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12 Best Road Bike Brakes (Reviewed Nov, 2020)

We all know that brakes are a fundamentally important component of bikes. A good set of brakes can potentially mean the difference between life or death. Most average bike users can get by fine on casual rides with built-in brakes. Either way, it is a good idea for all you cycling enthusiasts to invest in a set of quality brakes that will provide better control and last longer. Not to mention, the considerable improvement in the cycling experience you’ll get from having full confidence in your brakes.

Looking for the right brakes can be quite a challenging ordeal, especially for amateur riders. A lot of technical knowledge is required before a person can make the correct decision. Moreover, road bikes will have different needs to say a mountain bike. To save you all the trouble, we have prepared this article to talk about the top brakes for your road bike out there. You’ll also find a complete guide to help you decide which one to buy.

After rigorous testing of each of the brakes, we assigned them different scores according to their overall performance. The Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100 calipers are a premium option, while the TRP Spyre-C mechanical disc brake offers the best value for money. In the end, we have decided that the Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000 Brake Calipers are deserving of the title of ‘Overall Best Choice’.

Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000 Brake Calipers

Great all-round braking performance, suitable for all levels | Overall Best Choice

The Ultegra BR-R8000 by Shimano, a leading cycling components manufacturer, is arguably the best caliper rim brakes that you can get for road bikes. Some might argue that other brakes exist that provide slightly better stopping power and performance. But those are often way too pricey. These brakes offer best-in-class braking force, control, and feel at a palatable price. The overall build quality and durability are excellent as well. They are good enough to give even high-end hydraulic disc brakes a run for their money.

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • 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

 

A quick view of our list of some of the finest road bike brakes:

Road Bike BrakeWeight/Pairs (grams)Our Ratings
Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R910032695
Shimano Ultegra BR-R800036093
Tektro R55935892
SRAM Rival 2230090
TRP HY/RD20589
SRAM Apex30888
Shimano BR-R45121786
TRP Spyre-C15485
TRP Spyre SLC14683
Shimano Ultegra 6810335.481
Shimano Sora BR-R3000 Brake Caliper19079
SRAM Force28877

12 best road bike brakes you can buy today

Road bike brakePreviewTypeMaterialFW/RWWeight
(grams)
Brake PadsMountScore
Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100SHIMANO Dura-Ace BR-9100 Brake CalipersDual pivot rim brakeAnodised aluminiumFW and RW326/pairR55C4Central fastening bolt (standard)95
Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000SHIMANO Ultegra R8000 Caliper Brake SetDual pivot rim brakeAnodised aluminiumFW and RW360/pairR55C4Central fastening bolt (standard)93
Tektro R559Tektro R559 Silver NuttedDual pivot rim brakeForged aluminiumFW and RW358/pairP475 adjustable angle cartridge padsStandard hex nut or recessed bolt mount92
SRAM Rival 22SRAM Rival 22 Brake Caliper, Front and RearDual pivot rim brakeForged aluminiumFW and RW300/pairSwissStop pad compoundCentral fastening bolt (standard)90
TRP HY/RDTKTRP TRP Cable Actuated Hydraulic Disc Brake with 140 Rotor, BlackHydraulic disc brakeAnodised aluminiumFW or RW205/caliperSemi-metallic TRP padsPost mount (IS adaptor included)89
SRAM ApexSRAM Apex Brake Caliper SetDual pivot rim brakeForged aluminiumFW and RW308/pairSwissStop pad compoundCentral fastening bolt (standard)88
Shimano BR-R451Shimano R451 Front Mid- Reach Road Caliper, BlackDual pivot rim brakeAnodised aluminiumFW or RW217/caliperR50T2Central fastening bolt (standard)86
TRP Spyre-CTRP SPYRE-C Road Bike Alloy Mechancial Disc Brake Caliper Rotor Rear 160mmMechanical disc brakeAnodised aluminiumFW or RW154/caliperSemi-metallic TRP padsPost mount (IS adaptor included)85
TRP Spyre SLCTRP Spyre SLC Mechanical Disc Brake Caliper Grey/Black, Front or RearMechanical disc brakeAluminium and carbon fibreFW or RW146/caliperSemi-metallic TRP padsPost mount (IS adaptor included)83
Shimano Ultegra 6810SHIMANO 6800 Ultegra Rear Brake CaliperDual pivot rim brakeAnodised aluminiumFW and RW335.4/pairR55C4Direct mount81
Shimano Sora BR-R3000Shimano Sora R3000 Front Brake Caliper BlackDual pivot rim brakeAnodised aluminiumFW190/caliperR50T5Central fastening bolt (standard)79
SRAM ForceSRAM Force Brake Caliper SetDual pivot rim brakeForged aluminiumFW and RW288/pairSwissStop pad compoundCentral fastening bolt (standard)77

1. Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100: Premium quality caliper brakes, ideal for pro riders

Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 326 grams
  • 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: These calipers give smooth, consistent, and responsive braking, following a linear braking curve. This enhances your riding experience.
  • Low Arm Gap: A smaller distance between the arms gives it a sleek look and also makes it more streamlined.
  • Steel Stabilizer: In between axles, a steel stabilizer has been added to reduce noise and flexing during hard stops.
  • Lightweight: The entire set weighs less than most other rim brakes, making it perfect for road cycling and time trials.
  • Symmetric Pivots: Both pivots are placed on the sides instead of the traditional one on the side and one at the center. This increases stopping power.
  • Brake Pad Options: The default brake pads are for standard aluminum rims. However, you can switch them out for other types more suited to composite or carbon fiber rims.

Some Weaknesses
  • It is quite an expensive set.
  • The rear brake squeals sometimes during hard stops.

The Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100 is a set of caliper rim brakes designed with premium quality in mind. It has dual symmetric pivots which increase the lever arm and produces a higher braking force. A steel bridge or stabilizer has been added, joining the two caliper arm pivots. This is an upgrade from the previous Dura-Ace model since it helps to reduce flex during hard braking. Consequently, noise levels are also decreased. However, the rear brakes may need a bit of toe-in adjustment to achieve quietness.

The anodized finish and low gap between the arms really give it an aesthetic look and improves aerodynamics, without compromising tire clearance. Thanks to the cartridge pads, you can switch out the brake shoes for other shoes according to your rim material. The default R55C4 brakes are suitable for aluminum rims, but not for carbon fiber rims. All in all, the Dura-Ace BR-R9100 provides superior and reliable braking, as it should considering the price.

Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100

Shimano Dura-Ace BR-R9100

2. Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000: Great all-round braking performance, suitable for all levels | Overall Best Choice

Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • 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 follow a linear curve making it predictable. They are also very responsive, giving you better handling.
  • Sleek Design: Short arm spacing and an overall low profile enhance aerodynamics for better performance in racing or time trials.
  • Steel Stabilizer: Flexing of the caliper arms and also noise is decreased significantly by a steel stabilizer between the pivots.
  • Symmetric Pivots: While many brakes have one of the pivots at the center, this one has both pivots on the sides, providing stronger and even braking.
  • 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
  • The two-position quick release may not be appreciated by everyone.

The Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000 caliper rim brakes represent the best of Shimano but at a more reasonable price. The smooth and predictable feeling along with the high stopping power makes this an excellent choice for competitive cycling. It does seem to follow a linear brake curve as claimed. Definitely an improvement over the older 6800 series model. Symmetric pivots apply even pressure from both sides, while a stabilizer joining the pivots reduces bending and enhances braking efficiency.

They also look pretty much identical to the Dura-Ace BR-R9100, with the same low profile and aesthetic look. Ironically, these brakes actually help to make you go faster. Customizability is not an issue because of the cartridge pads. This lets you change the brake pads to make it more suitable to your rim material and hence, increase the durability of the wheels. There’s really not much to complain about these brakes. We can confidently say that these are good enough to be considered race tier calipers.

Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000

Shimano Ultegra BR-R8000

3. Tektro R559: Long brake arms, features a quick-release safety lock

Sale
Tektro R559

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Forged aluminum
  • Weight: 358 grams
  • Reach: 55 – 73 mm
  • Brake Pads: P475 adjustable angle cartridge pads
  • Maximum Tire Size: Any large tire
  • Mount: Standard hex nut or recessed bolt mount

Features & Considerations
  • Long Arms: These caliper arms have extra long reach and therefore, can easily accommodate large tires.
  • High-Quality Build: The overall quality of manufacturing is top-notch. The forged aluminum arms are both lightweight and sturdy.
  • Great Stopping Power: Superior braking force is applied thanks to the dual pivot system and high-quality brake pads.
  • Affordable: Considering the performance level and solid construction of the brakes, the price is actually a great bargain.
  • Safety Lock: The quick release has a safety lock to prevent accidental loosening of the brakes during a ride.

Some Weaknesses
  • Slight tendency to not stay centered during hard stops.

The Tektro R559 is an amazing set of rim brakes for road cycling as well as triathlons and races. They have an outstanding build quality, which is surprising for the price that it comes at. There are two versions of these calipers; one with a recessed bolt mount and another with a nutted mount. We tested out the nutted version since it is more readily available for some reason. Fortunately, there was no problem with compatibility in bike frames for this version. There is also the option for two colors, black, and silver.

