre-bled and the installation was surprisingly easy and can be done by almost anyone with at least some experience. You won’t have to worry about maintenance too much either, since little is needed. Even if you need to do it, it is quite simple compared to other hydraulic brakes. Not only do they offer great adjustability to suit your preferences, but there are also three brake pad options to choose from. There are multiple technologies incorporated that work together to deliver a precise and powerful braking experience.

SRAM G2 RSC

SRAM G2 RSC

3. Shimano Deore XT M8000: Controllable & high power braking w/ finned brake pads

Shimano Deore XT M8000

  • Type: Hydraulic disc brake
  • Recommended Use: MTB, enduro, trail
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Actuation: Mineral oil, 2-piston
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 402.5 grams (caliper + lever)
  • Adjustment: Lever reach and contact point
  • Brake Pads: Resin/Metal/Fin Resin/Fin Metal
  • Rotor: RT-MT800, SM-RT86 recommended (not included)
  • Mount: Post mount
  • Hose Length: 1000 mm front, 1700 mm rear

Features & Considerations
  • Stable Performance: The braking performance remains stable in several conditions without the lever position changing.
  • Superb Power: The dual-piston actuation and quality brake pads provide the kind of stopping power suitable for mountain and enduro riding.
  • Brake Pad Options: You can choose from two materials, metal and resin. Each material additionally offers a finned option and another without fins.
  • Adjustability: You can fine-tune the brake according to your requirements by adjusting the lever reach and the contact point of the pads.
  • Enhanced Cooling: It has, what Shimano calls, Ice Technologies for the pads and rotor. This allows for better cooling for prolonged use.

Some Weaknesses
  • The contact point needs readjustment from time to time.
  • Leaking of fluid may be a possibility.

The Shimano Deore XT M8000 is one of Shimano’s leading hydraulic disc brakes. It is sold as a single caliper-lever set which can work for both the front and rear wheels. When it was tested, both the bike’s original rotors and Shimano’s recommended rotors were used. A word of advice; get the recommended rotors if possible. Although these brakes work well with any rotor, there is a significant improvement in braking power when using the RT-MT800 or SM-RT86 rotors. It might cost a few extra bucks, but if you’re an avid mountain biker, it will be worth it.

The calipers along with the compatible rotors feature a very effective cooling system. Named Ice technologies, the brake pads have radiation fins that dissipate heat better and the rotors are also designed in a way to reduce the build-up of heat. Performance-wise, the braking is powerful, precise, and consistent. A couple of minor issues are present. Sometimes the contact point setting can move around a bit, but this is easily readjusted. The fluid hose attachments are also not as well-built as it should be, leading to possible leakage. However, this is also easily fixable.

Shimano Deore XT M8000

Shimano Deore XT M8000

4. Shimano Saint M820: Easy bleeding, ServoWave technology, l-spec compatibility

Shimano Saint M820

  • Type: Hydraulic disc brake
  • Recommended Use: Downhill, MTB, enduro
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Actuation: Mineral oil, 4-piston
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 306 grams (caliper + lever)
  • Adjustment: Lever reach and contact point
  • Brake Pads: Resin/Metal/Resin with fin
  • Rotor: SM-RT99, SM-RT86 recommended (not included)
  • Mount: Post mount
  • Hose Length: 1000 mm front, 1700 mm rear

Features & Considerations
  • Brake Pad Options: While purchasing these brakes, you can choose your preferred brake pad type from metallic, resin, and resin with fins.
  • Superior Stopping Power: The rigid, quad-piston caliper offers more than enough braking force for good control on downhill rides.
  • ServoWave Technology: This ensures that the pads make contact with the rotor after a short amount of lever travel, improving response, and reducing idle travel.
  • Enhanced Cooling: The finned brake pads and ceramic pistons provide better heat management and keep braking efficiency high.
  • Adjustability: Both the contact point and the reach of the lever can be adjusted easily as per your requirements.

