Different Types Of Bike Brakes

Share This Post

How Do Brakes On A Bike Work

Bicycle Rim Brake Identification – What Type of Brake Do I Have?

All bicycle brake types use friction to slow down or prevent a bikes movement. In modern brakes, braking pads generate friction by pressing on a braking surface . All bicycle brakes share three components.

  • One that allows the rider to activate the brakes brake levers, pedals
  • Another to communicate with the brake mechanism hydraulic hose, cable, chain
  • The braking mechanism caliper, drum

For example, a rider pulls the brake levers on mechanical disc brakes, shortening the cable. Then, the cable activates the pistons within the brake caliper, which closes the brake pads onto the rotor.

Similarly, on hydraulic disc brakes, the brake lever moves a piston that compresses the fluid inside the system and pushes the calipers together, squeezing the rotor and slowing down the bike.

How To Adjust Bike Brakes

Image source: bicyclenetwork.com.au

Adjusting your brakes properly is just as important as choosing a high-quality model that suits your needs. Depending on the type of bike brakes you have, the adjustment process can be more or less complicated and might need to be done more or less frequently.

Heres how to adjust some of the most common types.

Disc Brakes Vs Regular Brakes

In terms of pad hardness, disc-based options use much harder brakes compared to their non-disc counterparts. But unlike other kinds, these brakes pads dont allow mud, sand, debris, and dust to accumulate on them. As a result, theyre always ready to jump into action whenever prompted to do so, even in high-speed scenarios.

On the whole, disc brakes are heavier, tougher, defy heat better, and tolerate dirt-packed riding situations better than any other kind of bike braking system.

Small wonder many trail bikes, kids bikes, hybrid bicycles, cyclocross, DH bikes, gravel bikes, and road bikes are increasingly favoring disc braking.

But theres one downside decent disc brakes can cost a pretty penny.

Recommended Reading: Does Renters Insurance Cover Bike Theft

What Type Of Brakes Does Your Bike Have

Dave Caudery / Our MediaRussell Burton / Our Media

There are three main types of brakes on modern bikes: disc brakes, rim brakes and V-brakes. Well cover each of them in turn.

The majority of new bikes, whether thats road bikes, mountain bikes or hybrid bikes, now use disc brakes that operate by pushing pads housed in a caliper against a brake rotor attached to the wheels hubs. Well go into different types of disc brake below.

Over the past five years, road disc brakes have rapidly taken over from rim brakes, which push brake pads against the wheels rim. There are good reasons for that, mainly related to more efficient and consistent stopping, whatever the weather.

On that note, and as we mentioned at the top, mountain bike disc brakes have been commonplace at all levels for years, providing powerful stopping power uninfluenced by trail conditions.

Disc brakes and caliper rim brakes take the lions share of braking duties across most bikes, but youll also find V-brakes on some cheaper urban or commuting bikes.

These also work on the rim and are attached to frame bosses on either side of the wheel. V-brakes are operated via a cable that runs from one side of the brake and across the top, pulling the two halves together.

There are other brake designs out there, but theyre a rarity on mainstream bikes. Still, well give you a full rundown at the end of this article.

Types Of Bicycle Brakes More Than You Think

Brake Type Examples 2011

Posted on June 24, 2021

Choices in bicycle brakes are usually descibed in terms of rim brakes, cantilever rim brakes, disc brakes, and hydraulic brakes, but within those categories there are better and worse choices for mountain bikes versus road bikes, racing bikes versus touring bikes, and expensive bikes versus affordable bikes This article discusses all of your choices.

Most people who buy a bike dont pay much attention to the type of brakes it has. I havent in the past. If I liked the bike I bought it.

Bicycle brake technology has come a long way over the last 20 years. Bicycle technology is rapidly improving which is also increasing the cost of buying a bike.

Folks who get into cycling, whether road, trail or mountain eventually start learning about all the different bicycle components and start assembling their own bikes buying the best of each for their needs. Brakes included.