These calipers have been designed with long caliper arms, giving it extra reach. Therefore, large tire sizes are not a problem with them. Easy angle adjustment and centering of the brake pads simplify the setup process. Not to mention, the more than adequate braking force even for heavy riders. The only gripe we have is that the pivots are not symmetrically placed and so, there is a slight pressure difference between the two sides. Meaning there is a bit of a pull to one side while slamming the levers.

Tektro R559

Tektro R559

4. SRAM Rival 22: Symmetric pivots, enhanced braking power, and progressive feel

SRAM Rival 22

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Forged aluminum
  • Weight: 300 grams
  • Reach: 39 – 49 mm
  • Brake Pads: SwissStop pad compound
  • Maximum Tire Size: 28C
  • Rim Width: Up to 29 mm
  • Mount: Central fastening bolt (standard)
  • Assembly Pivot Nut: 10/12/14/16/18/20/25/30 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Lightweight: The combined weight of the pair is one of the lowest you can find among caliper rim brakes, which gives you the extra edge during competitions.
  • Superior Brake Pads: The brake pads used are made of a high-quality compound that gives optimum performance even in wet conditions.
  • Short Pull: This brake requires only a short pull for actuation, effectively improving your reaction time and control of the bike.
  • Fits Wide Rims: There is enough clearance to accommodate rims measuring up to 29 mm in width, while still keeping a streamlined design.
  • Symmetric Pivots: Pivots placed on either side ensure equal pressure application from both sides. It also increases braking force due to the longer moment arm.

Some Weaknesses
  • The mounting bolt is not made of stainless steel, which leaves the possibility of future rusting.

The SRAM Rival 22 rim brake calipers are delivered as a pair for both front and rear wheels. If you are looking for a good option to replace your bike’s OEM brakes, then look no further. Assembly is quite easy and adjusting the angle for the brake pads is also simple. It is compatible with almost all commonly used road bike wheels. There won’t be an issue even if you have wide rims. Moreover, these calipers are very lightweight at just 300 grams for the entire set.

The best part of the Rival 22 is the brake pads. They are manufactured by SwissStop, which is a renowned brand specializing in bike brakes. Their rubber compound pads provide excellent braking and their effectiveness did not reduce at all in wet conditions. Even though it has short pull actuation, control and modulation are very good. In general, the braking is linear, predictable, and most importantly, reliable.

SRAM Rival 22

SRAM Rival 22

5. TRP HY/RD: ‘Plug-and-play’ compatibility, provides automatic wear adjustment

TRP HY/RD

  • Type: Hydraulic disc brake
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Actuation: Cable actuated
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 205 grams (per caliper)
  • Brake Pads: Semi-metallic TRP pads
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: Shimano M525/M515 pads
  • Rotor Size: 140 and 160 mm
  • Mount: Post mount (IS adaptor included)

Features & Considerations
  • Powerful Braking: As expected from a disc brake, the amount of braking force generated is significantly greater than rim brakes.
  • Easy Setup: These calipers are fully compatible with existing cable actuated levers. Hence, there is no need to deal with hydraulic hoses.
  • Automatic Wear Adjustment: There is a reservoir of fluid in the calipers that automatically push out the brake pads as they wear out.
  • Consistent Performance: Unlike rim brakes, disc brakes are not affected by wet conditions since the braking surface (rotor) does come close to the ground.
  • Brake Pad Options: If you need to you can replace the brake pads with other common brake pads available in the market.
  • Adaptor and Rotor Included: An adaptor that converts IS to Post Mount is included, which is useful since most bikes have IS mounts. You also get a free rotor.

Some Weaknesses
  • The rotors provided do not have the same quality as the calipers.
  • Being a disc brake, it will add some weight to the bike.

The TRP HY/RD is the perfect choice for those who want the benefits of a hydraulic disc brake, but have regular rim brakes. This is because this brake is sort of a hybrid between a hydraulic and mechanical disk brake. You don’t need fluid-filled hoses, instead, it can attach to almost any cable-actuated lever that most road bikes have. This saves you from a lot of hassle and makes maintenance easier. The fluid, which is mineral oil, is found only inside the caliper itself.

There is an ingenious system built-in that uses the reservoir of fluid to automatically adjust for wear of the brake pads. You can switch to Shimano brake pads if needed since they are fully compatible. In terms of performance, the braking force is pretty strong and there is a decent level of modulation. Being a disc brake, it does perform better than others in wet conditions. This is not the best hydraulic disc brake in the world, but we have added it to our list due to its compatibility with most road bikes.