Some Weaknesses
  • The contact point wanders around with continuous use.
  • The price is a bit steep for some people.

The Shimano Saint M820 is the perfect set of hydraulic disc brakes for serious downhill riding. The braking power offered by the 4-piston caliper is probably unmatched by any other bike brake. Additionally, the responsiveness and modulation are excellent too. The ServoWave brake lever provides quick contact between the brake pads and the rotor. This leaves a lot of lever travel for gradually increasing the braking force. You can set the bite point and lever reach according to how you want it. A slight problem is that the bite point setting needs readjustment from time to time.

Downhill racing requires you to brake a lot which can build up a lot of heat. We’ve found that this brake handles that very well, especially if you combine it with the recommended SM-RT99 or SM-RT86 rotors. The calipers have radiation fins and ceramic pistons, while the rotors have a 3-layer structure. All these features provide great heat management and help to keep braking performance high even after long usage. A bonus is that they are relatively lightweight.

Shimano Saint M820

Shimano Saint M820

5. Shimano BR-MT200: Easy installation & reliable braking for entry lever riders

Shimano BR-MT200

  • Type: Hydraulic disc brake
  • Recommended Use: MTB, XC, city, touring
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Actuation: Mineral oil, 2-piston
  • Material: Aluminum & steel
  • Weight: 575 grams (pair)
  • Adjustment: Lever reach
  • Brake Pads: Resin
  • Rotor: SM-RT10, SM-RT26 recommended (not included)
  • Mount: Post mount (IS adaptor included)
  • Hose Length: 1000 mm front, 1700 mm rear

Features & Considerations
  • Lightweight: This disc brake will be a great addition to your bike because the set is much more lightweight than most other hydraulic brake options.
  • Versatile: The design of this brake makes it suitable for use with various riding and bike styles not limited to just mountain biking.
  • Wide Pad Clearance: It has better pad clearance which greatly reduces the chance of rattling and hence, unwanted noise.
  • Reliable Braking: The overall braking performance is of high quality with consistent and decent stopping power in all conditions.
  • Affordable: Even though it is more expensive than rim brakes, the cost is not too high for a hydraulic disc brake.

Some Weaknesses
  • It may not be suitable for more aggressive mountain biking.
  • No contact point adjustment.

The Shimano BR-MT200 is a more versatile hydraulic disc brake than the ones discussed before. It has a 2-piston caliper and the braking power is not as aggressive. However, this makes it suitable for use in different cycling disciplines. It is also a particularly good choice for mountain bike beginners due to the simplicity and comparatively lower price. Regardless, there is still ample power for quick stops. Moreover, the high reliability and precise modulation of this disc brake make it comparable to the more expensive competition.

The installation and maintenance have been made easy enough for novice users. One thing we noticed was that the entire set was pretty lightweight. So, it’s a viable option for road bikes as well. Unfortunately, there is no bite point adjustability. But you can adjust the brake lever reach. The clearance of the pads is wider than other brakes we’ve tested. This feature significantly reduces the possibility of noise and rattling. Overall, a great entry-level hydraulic disc brake.

Shimano BR-MT200

Shimano BR-MT200

6. Shimano Alivio BR-T4000: V-brake w/ smooth stopping power for trekking bikes

Shimano Alivio BR-T4000

  • Type: V-brake
  • Recommended Use: MTB, XC, city, touring
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 270 grams
  • Arch Size: 107 mm
  • Brake Pads: S65T
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: M65T4, M65T3
  • Power Modulator: SM-PM40
  • Compatible lead pipe angle: 45/90/135 degrees
  • Mount: Double bolt mount
  • Fixing Bolt Length: 16/25 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Highly Affordable: This is the cheapest brake added to our list, and it does not make any significant compromise with the quality.
  • Powerful Braking: Being a V-brake, the braking force delivered is stronger than that of a caliper brake and is even suitable for less aggressive trail riding.
  • Wide Arms: The arms of the brake have a wide clearance, also known as arch size. This leaves enough space for the mudguard.
  • Brake Pad Options: You can opt for different brake pad standards according to your rim material and intended use.
  • Power Modulator: This unit increases the cable stroke within a certain range of the braking force, giving you better control over the brake.