As youll see below, there are many different bicycle brake options for todays bikes.

Lets kick off with the most relevant brakes used on todays bicycles.

Don’t Miss: Bikes Of The Tour De France

Different Bicycle Brake Types

Knowing the different types of brakes can help you decide which bicycle to buy, or if you already have one, eventually buy a conversion kit to replace the current one.

In order to determine the right brake system, the first step is to determine its characteristics and understand how it works.

There are several types of brakes, and they include the following:

  • Band brakes
  • Coaster or back pedal brakes
  • Disc brakes
  • Wet weather braking capabilities: good
  • Used on: kid bikes, small-wheeled bicycles, and trailers.

Band brakes have been in existence for a long time and are prevalent in countries with wet weather.

A band brake uses a flexible belt of friction material around the rear wheel drum. When you pull the lever on the handlebar, the band around the drum tightens, obtaining the braking action. It is not easy to replace them when they are consumed.

This type of brake is not very common because it is not suitable for slowing down the inertia of a 26″ wheel. It is generally used on small-wheeled bicycles or trailers.

Being a low-tech device it is cheaper than other models.


It is a cheap and straightforward system.

The braking action is obtained with a light pressure of the lever.

Rainproof .


It is not very common due to certain unreliability.

It tends to overheat.

When the band is worn out, the entire mechanism must be replaced.

Video: Rear Band Brake Removal & installation

Are V Brakes Good

Without trying each and every type of brake out there, you cant know how good one type of brake is over another. V brakes are very popular and are very common on many of the different types of bikes.

So, I thought Id explain how they compare to other brakes and if theyre good.

Overall, V brakes are good. They are the best type of rim brakes. The reasons are because they are the easiest to squeeze, and theyre the easiest to adjust. The only brakes that offer superior performance are disk brakes. But, V brakes still perform well enough that disk brakes arent always necessary.

Disk brakes are more expensive than V brakes. But, all things considered, they are still relatively cheap compared to the cost of the frame, and other components.

For example, a set of V brakes from the top brands can set you back about $30, whereas, a set of disk brakes costs around $100, and sometimes much less.

Considering that a midrange bike costs around $500. Disk brakes do cost a significant amount of the total cost of a bike.

However, if you have a high-end bike that costs in the range of $1000 or more, its not much of a difference to get disk brakes instead of V brakes.

Don’t Miss: Giant Carbon Fiber Road Bike

Mechanical Advantage And Flex

Mechanical advantage is a key concept, which you must understand before you will be able to choose and service brakes. Mechanical advantage is commonly referred to as “power”, when discussing brakes, and it is common for people to confuse this with quality. A brake may be designed for any amount of mechanical advantage, but there is a fairly narrow range that is usable.

A few models of brake levers have adjustable mechanical advantage. Mechanical advantage may also be adjusted by changing the brake shoe extension or the length of the transverse cable if a brake uses one, or by replacing the brake, the lever or both. Pulley devices such as the Travel Agent also are available to adjust mechanical advantage.

Anatomy Of A Bike Brake

Mountain Bike Brakes Explained!

Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media

Almost all bike brakes are operated using a lever mounted on the handlebars.

On bikes with a flat handlebar, including mountain bikes, theres usually a brake lever separate from the bikes gear shift levers.

Drop-bar road bikes and gravel bikes usually combine the brake lever and gear shifter into one unit , although older bikes had separate shifters on the down tube, and you can sometimes see shifters at the ends of the bars.

Russell Burton / Our Media

Single-chainring groupsets will have one brake lever with a gear shifter built-in, while the other lever will only work as a brake.

Singlespeed bikes have levers that just operate the brakes, as there are no gears to operate.

When you operate the brake lever, either it pulls a cable or pushes hydraulic fluid through a hose. In either case, theres a physical line to the brake caliper from the lever.

Well explain the differences between how rim and disc brakes work in detail below, but in both cases, applying the brakes pushes pads against a braking surface to generate friction and heat to slow or stop the bike.