TRP HY/RD

TRP HY/RD

6. SRAM Apex: Low cost, lightweight, offers superb braking response & power

SRAM Apex

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Forged aluminum
  • Weight: 308 grams
  • Reach: 39 – 49 mm
  • Brake Pads: SwissStop pad compound
  • Maximum Tire Size: 28C
  • Rim Width: Up to 28 mm
  • Mount: Central fastening bolt (standard)
  • Assembly Pivot Nut: 10/12/14/16/18/20/25/30 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Lightweight: The combined weight of the pair is one of the lowest you can find among caliper rim brakes, which gives you the extra edge during competitions.
  • Superior Brake Pads: The brake pads used are made of a high-quality compound that gives optimum performance even in wet conditions.
  • Short Pull: This brake requires only a short pull for actuation, effectively improving your reaction time and control of the bike.
  • Affordable: This high quality and effective brake come at a reasonable price, meaning almost anyone can afford it.
  • Symmetric Pivots: Pivots placed on either side ensure equal pressure application from both sides. It also increases braking force due to the longer moment arm.

Some Weaknesses
  • Reach may be a bit short for some wheels.

The SRAM Apex is a set of brakes that are pretty similar to the Rival 22. However, unlike them, the Apex calipers have a more reasonable price. So, if you want brakes from SRAM and want to save a few extra bucks, then this is a great option. It also weighs slightly (but not significantly) more than the Rival 22. The arms have a bit of a short reach and maybe a problem for some. If you’re a DIY person, a solution could be to drill holes to create a new place for the brake pads to mount. This, we found, increased the reach.

Performance-wise, it ticks off nearly all the right properties. The braking is linear, predictable, reliable, and smooth. The short pull actuation improves responsiveness, while still keeping modulation at a satisfactory level. Stopping power is very good thanks in part to the dual symmetric pivots. The bigger contributing factor, however, is the quality of the brake pads. Made from a SwissStop pad compound, they provide almost perfect performance even in wet conditions.

SRAM Apex

SRAM Apex

7. Shimano BR-R451: Offers Low friction mechanism, affordable, suitable for wide tires

Shimano BR-R451

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel option (single)
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 217 grams
  • Reach: 57 mm
  • Brake Pads: R50T2
  • Maximum Tire Size: 32C
  • Rim Width: 19 – 26 mm
  • Mount: Central fastening bolt (standard)
  • Assembly Pivot Nut Front: 10.5/12.5/18/27 mm
  • Assembly Pivot Nut Rear: 10.5 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Wide Tire Compatibility: The caliper arms can fit over practically any tire because they have enough clearance for 32C tires, which is much wider than most common tires.
  • Highly Affordable: You have the option to buy just one brake instead of a pair, which reduces the cost for many who don’t need the other one.
  • New Super SLR: This technology by Shimano includes a mechanism for reducing friction in the lever, cable, and caliper which improves modulation and response.
  • Short Pull: The response of this brake is further improved by the short pull actuation system of the cable.
  • Brake Pad Options: As with other Shimano rim brakes, there is the option to use different brake shoes according to your preferences.

Some Weaknesses
  • The mounting bolt of the rear caliper may be too short for some.
  • Built-in pads are average, but you can replace them.

The Shimano BR-R451 is available as a single caliper with both front and rear wheel options. This will save you money if you want just the front or rear caliper and not both since most other rim brakes always come in pairs. However, the rear caliper has a shorter mounting bolt which may or may not be a problem depending on your bike. To be on the safe side, you can simply buy the front wheel option for both sides. There are also two color choices, black, and silver.

The New Super SLR technology seems to work just as well as Shimano claims. The response time and modulation are definitely a lot better than most other calipers. Braking power is accurate and predictable, requiring only light action. The brake pads or shoes that come with the caliper are good enough for the average commuter or casual user. Although, if you’re someone who likes to ride at high speeds, then it would be best to replace the pads with stronger ones.

Shimano BR-R451

Shimano BR-R451

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

TRP Spyre-C

  • Type: Mechanical disc brake
  • 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 Size: 160 mm
  • Mount: Post mount (IS adaptor included)

Features & Considerations
  • High Stopping Power: The braking force provided is stronger compared to rim brakes. This is just an inherent property of disc brakes.
  • Easy Setup: Since this is a mechanical disc brake, it is compatible with all available cable actuated levers. Hence, installation is quick and simple.
  • Affordable: The cost of this caliper is surprisingly low for a disc brake, making this a viable option for disc brake enthusiasts with low budgets.
  • Adaptor and Rotor Included: An IS to Post Mount adaptor as well as a 160 mm rotor comes free with this caliper, saving you extra expenses.
  • Brake Pad Options: The brake pads can be switched out for other types of pads that are more preferable/suitable for you.
  • Lightweight and Compact: The brake caliper is both light and has a low profile which makes it suitable for use in road, time trial, and cyclocross bikes.