Some Weaknesses
  • Requires a shorter than typical mounting stud shoulder.
  • The bike must have V-brake specific mounting posts.

The Shimano Alivio BR-T4000 is the first V-brake that we have included in our list. It is also the least expensive brake that we have reviewed, and we can say for certain that it can easily compete with costlier brakes. The stopping power produced by these brake pads is not quite as strong as a disc brake, but it is still significantly higher than a caliper brake. Speaking of, there are multiple options for the brake pads, which you can choose as per your requirement. It can be used for various purposes ranging from city riding to cross-country riding.

You should keep in mind that these can only be fitted to bikes that have dual mounting bolts. Another major problem lies in the design of these brakes. They require shorter shoulders for the mounting studs than what is typical. You’ll have to buy them separately or modify the existing ones. A power modulator unit is included which allows for easier braking control. There are a few different models. The one being used here is the SM-PM40 modulator which makes the brake suitable for mountain biking.

Shimano Alivio BR-T4000

Shimano Alivio BR-T4000

7. Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000: Great all-round braking performance, suitable for all road cyclists

Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000

  • Type: Side-pull dual pivot caliper brake
  • Recommended Use: Road, time trial, triathlon
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 182 grams (front), 178 grams (rear)
  • Reach: 51 mm
  • Brake Pads: R55C4
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: R55C4 Carbon, R55C4-A Carbon, R55CT4
  • Maximum Tire Size: 28C
  • Rim Width: 20.8 – 28 mm
  • Mount: Central fastening bolt (standard)
  • Assembly Pivot Nut Front: 10.5/12.5/18/27/32 mm
  • Assembly Pivot Nut Rear: 10.5 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Reliable Braking: The brakes behave predictably and follow a linear braking curve. They also offer great handling of the bike due to the responsiveness.
  • Sleek Design: You will get enhanced performance in time trials or racing thanks to better aerodynamics. This is due to the low spacing of the arms and a low overall profile.
  • Steel Stabilizer: A steel stabilizer placed between the pivots significantly decreases flex of the caliper arms and by extension, the noise levels as well.
  • Symmetric Pivots: Many brakes have one pivot at the center, while this one has pivots placed symmetrically on either side. This provides equal and stronger braking from both sides.
  • Brake Pad Options: You might need to attach different brake pads depending on what kind of rims you have. This is made possible by the cartridge pads.

Some Weaknesses
  • Not everyone will appreciate the two-position quick release.

The Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000 is one of Shimano’s best road brakes that also has a palatable price tag. This brake is an almost perfect choice for competitive cycling owing to the smooth, predictable feeling and supreme braking power. As claimed, a linear brake curve is followed by the calipers. We can definitely say that it is an improvement over the previous 6800 series model. A stabilizer connecting the pivots decreases bending and symmetric pivots provide even force from either side, improving the braking efficiency.

In terms of looks, they are quite similar to the Dura-Ace BR-R9100, also having a low profile and sleek design. Ironically, you will actually go faster with this brake since they produce low drag. Since cartridge pads are used, you can easily customize them to be suitable with your rims and increase their lifetime. No real downside comes to mind when talking about this brake. If you want race tier calipers, then you can’t go wrong with these.

Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000

Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000

8. Magura MT Trail Sport: Ergonomic design, unique front quad-piston & rear dual-piston combo

Magura MT Trail Sport

  • Type: Hydraulic disc brake
  • Recommended Use: MTB, trail
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Actuation: Mineral oil, 4-piston (front), 2-piston (rear)
  • Material: Aluminum and carbon-fiber
  • Weight: 485 grams (pair)
  • Adjustment: Lever reach
  • Brake Pads: Resin
  • Rotor: Storm HC, MDR-C, MDR-P recommended (not included)
  • Mount: Post mount
  • Hose Length: 1000 mm front, 2000 mm rear

Features & Considerations
  • Innovative Design: The front caliper has 4 pistons and the rear caliper has 2 pistons. This unique design offers both powerful braking and precise modulation, making it suitable for users of all levels.
  • Ergonomic Brake Lever: The 1-finger lever has been optimized to be more comfortable and has increased control, even for riders with small hands.
  • Affordable: These brakes are as cheap as hydraulic disc brakes can get, and you still get incredible quality and performance.
  • Lightweight: The entire set weighs less than 500 grams thanks to some of the parts being made of carbon-fiber.
  • Easy Maintenance: Bleeding is fairly easy due to the easy-bleed technology, while brake pad replacement has been made quick and simple by using magnetic pistons.

Some Weaknesses
  • The initial setup is a little difficult and also requires additional bleeding.
  • No adjustment for the bite point.

The Magura MT Trail Sport is a high quality, inexpensive hydraulic disc brake manufactured in Germany. It delivers top-notch performance on the trail thanks to its unique design. The quad piston front caliper delivers the high braking force necessary for mountain bikers, while the dual-piston rear caliper offers better modulation for perfect control of the bike. We haven’t found any other brand to use this kind of design. The brake levers can be kept closer to the handlebars which further increases control. To add to that, the levers are also quite comfortable.

We were surprised by the weight of this set. They are lighter than most other hydraulic disc brakes. The levers felt a little soft after initial installation This was fixed by slight bleeding of the fluid which was pretty easy to do on this brake. The brake pads are made of resin and have a decent quality. If you want to change them, you can very easily due to the MagnetiXchange pistons. Essentially, the pistons are magnetic and the pads just snap on/off. The best part about these brakes is that you get all of this at a price considered to be low for a hydraulic brake.

Magura MT Trail Sport

Magura MT Trail Sport

9. Avid BB7 Mountain: Affordable, adjustable, simplistic mechanical disc brake

Sale
Avid BB7 Mountain

  • Type: Mechanical disc brake
  • Recommended Use: Road, MTB, XC
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Actuation: Cable actuated, long pull
  • Material: Forged aluminum
  • Weight: 329 grams (caliper + 160 mm rotor)
  • Brake Pads: Steel-backed sintered
  • Adjustment: Pad retraction knobs
  • Rotor: G2 CleanSweep (included)
  • Mount: Post mount (IS adaptor included)

Features & Considerations
  • Lightweight: The total weight of the caliper and the included rotor is comparatively low for a disc brake.
  • Versatile: The properties of this brake make it suitable for use in various disciplines ranging from road cycling to cross-country riding.
  • Easy Adjustability: The brake pads can be easily adjusted using the adjustment knobs on the sides of the caliper.
  • Affordable: The price of this product makes it a great budget option for those who want to enjoy the benefits of a disc brake.
  • Parts Included: Not only do you get a rotor, but rotor bolts and two mounting brackets are also included in the package.

Some Weaknesses
  • There is a chance wheel lock-up might occur during hard stops.
  • Considering that this is a disc brake, the braking force is slightly low.

The Avid BB7 Mountain, despite its name, is suitable for use in a diverse selection of bikes. First of all, it is lightweight enough to be accepted by road bikers. Secondly, it has an affordable price. And finally, it is a mechanical disc brake and can be easily installed on existing cable-actuated systems. However, we would not recommend it for more aggressive mountain cycling. This is because the stopping power is not quite up to the mark of a disc brake. Regardless, you can still use it for less aggressive trail riding and feel completely safe.

What we really liked was that everything you would need is included in the package. You get a high-quality G2 CleanSweep rotor and you can also pick a size from 160 mm, 180 mm, and 200 mm. There are two mounting brackets, one of which is an IS-to-PM adaptor. Additionally, mounting bolts for both the rotor and caliper are provided. In terms of performance, it delivers ample braking force, as mentioned before. Although, wheel lock-up occurs sometimes when you slam on the brakes.