Read Also: Kona Full Suspension Mountain Bike

Types Of Bike Brakes And How They Work

Many types of bicycle brakes have arisen and disappeared over the past two centuries since the bicycles invention. Over time, minor improvements to existing bike brake types have resulted in lighter mechanisms, more powerful braking, better modulation , and improved reliability.

The relatively new disc brake system is the latest major braking innovation, providing unparalleled performance in most metrics.

But How Do You Set Up V

V-brakes feature two relatively long arms that make decent leverage when nudged by the cables. But before you start the brake installation process, be sure that theres compatibility with brake levers.

For example, you can use cantilever levers and road levers/drop levers with V-brakes. However, you shouldnt expect great stopping performance from this kind of pairing. In comparison, SRAMs V-brakes should give you good performance when coupled with road levers.

Like cantilevers, the majority of V-brakes use cartridge-style pads. That basically means that changing out worn pads is pretty simple and easy. All you need to do is remove the holding bolt or pin, take the worn pad off, and slide in a new pad. Oh, dont forget to adjust the cable a little if necessary.

Shimano was the first company to call these ones V-brakes. Other cycle companies may call them direct-pull or linear-pull brakes, but theyre essentially the same thing.

Avid also makes good V brakes, so does SRAM. Cyclocross riders like SRAM V-brakes a lot due to their better brake power and compatibility with drop levers.

Recommended Reading: Mongoose 27.5-in. Men’s Mountain Bike

Pros And Cons Of Rim Brakes


  • Rim brakes are cheaper, lighter, and mechanically simple than any other brakes.
  • They are well-built and easy to maintain.
  • These brakes are durable, so many riders prefer rim brakes for daily commuting.
  • Rim brakes are popular among road racing cyclists for their lighter weight.
  • Rim brake stresses the bicycle frame and fork less than a hub brake.
  • Rims offer a large heat dissipating area on the wheels. So, rim brakes are relatively the same for speed control on long downhill roads.


  • The rims on the wheel can be overheated and cause blowouts.
  • Rim brake can carry debris from the ground on the brake pads while riding on unpaved surfaces. So, rim brakes are prone to clogging with mud and snow.
  • Rim brakes accelerate their wearing in wet and muddy conditions.
  • Brake pads are prone to uneven wearing, so you should make sure to check them regularly.
  • When a heavily loaded bike descents a long downhill road, heat-build-up occurs in the rims, which can damage various components and can cause brake failure.
  • On a rim brake bike, rims wear down quickly with regular use. So, if not checked periodically, rim wear may lead to severe accidents.

Types Of Brake Levers

Different Types Of Bicycle Brakes

There are two broad categories into which almost all brake levers fall: those which are designed for use with drop handle bars, and those which are designed for flat or upright handlebars. Both are pictured below.

Flat/Upright-Bar Brake Levers

  • Long-pull brake levers have a greater distance between the point at which the lever pivots and the end of the cable . This means that they pull more cable when you move the lever. They work for V-Brakes and Disc Brakes.
  • Short pull brake levers have less distance between the pivot and the end of the cable, so they pull less cable when you move the lever. They work for Road Caliper Brakes and for Cantilever Brakes.
  • Flat-bar brake levers are sometimes joined on the same mounting bracket as a shifter.

Drop-Bar Brake Levers

Stay tuned for our next shop tip: an introduction to cable, housing, and accessories.

Don’t Miss: Kuat Transfer V2 1-bike

Different Types Of Bike Brakes Explained

There are four major types of bike brakes: disc, rim, coaster, and drum brakes.

In general, disc brakes and rim brakes are considered the most popular and commonly used. Still, each of these brakes offers a unique set of benefits, features, and compatibility with specific cycling disciplines.

Here youll learn the pros and cons of each brake type as well as the disciplines theyre suitable for.