Some Weaknesses
  • Works only with a 160 mm rotor size.
  • While the calipers are lightweight, there is also the weight of the rotor that will be added to your bike.

The TRP Spyre-C Mechanical Disc Brake is one of the best, if not the best, disc brake you can buy for a road bike. It is both a high-quality product and remarkably cheap. Due to it being a mechanical disc brake, it is easily attachable to already exist and commonly found cable-actuated systems. What’s even more amazing is that a rotor and IS-to-PM adaptor is included free of cost. However, it is rated to work with 160 mm rotors only. If you want to use a different sized rotor, then you’ll need to buy a different adaptor or use spacers.

TRP’s own semi-metallic brake pads that are provided work pretty well. In case you prefer different brake pads, then it is possible to use Shimano M525/M515 pads or even others. Another couple of features that make this caliper suitable for road bikes are that the weight is quite low and it has a thickness of only 40 mm. Therefore, if you want the stopping power of disc brakes without spending much, then you really can’t go wrong with this option.

TRP Spyre-C

TRP Spyre-C

9. TRP Spyre SLC: Lightweight, features a compact design, upgraded mechanical disc brake

Sale
TRP Spyre SLC

  • Type: Mechanical disc brake
  • Wheel: Front or rear wheel (single)
  • Actuation: Dual-piston actuated
  • Material: Aluminium and carbon fiber
  • Weight: 146 grams (per caliper)
  • Brake Pads: Semi-metallic TRP pads
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: Shimano M525/M515 pads
  • Rotor Size: 140 and 160 mm
  • Mount: Post mount (IS adaptor included)

Features & Considerations
  • Easy Setup: It is compatible with the cable-actuated levers found in most road bikes. Hence, no-hassle comes with hydraulic hoses.
  • Lightweight: The actuation arm is made of carbon fiber which keeps the weight of the caliper below 150 grams.
  • Rotor and Adaptor Included: These brakes are post-mount, and so an IS-to-PM adaptor is provided including a free rotor.
  • Powerful Braking: The stopping power produced by this caliper is almost unmatched. Not to mention, it is also precise and evenly applied.
  • Brake Pad Options: There is the option to replace the provided brake pads with pads made by other brands that you prefer.
  • Cable Barrel Adjuster: This component allows you to easily adjust the brake pads for wear, instead of having to adjust the whole caliper.

Some Weaknesses
  • Compared to rim brakes, the combined weight of the caliper and rotor will be greater.
  • Almost twice the price of Spyre-C, but has only slight improvements.

The TRP Spyre SLC is the upgraded version of the Spyre-C. The improvements are mainly in performance. The braking force and overall feel have been noticeably enhanced. It is reliable, precise, and offers a good level of modulation. It is also a bit lighter. This has been made possible by the actuation arm, which is made of carbon fiber instead of metal. Additionally, a cable barrel adjuster has been included which lets you regulate pad spacing by simply turning it. No need to adjust the entire caliper.

The Spyre-SLC is also similar to the older version in a few ways. It is easy to install with existing cable actuated levers, it is compatible with brake pads from other brands such as Shimano, and it comes with a rotor and IS-to-PM adaptor. Unlike the Spyre-C however, it can be used with both 140 and 160 mm rotors. The only downside is that the price is a bit high considering the amount of improvement.

TRP Spyre SLC

TRP Spyre SLC

10. Shimano Ultegra 6810: Direct mount brake w/ low profile, offers reduced flexing

Shimano Ultegra 6810

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 335.4 grams
  • Reach: 51 mm
  • Brake Pads: R55C4
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: R55C4-A Carbon
  • Maximum Tire Size: 28C
  • Rim Width: 19 – 28 mm
  • Mount: Direct mount

Features & Considerations
  • Direct Mount: The direct mount system nearly eliminates flexing of the caliper and also offers better modulated and stronger braking.
  • Low Profile: The compact dimensions and sleek design improves the aerodynamic performance of the bike.
  • Affordable: Just about anyone looking to upgrade their brakes can get these calipers thanks to being less expensive.
  • Brake Pad Options: Cartridge pads allow you to change the default brake shoes for something that might be better suited to you.
  • Symmetric Pivots: The dual pivots placed symmetrically to the sides also play a big part in improving the overall braking performance.

Some Weaknesses
  • Direct mount compatible frame and fork required.
  • Reach might be a bit short for the rear wheel of some bikes.