Avid BB7 Mountain

Avid BB7 Mountain

10. Avid Shorty Ultimate: Lightweight & versatile cantilever brake for cyclo-cross bikes

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Avid Shorty Ultimate

  • Type: Cantilever brake
  • Recommended Use: Road, cyclocross
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Material: Forged aluminum
  • Weight: 115 grams
  • Stance: Narrow (80 degrees), wide (120 degrees)
  • Brake Pads: Standard cartridge pads
  • Adjustment: In-line cable adjuster, stance setting
  • Mount: Post fork
  • Clearance: 2.5 – 3 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Adjustable Arms: The arms can be set either in a narrow (80°) or wide (120°) stance, each of which have their own benefits.
  • Lightweight: This brake is extremely lightweight. Even if you buy one for both wheels, they’ll add less than 250 grams.
  • Great Braking Force: The braking power delivered by this brake is higher than that of caliper brakes and even equal to some disc brakes.
  • Brake Pad Options: They come with standard road cartridge pads which can be easily switched out for other pads if you want.
  • Easy Setup: Setting up this brake is a relatively quick and easy process. Even amateur riders can install it without much guidance.

Some Weaknesses
  • The price is quite high and you get only one brake for one wheel.
  • You have to be careful not to kick the brake when it is on the rear wheel.

The Avid Shorty Ultimate is the only cantilever brake in this article. Even though cantilever brakes are not used as much as the other types of brakes, they still have demand for some applications such as for cyclocross bikes. Well, the Shorty Ultimate is the perfect product for this. It has a wide stance for extra pad clearance for wide tires and mud. Moreover, the arms can also be set in a narrow stance if you want a low-profile and better braking power. Speaking of which, it provided a powerful stopping force in nearly all conditions.

There are no instructions included, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem. Just about anyone can install this brake since the process is fairly simple and does not take too much time. The default brake pads work very well. However, you might have carbon rims that require different pad types. You can easily replace them with other pads thanks to the cartridge design. The biggest downside is that this brake is very costly. At the price given, you will get just one brake.

Avid Shorty Ultimate

Avid Shorty Ultimate

11. TRP Spyre-C: Highly affordable disc brake option for those on a budget

TRP Spyre-C

  • Type: Mechanical disc brake
  • Recommended Use: Road, cyclocross, XC
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Actuation: Cable actuated
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 154 grams (per caliper)
  • Brake Pads: Semi-metallic TRP pads
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: Shimano M525/M515 pads
  • Rotor: 160 mm (included)
  • Mount: Post mount (IS adaptor included)

Features & Considerations
  • High Stopping Power: Being a disc brake, it inherently has a considerably stronger braking force when compared to rim brakes.
  • Easy Setup: Existing cable actuated levers are compatible with this mechanical disc brake, making the installation process fast and simple.
  • Affordable: If you’re on a tight budget and you require disc brakes, then this is a surprisingly viable low-cost option.
  • Adaptor and Rotor Included: You won’t be spending extra on IS-to-PM adaptors because these are included with every purchase of the brake.
  • Brake Pad Options: The cartridge pads give you the choice of replacing them for other brake pad options according to your requirements.
  • Lightweight and Compact: The caliper is suitable for road, cyclocross, and time trial use because it has a lower weight and dimensions than other disc brake calipers.

Some Weaknesses
  • Works with a 160 mm diameter rotor only.
  • You will have to take into account the weight of the rotor as well before mounting it on a road bike.

The TRP Spyre-C is one of the most versatile mechanical disc brakes you can buy today. You can use this brake for road, cyclocross and mountain bikes. This remarkably cheap and high-quality product can be easily installed on already existing cable actuated levers. As a bonus, an IS to Post Mount adaptor and a 160 mm rotor comes free with the brake caliper. Unfortunately, it is not compatible with different sized rotors out of the box. To be able to do that you will need spacers or a different adaptor.