New Callipers New Guts

The extra 25 grams can be traced directly to the new two-piece calliper, which SRAM has employed to increase stiffness over the old one-piece Monoblock calliper. A stiffer structure reduces flex under hard braking to improve both power and feel, and you also get a larger pad pocket that helps exhaust heat more effectively. In fact, cooling has been improved enough that, just like the latest G2 brakes, SRAM has ditched the stainless steel Heat Shields altogether.

Like all of SRAMs hydraulic disc brakes the Level Ultimates run on DOT 5.1 fluid, which SRAM says is more heavily regulated than mineral oil, and also manages heat better while being less compressible too. The 21mm diameter pistons are the same size as the previous brake, but they are now now made from phenolic plastic rather than alloy. The pistons are also sealed with larger friction pucks, which help speed up pad retraction to give a snappier feel at the lever.

The pads themselves are also different to those used in the old Level brakes. Rather than a whole new pad shape though, thankfully SRAM has reemployed the old Elixir brake pad profile, which is great news from a replacement perspective. The stock pads in our test brakes do use the new Power compound, which is a Goldilocks recipe that aims to combine the durability and wet-weather performance of a sintered pad compound, with the quietness and smoothness of an organic pad compound.

Recommended Reading: Bike Across Golden Gate Bridge

All Types Of Bike Brakes Explained

Whether youre looking to upgrade your braking system, choose a new bike, or just learn how your machine works, understanding the different types of bicycle brake types is vital knowledge for any cyclist.

Theres an ocean of information on the internet about bike braking systems, but it can be overwhelming and sometimes contradictory.

Therefore, weve condensed everything you need to know about bicycle brake types into one place.

To help you learn your dual-pivots from your delta brakes, well be covering:

  • Pros, Cons, and Types of Disk Brakes
  • Rim Brakes: Pros, Cons, and Bicycle Brake Types
  • Rare or Obsolete Types of Bike Brakes

Ready to get to grips with all your bicycle brake types?

Lets dive in!

How To Choose The Best Brakes For A Bike

Rim Brake Overview by Performance Bicycle

Hydraulic disc brakes are proving to be the best and most reliable type of brakes across the board.

Choosing the best brakes for your riding style is relatively straightforward. The most important considerations are whether you ride on or off-road, in wet weather, or if you ride an e-bike. Thankfully, disc technology is becoming more and more common on bikes at all prices, meaning its not a decision you will have to make for too long.

If possible, hydraulic disc brakes should always be your first choice, unless youre a bicycle traveler, in which case v-brakes or mechanical disc brakes are a better option.

Firstly, we recommend picking a bike with disc brakes for off-road riding . The technical nature of trail riding and the extra mud, dirt, and debris that could affect braking performance while riding off-road give a distinct advantage to discs, especially as weight is less of an issue. Additionally, all-weather commuting, electric biking, and performance road biking will benefit from the extra control, power, and reliability of disc brakes.

For all other riding styles, such as city cruisers, relaxed leisure riders, and even touring bikes, well-maintained rim brakes are perfectly adequate and will be cheaper, easier to service, and lighter.

You May Like: Best Helmet For Bike Commuting

Advantages Of Disc Brakes

The disc brake helps you to stop in a shorter time and distance.They have no environmental restrictions and provide superior overall performance, and they perform well, even in wet or snowy weather.Disc brakes transfer all the heat and friction wear from the rim to the disc rotor, avoiding rim damage.They function effectively, even for wide tires.

How Do Disc Brakes Work


In a disc brake, the brake pads are housed in a caliper bolted to the frame.

The front brake caliper is attached to the left fork blade and the rear brake usually to the left chainstay, but occasionally to the left seatstay or between the two. They house brake pads that act on a rotor attached to the wheels hub, pressing against this to slow the bike.

The brake caliper is either mounted on posts protruding from the bikes frame . This standard is referred to as post-mount.

Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Flat-mount is an evolution of this and sees the caliper bolted to a designated flat surface on the frame .

Disc brake pads are typically made from an organic, sintered or semi-metallic compound, each with its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of riding youre doing.

Recommended Reading: 26×4 Fat Bike Street Tires

Related Posts