The Shimano Ultegra 6810 is quite similar to other Shimano dual-pivot rim brakes. One major difference is that it uses a direct mount, which uses two bolts on each arm to attach to the frame instead of one central bolt. Consequently, it can be used only with bike frames that have a dual mount system. However, this mount improves braking performance by increasing braking force and offering superb modulation. Even the flexing of caliper arms is prevented because it is so stiff.

The Ultegra 6810 also has, as Shimano calls it, SLR-EV technology which refers to dual symmetric pivots. This also enhances stopping power and improves overall braking efficiency by applying equal pressure from both arms of the caliper. The clearance and reach are good enough for most tires. However, you might find the reach a bit short for rear wheels depending on the wheel size. To summarize, if you have a direct mount compatible frame, then this is the perfect set of brakes for you.

Shimano Ultegra 6810

Shimano Ultegra 6810

11. Shimano Sora BR-R3000 Brake Caliper: Affordable, good quality brake for beginners

Shimano Sora BR-R3000 Brake Caliper

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front-wheel (single)
  • Material: Anodised aluminum
  • Weight: 380 grams
  • Reach: 51 mm
  • Brake Pads: R50T5
  • Optional Brake Pad Choice: R50T4
  • Maximum Tire Size: 28C
  • Rim Width: 19 – 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
  • New Super SLR: This is the name given by Shimano to the mechanism that reduces friction in the lever, caliper, and cable for improved modulation and response.
  • Highly Affordable: Considering the quality of this rim brake, the price is unexpectedly low and is a viable option for new users.
  • Brake Pad Options: You don’t have to stick to the default brake shoes if you don’t want to. The cartridge pads allow for easy replacement.
  • Good Braking Effect: The overall performance and feel of the brake are very good. It has ample stopping power, good modulation, and a linear brake curve.

Some Weaknesses
  • They are a bit on the heavier side.
  • Not suitable for the demands of an advanced rider.

The Shimano Sora BR-R3000 has been designed to be a lower-tier rim brake mainly for beginner level riders. Well according to our tests, it does live up to that standard pretty well. It has an affordable price which is great for those starting. Moreover, it can be bought as a single caliper if needed. The reach and clearance can accommodate almost any commonly used road tire. Mounting it on your bike is also quite a simple process.

In terms of performance, the dual-pivot design provides a good amount of stopping power. It was predictable and followed a linear brake curve. In wet conditions, the level of performance does not diminish much, which says a lot about the quality of the brake shoes. Even still, you can switch them out for other types. The manufacturer’s New Super SLR technology helps to better the modulation and response time for enhanced control.

Shimano Sora BR-R3000 Brake Caliper

Shimano Sora BR-R3000 Brake Caliper

12. SRAM Force: Lightweight, symmetric dual pivots, ideal for wide rims

SRAM Force

  • Type: Side-pull dual-pivot rim brake
  • Wheel: Front and rear wheel (pair)
  • Material: Forged aluminum
  • Weight: 288 grams
  • Reach: 39 – 49 mm
  • Brake Pads: SwissStop pad compound
  • Maximum Tire Size: 28C
  • Rim Width: Up to 29 mm
  • Mount: Central fastening bolt (standard)
  • Assembly Pivot Nut: 10/12/14/16/18/20/25/30 mm

Features & Considerations
  • Lightweight: The combined weight of the pair is remarkably low even among caliper rim brakes, giving you the extra edge during competitive cycling.
  • Superior Brake Pads: The high-quality compound of the brake pads used delivers impressive performance even in wet conditions.
  • Short Pull: This brake requires only a short pull for actuation, effectively improving your reaction time and control of the bike.
  • Fits Wide Rims: There is enough clearance to accommodate rims measuring up to 29 mm in width, while still keeping a streamlined design.
  • Symmetric Pivots: Pivots placed on either side ensure equal pressure application from both sides. It also increases braking force due to a longer moment arm.

Some Weaknesses
  • The alignment is very sensitive to the length of the cable housing.
  • Reach might be slightly short for some bikes.

The SRAM Force is the right set of brakes for you if you want your bike to be as light as possible. The front and rear calipers combined weigh less than 300 grams. They have what SRAM calls a “skeletonized” design. Essentially what it means is that the arms have been made very slim which, in addition to being lightweight, also reduces drag. It can fit wide rims. However, the reach could prove to be not enough depending on the bike wheels, but it should be fine for most.

A direct comparison can be made for the Force caliper with the Rival 22. Since it has a similar structure and the brake pads are the same SwissStop ones, the braking power, modulation, and efficiency are almost identical. The major difference is in the price. The Force is costlier, which might be because of the low weight. Designing a lightweight brake and having it still work the same is a more difficult task. Overall, another great caliper brake from SRAM for road bikes.