The semi-metallic default brake pads made by TRP work quite well. However, it is possible to use other pads such as the Shimano M525/M515 pads if you want. Being a disc brake, it can obviously be used on mountain bikes. But the reason that you can use it with road bikes is that it is surprisingly lightweight and has a compact size with a thickness of only 40 mm. Therefore, the Spyre-C is a great option if you want the power of a disc brake at a really affordable price.

TRP Spyre-C

TRP Spyre-C

12. Shimano BR-MX70: Cold forged arms, cartridge pads, ideal for BMX bikes

Sale
Shimano BR-MX70

  • Type: V-brake
  • Recommended Use: BMX racing
  • Wheel: Rear-wheel (single)
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 184 grams
  • Arch Size: 103 mm
  • Brake Pads: S70C
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: M70T4, M70T3
  • Power Modulator: SM-PM70
  • Compatible lead pipe angle: 45/90/135 degrees
  • Mount: Double bolt mount
  • Fixing Bolt Length: 16/25 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Highly Affordable: This is one of the least expensive brakes you can buy, meaning almost everyone can afford to get a pair of these.
  • Good Stopping Power: The braking force delivered is stronger than that of most caliper brakes and is also comparable to some disc brakes.
  • Power Modulator: While a modulator is not included, you can use an SM-PM70 modulator unit for improved control.
  • Brake Pad Options: The cartridge pads give you the option of mounting different brake pads that are better suited to the type of rim you have.

Some Weaknesses
  • Requires a shorter than typical mounting stud shoulder.
  • The bike must have V-brake specific mounting posts.

The Shimano BR-MX70 is another excellent V-brake by Shimano. This brake is advertised as specifically for BMX bikes and that it should be used on the rear wheel only. However, we’ve found that it can be used with other types of bikes as well. Although, the bike should have mounting posts specifically for V-brakes. You can also use it on front wheels with a slight modification. All you have to do is reverse the brake pads, or else they might not stay in the holder when the brakes are applied.

The brake pads can also be replaced very easily since they have a cartridge design. This is convenient for those who have rims of a different material. The performance of the brake is superb. It is powerful, predictable, and has good modulation. A power modulator unit can be attached, which further improves control. The SM-PM70 is compatible with this brake. This modulator is designed to be used by BMX racers and trekking use for optimum performance. Another great thing about BR-MX70 is that they are very inexpensive.

Shimano BR-MX70

Shimano BR-MX70


Buying Guide: Bike Brakes

Brake Types

Before you buy any brakes for your bike, you need to know about the different kinds of brakes. You should also know which type of brake is suitable for which cycling discipline. There are two broad categories of bike brakes;

  • Rim Brakes
  • Disc Brakes

Rim brakes are so-called because they use the wheel rim as the braking surface. They can be further divided into the following types;

  • Caliper Brakes
  • Cantilever Brakes
  • V-Brakes (this is actually a type of cantilever brake, but they are often considered a separate category)

Disc brakes make use of a metal disc or rotor mounted on the wheel’s hub. Pistons in a caliper push the brake pads against the rotor to slow down the wheel. There are two types of disc brakes;

  • Hydraulic Disc Brakes
  • Mechanical Disc Brakes

Each of these brake types has a certain place in cycling. Which brakes you should get really depends on the bike and intended use.

1. Road Bike Brakes

Although the popularity of disc brakes is increasing, the most preferred type of brake for road bikers is still the Caliper Brake. They are chosen due to their low weight, compact design, and easy adjustability. This is also why racing bikes – triathlon and time trial – are usually fitted with caliper brakes. These brakes have arms that reach down from the top of the tire to the rims. Different mechanisms exist in caliper brakes. They could be single-pivot, dual-pivot, center-pull, side-pull, etc. The most popular and/or best caliper brakes use side-pull cable actuation and dual-pivot arms.

