How can you find the brakes you need?
With so many different bike brakes to choose from, it isn’t always easy to see the forest for the trees.
Brakes come in a variety of designs with specific features and functionalities. But they have one thing in common: they allow you to slow down, ensuring your safety in road traffic and during the whole cycling trip. Good brakes allow you to stop in time and in a controlled manner, so you can quickly react whenever and wherever required.
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What are the different types of brakes?
Bike brakes come in two main varieties: rim brakes and disc brakes.
Which one fits your needs best depends on how you use your bicycle. Rim brakes have been around for a long time, they’re cheap, and they’re easy to adjust. Disc brakes, on the other hand, are more technologically advanced and are usually a bit more expensive and complicated to maintain, install and adjust.
Below, we’ll go through all the bike brake types:
- Rim brakes
- Disc brakes
- Coaster brakes
- Drum brakes and roller brakes
Rim brakeMost bicycles are equipped with the classic and widely used rim brakes. Rim brakes are cheap, lightweight, easy to adjust and easy to use via a so-called brake lever.
Rim brakes make use of brake pads that are pushed against the rim to create braking force. These brakes are often found on road bikes and trekking bikes. However, their braking force tends to deteriorate in wet conditions.
Disc brakes work hydraulically – they could effectively be called hydraulic disc brakes. These are generally the most powerful and effective brakes. They offer improved stopping power which is easily controlled through a lever on the handlebars. A metal rotor, the disc, is attached to the hub, allowing braking fluid to push the braking pads against the rotor to make you stop.
This braking system is mostly found on higher-quality mountain bikes, road bikes and trekking bikes. But it’s also more and more common to see disc brakes on higher-end everyday bikes. A big advantage of this braking mechanism is that it is immune to water and dirt. So it offers predictable and reliable braking power regardless of conditions.
V-brakes are the classics among rim brakes. The V-brake uses synthetic pads that are pressed against the rim when braking. Both the front and the rear wheel have a V-brake, creating a strong and reliable braking effect. V-brakes are known for their short braking distances.
Since the brake pads are made of synthetic material, they wear out relatively quickly. As a result, these brakes must be replaced fairly often. Additionally, V-brakes don’t work that well in wet conditions, so they’re less suited to rainy weather.
The coaster brake is one of the oldest types of bike brakes and is now largely obsolete. With a coaster brake, the brake itself is fitted within the body of the rear wheel hub. When you pedal in reverse, the brake is engaged.
Although the coaster brake’s days are over, it’s still fair to say it’s a reliable and weather-resistant braking system, because the brake itself is located within the rear hub. Another advantage is that a coaster brake is very low maintenance.
Bicycles with a coaster brake do not have a gear shift. Some bicycles combine a coaster brake with a front-wheel handlebar brake. Children’s bicycles sometimes still come with a coaster brake.
Drum brakes and roller brakes
From a design point of view, drum brakes and roller brakes are similar to coaster brakes. Most bicycle manufacturers produce their bikes with roller brakes or modern drum brakes. Both brakes belong to the hub brake family.
These braking systems are known to be very reliable and to perform well in all weather conditions. The underlying design of this braking system is quite simple and therefore maintenance-free and relatively cheap to buy.
In most cases, the drum brake is an integral part of the hub. When you pull the lever on your handlebars, the brake shoes are pushed against the inside of the drum, causing friction and quickly slowing the wheel down.
A roller brake is a special type of drum brake designed by the manufacturer Shimano and usually only compatible with Shimano-brand bikes. Roller brakes are lighter than drum brakes and are more weatherproof, thus requiring less maintenance.
It’s also easier to handle when a roller brake wears out; with drum brakes, the entire wheel often needs replacing, but with roller brakes the brake alone can be replaced without affecting the wheel.
Bike brake maintenance guide
Some bike brakes require little maintenance. But it can happen that your bike brakes produce an annoying squealing or squeaking noise or need to be adjusted. Regular maintenance and care of your bicycle brakes is important to ensure a risk-free ride. In the event you’re confronted with a life-threatening situation, you want your brakes functioning optimally
One of the most common maintenance jobs is replacing the brake pads, which is often a must when your brakes produce the aforementioned sound. Upon replacing the brakes, they will need to be adjusted again.
Regular cleaning of your brakes is another important aspect of maintenance. Brakes cannot function properly when coated with dirt, grease, or other filthy deposits. A brake cleaner spray can help loosen the dirt.
The brake screws or bolts should also be tightened regularly. Proper care and maintenance keep you safe when cycling and ensure that you reach your destination safe and sound.
Make sure you can rely on your brakes!It’s essential that you can rely on your bicycle’s brakes, because they provide control and safety while cycling. The brakes are an essential component of your bike – no other component has such a major impact on your safety.
Which braking system will suit you best depends on your personal preference, the bike type, and the conditions. High-quality brake systems are usually more expensive, which will also affect the overall price of your bike.
If you notice your braking system is making strange noises or functioning poorly, even when it’s only a small issue, you should act immediately and check the brake system. Don’t wait too long to repair or maintain your brakes – you can end up risking not only your own life but those of others. Spending money on good, high-quality bike brakes is an investment, not a cost!