SRAM Force

SRAM Force


Buying Guide: Road bike brakes

When looking to buy brakes for a road bike, you could go one of two ways – rim brakes or disc brakes. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Also, there are different things to consider for each type of brake. We will discuss all of these in detail in this section of the article.

  • Rim Brakes

Rim brakes have been the standard brake for road bikes for a long time. Even today, as disc brakes gain popularity, most road bikes continue to use rim brakes. They use the rim of the wheel as the braking surface. Rim brakes can be further divided into two types – cantilever brakes and caliper brakes. However, caliper brakes are by far the preferred option when it comes to road bikes. In a caliper brake, two arms reach down to the sides of the rim from above the tire. The entire unit is fixed to the frame or fork of the bike. The arms can both use a single pivot or they might have a pivot each. Although, dual-pivots are more popular due to the greater braking force.

Caliper brake

Image: Caliper-brake

Caliper brakes are actuated by a cable using the brake lever. When the lever is pulled, the cable pulls on the arms and they are brought closer together. This makes brake shoes/pads at the arm ends to make contact with the rim and slow down the wheel. Older brakes were center-pull where the cable is at a central position from the arms, but modern road bikes use side-pull calipers. Caliper brakes are so popular in road bikes due to their simplicity, compact size, low weight, and ease of maintenance.

  • Disc Brakes

In disc brakes, a metal disc called the rotor is attached to the hub of the wheel. A caliper with brake pads is placed over the rotor and attached to the frame. The rotor spins with the wheel and when brakes are applied, the brakes pads use the rotor as the braking surface to slow down the bike. The main advantage of disc brakes is that they have a greater stopping power than rim brakes. Additionally, since the rotor is at a distance from the ground, their performance remains consistent in all conditions, wet or dry. There are two subcategories of disc brakes – mechanical and hydraulic. Mechanical disc brakes have brake pads that are cable-actuated, much like a caliper brake. These brakes are easier to replace rim brakes with since they are also cable actuated.

Disc brake

Image: Disc-brake

Hydraulic disc brakes make use of a fluid, such as mineral oil or DOT fluid. Instead of a cable, the brake caliper is connected to the brake lever via a fluid-filled hose. When you pull the lever, a small piston pushes on the fluid in the hose. This creates pressure which is transmitted to another larger piston at the caliper which pushes the brake pads onto the rotor. The force from your hand is greatly multiplied in this type of brake. However, maintenance of hydraulic disc brakes is difficult and they are not so easy to replace.

1. Mount Type

Ensuring that the brake you buy is compatible with your bike frame is very important. Caliper brakes attach to the frame of the bike using a single central pivot bolt threaded into a hole. This is the usual method of attachment for nearly all road bikes. Another type that is not as common yet is called a direct mount brake. Direct mount brakes use two mounting bolts, one for each caliper arm. These brakes sit very close to the frame and have a lower profile to reduce drag as much as possible. Also, flexing of the arms during hard stops is reduced due to increased stiffness. However, a direct mount compatible bike frame is required which is still not very common.

Regular mount

Image: Regular-mount

Direct mount

Image: Direct-mount

For disc brakes, you need to mount two parts to the bike. The rotor is fixed to the wheel hub using either a six-bolt standard or a centerlock standard. Check your bike to see which one you have. On the other hand, the brake caliper attaches to a mount on the frame. The frames could have an International Standard (IS) mount or a Post mount. Disc brake calipers are compatible with post mounts, so if your bike has an IS mount you will need an IS-to-PM adaptor. Another type of mount is available, called a flat-mount. This is a relatively new type and they are similar to post mounts but are more compact.

IS mount

Image: IS-mount

Image Source: www.bikeman.com

Post mount and flat mount

Image: Post-mount-and-flat-mount

Image Source: www.bikehugger.com

2. Wheel Compatibility

There are two properties of caliper brakes that you should look out for when determining compatibility with wheels. One is the reach or drop of the arms. This is basically a measure of how far down the arms extend. The vertical width of the rims needs to correspond to the reach. The second specification is the clearance, which determines the range of tire sizes that can be accommodated by the brake. For disc brakes, you have to check the mount type for the rotor as discussed in the previous paragraph. Note that there are six-bolt to centerlock adaptors available and vice versa.

3. Brake Pads

There are three types of brake pads available for disc brakes. They are organic(resin) pads, sintered(metallic) pads, and semi-metallic pads. Organic pads are the most common kind, but everyone has their own preferences. The table below illustrates how each type behaves.