Caliper brake

Image: Caliper-brake

When buying caliper brakes, there are certain specifications that you can check to know whether it is compatible with your bike. One of these is reach or drop, which is a measure of how far down the caliper arms can reach. You should match this with the vertical width of the rim and tire combined. The brake must also have the appropriate clearance. This is so that it can accommodate the width of the wheel. Another crucial feature you should look out for is the mount type for the brake which is discussed below.

2. Road Brake Mounts

Most caliper brakes use the same type of mount. They typically attach using a single central bolt screwed into a threaded hole in a part of the frame – the fork for front brakes and the seat stays for rear brakes. Most use similar bolt sizes. If the required bolt size doesn’t match with the mount, then you can use spacers. Another more recent type of mount is the Direct Mount. These mounts have two bolts instead of one. They are not found commonly in bikes yet but have the advantage of having a lower profile and the ability to resist flexing better.

Regular mount

Image: Regular-mount

Direct mount

Image: Direct-mount

3. Mountain Bike Brakes

Once deemed to be an item for high-end bikes only, disc brakes are now commonplace for mountain bikes. Disc brakes offer better braking power than rim brakes. Since the braking surface is away from the rim, it mostly stays clear of water, mud, and dirt. This means more reliable braking in all conditions and reduced wear of the parts. However, they are more expensive, have a higher weight penalty, and build up a lot of heat due to the nature of use. Nowadays, improvements in technology are making disc brakes lighter and also imparting them with better heat management.

Mechanical disc brakes work in a similar way to rim brakes. The lever pulls the cable which brings brake pads in contact with the disc/rotor. This type of disc brake is easier to install and maintain due to its simplicity. Hydraulic disc brakes are the champions when it comes to braking power and performance. When the lever is squeezed, it pushes on the incompressible fluid in a hose which transmits power to pistons in the caliper. Not only does this multiply the force generated from your hand many times, but it also offers more precise control. The brake fluid could be either DOT fluid or mineral oil.

Disc brake

Image: Disc-brake

There are still several people who like to rim brakes on mountain bikes. A specific type of cantilever brake called a V-brake or direct-pull brake (as opposed to center-pull) is used in this case. These have separate brake arms that are mounted by a brake boss on each fork leg or seat stay. Generally, older mountain bike models can be seen to have the necessary mounts for V-brakes.

V brake

Image: V-brake

4. Disc Brake Mounts

Disc brakes require you to mount the rotor to the hub and the caliper to the frame. Rotors can be mounted using a six-bolt or a center lock standard. Even if your bike’s hub does not match for a certain rotor, there are adaptors that you can get for the center lock to six-bolt and vice versa. There are three types of mounts for calipers – International Standard, Post Mount, and Flat Mount. IS mounts have bolt holes perpendicular to the frame, while in PM and FM mounts they are parallel to the frame. Most calipers are compatible with post mounts. Again, there are adaptors available to convert between the three types. Remember that using an adaptor won’t affect braking too much, but using compatible rotors and calipers is always preferable.

IS mount

Image: IS-mount

Image Source: bikeman.com

Post mount and flat mount

Image: Post-mount-and-flat-mount

Image Source: bikehugger.com

5. Cyclo-cross Brakes

While sometimes disc brakes are used, center-pull cantilever or just cantilever brakes are the main choices for use in cyclocross (CX) bikes. CX racing involves mud a lot of the time and the bikes have wider tires. Cantilever brakes have the necessary clearance and have decent power as well. Often, you will be able to change the stance of these brakes from a wide stance for better clearance to a narrow stance for more stopping power and vice versa. They mount in pretty much the same way as V-brakes. Unlike V-brakes however, the main cable is at the center instead of on one side.

Cantilever brake

Image: Cantilever-brake

6. BMX Brakes

BMX users do not need disc brakes. In fact, many riders choose to go with no brakes at all. The reason being that it helps with doing stunts and tricks. When they do use brakes, they usually go with a rear brake only. In that case, a device called a de-tangler might be required to prevent the brake cables from getting tangled up. Riders can choose between a caliper brake or a cantilever brake.