 OrganicSemi-metallicSintered
Noise levelO O O O OO O O O OO O O O O
Initial biteO O O O OO O O O OO O O O O
Rotor wearO O O O OO O O O OO O O O O
Pad longevity
(dry conditions)
O O O O OO O O O OO O O O O
Pad longevity
(wet conditions)
O O O O OO O O O OO O O O O

Rim brakes generally use a rubber compound for brake pads. The properties of the rubber used vary depending on which rim material it is designed for. Carbon wheels generate more heat and hence require harder rubber rated for higher temperatures. However, the braking effect of these pads is not as good as those made for metal rims. Fortunately, most brakes have cartridge pads, meaning they can be easily replaced.

Rim brake pads

Image: Rim-brake-pads

Disc brake pads

Image: Disc-brake-pads

4. Braking Performance

A road bike brake should provide good stopping power, seamless modulation, and predictable and reliable response. These properties mainly depend on the brake type, pad material, and brake caliper structure. For example, most caliper brakes use dual pivots that have one pivot at the center and the other pivot on one side. The upgraded version has both pivots on the side and is called dual symmetric pivots. This applies pressure evenly from both sides increasing efficiency and also provides a greater braking force. The quality of brake pads and the moving parts influence modulation and consistency in different conditions. If possible, you should test out a set of brakes before making a final decision.

5. Brake Levers

You get a lot of flexibility with your choice of brake levers. This is because levers of a certain brand can be used with different brakes of the same brand. Nonetheless, it’s not a good idea to combine brake levers of one company with brake calipers of another. Also, you can’t use cantilever brake levers with caliper brakes due to the different amounts of cable actuation required.

F. A. Q.s

Q.1: Are disc brakes better on a road bike?

Ans.: Disc brakes have steadily gained popularity and nowadays road bikes with disc brakes are pretty common. Since July of 2018, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has approved the use of disc brakes in Tour de France. The reason for this rise in disc brake use is the advantages that they have over rim brakes which are listed below:-

  • Higher braking power
  • Reliability in wet conditions
  • Decreased wear on wheels
  • Wider tires possible

On the flip side, rim brakes, especially caliper brakes have their own set of pros:-

  • Less expensive
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Simplicity in setup and use
  • Easy maintenance

Ultimately, it comes down to your preferences and requirements. Indeed there is still a large number of people who are happy to use rim brakes and probably won’t ever need to change.

Q.2: Hydraulic vs Mechanical disc brakes; which is better?

Ans.: Hydraulic brakes are at the top when it comes to pure stopping power. A properly tuned brake offers lots of power and modulation. Most will continue to perform this way for a long time with little to no maintenance. There is little friction and light action translates to a high braking force. Mechanical disc brakes use cables but are superior to rim brakes. Still, it’s not as powerful as a hydraulic one due to power losses in the mechanism. There is also the need to continually adjust the pads as they wear down. Hydraulic brakes have a fluid reservoir that automatically adjusts the pads for wear. However, price, compatibility, and ease of maintenance are in favor of mechanical brakes. So, there’s not really the right option here. It’s all up to you. Note that brake levers are not interchangeable between hydraulic and mechanical systems as the internals are quite different.

Q.3: When should I replace my brake pads?

Ans.: The pads of rim brakes have a tread pattern or grooves cut into them. As the pads wear down from use, eventually the surface will become completely flat. That’s when you should replace them. In disc brakes, the brake pads are usually 3 or 4 mm thick. When this shrinks down to around 1 or 1.5 mm, it’s time for a pair of new pads. A neat trick is to compare the thickness with three business cards stacked together. This is approximately 1 mm. The two videos below offer step-by-step guides for replacing both disc and rim brake pads.

Q.4: What do more expensive brakes offer?

Ans.: On rim brakes spending more gets you a lighter unit and one that undergoes less flexing under stress. Less flex equates to more force and better feel. For disc brakes, you have the choice between an inexpensive mechanical system or an expensive hydraulic system. More money also means higher quality brake pads that last longer and perform more consistently in all conditions. It all boils down to how much you put your bike through daily. Therefore, it’s not unusual for pro riders to spend hundreds of dollars, while others get by alright with a $50 brake.

Conclusion

After thoroughly going through this article, you should now have a clear understanding of how to select the right set of brakes for your road bike. You are now prepared to make a choice based on your specific needs. These brakes are guaranteed to serve you well and make your rides better by keeping your mind at ease. So go ahead, and buy one from our list without reservation. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and we hope you found it useful.

Related readings on Bike Bikes:


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Last update on 2020-11-25 at 10:50 / 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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