7. Brake Pads

For disc brakes, three kinds of brake pads are available according to the material used. They are sintered(metallic) pads, organic(resin) pads, and semi-metallic pads. Most brake pads are organic, but each type has different properties that make them favorable to certain people. The following table illustrates the behavior of each type.

 OrganicSemi-metallicSintered
Noise levelOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Initial biteOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Rotor wearOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Pad longevity
(dry conditions)
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Pad longevity
(wet conditions)
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

All rim brakes make use of slightly varying rubber compounds for brake pads. The rubber used has different properties that make it compatible with different rim materials. Harder rubber is required for carbon wheels since they generate more heat. However, those made for metal rims that use a softer rubber have a better braking effect. Other than most budget bikes, most brakes use cartridge pads for easy replacement according to your needs and/or preferences.

Rim brake pads

Image: Rim-brake-pads

Disc brake pads

Image: Disc-brake-pads

F.A.Q.s

Q1. Rim brakes vs Disc brakes; which is better?

Ans.: The simple answer would be, it depends. There’s no real absolute winner among the two. Whether you should use rim brakes or disc brakes ultimately boils down to your preference and the intended form of cycling as discussed before. The following table lays out their respective advantages. You should think about which properties are favorable to you.

Rim Brake ProsDisc Brake Pros
Less expensiveHigher braking power
Lightweight and compact
Reliability in all conditions
Simplicity in setup and useDecreased wear on wheels
Easy maintenanceWider tires possible

Q2. What brakes are best for a mountain bike?

Ans.: Mountain biking is a sport that requires a combination of powerful braking and perfect control. A lack of either of these features can lead to an accident and possible injury. Therefore, hydraulic disc brakes are the best option, especially if you are doing a lot of downhill time. They always deliver consistent performance, even in wet conditions. However, if you’re on a budget or if you use your bike for less aggressive trail riding such as cross-country, you have the option of getting mechanical disc brakes or V-brakes.

Q3. Should I get disc brakes for my road bike?

Ans.: It is becoming an increasingly common sight to see disc brakes on road bikes. Nonetheless, most road cyclists, especially road racers, still prefer caliper rim brakes due to the advantages they have in terms of weight and aerodynamics. Unless you’re a big fan of disc brakes or require enhanced performance, we don’t see any reason to not keep using rim brakes. Good quality rim brakes will serve you well. Additionally, their simplicity and affordability make them less daunting for beginners.

Q4. Can I convert my bike to disc brakes?

Ans.: Yes you can, but only for the front wheel. Changing to disc brakes on the rear wheel is an extremely difficult task and it would also be more economical to just buy a new bike. Switching out the front brakes should be more than enough for most people. To change the rim brake on the front, you will have to replace the fork and the front wheel. This is necessary because disc brakes require completely different mounts and a disc compatible hub. This process can be quite expensive and you should think about whether it would be a more viable option than purchasing a new bike with built-in disc brakes.

Q5. When should I replace my brake pads?

Ans.: Rim brake pads have grooves or a tread pattern on the surface. When the surface eventually becomes flat from wear, then you’ll know it’s time to replace them. Disc brake pads are generally 3 – 4 mm thick. You have to replace them when they shrink down to a thickness of around 1 mm. You can use three business cards to judge the thickness. Stack them together and it will be approximately 1 mm thick. For step-by-step guidance on how to replace brake pads, watch the two videos below.

Conclusion

Hopefully, now you have all the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision. We have made sure to include all the types of brakes so that anyone from any cycling discipline can find an appropriate set of brakes. A lot of research and hard work has gone into preparing this article. We hope you found it helpful and informative. Thank you for reading and best of luck!

Related readings on Bike Brakes:


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Last update on 2020-11-25 at 10:40 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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