Everyone who has ever ridden a bike before can tell you the best kind of brakes are the kind that will allow you to stop on a dime. Assuming, of course, the act of stopping itself does not cause you to fly over your handlebars. All jokes aside, having brakes, you can depend on in an emergency and for casual speed control will allow you to enjoy your ride more comfortably and trust your bike’s performance.
Mountain bikes, in particular, can utilize several different kinds of brakes. Still, the most common are either disc brakes or hydraulic brakes, with hydraulic brakes utilizing fluid-filled brake lines to get you to stop, while disc brakes are mechanical and use cable systems to pull the pad into place, allowing you to stop when you need to.
What Are the Best Mountain Bike Brakes?
Below, we will be going over eight of the most popular mountain bike brakes in the market currently, with some that will be more performance-based and others fitting better into your lifestyle without breaking the bank to get the stopping power you need.
The first set of brakes on the list are hydraulic and come in various colors from the manufacturer. However, Hope Tech’s biggest boon is its fluid-stopping power and ability to adjust the lever systems to your needs. The brakes are made of aluminum and are meager in weight, making them a fantastic addition to your build without changing the overall feel of your ride.
Shimano is known for its quality products, but you won’t pay an arm and a leg to get them in your garage and on your bike. They come in a sleek black design and are hydraulic-based brake systems, so you can trust that your ride will feel as smooth as these brakes look. The pad and piston are insulated, and the handle is made of resin, so it will touch your hands great with or without gloves.
Breaking away from the hydraulic brake systems for a moment, the SRAM Code enters the ring, and it won’t be pulling any stopping power on its arrival. Coming in yet another stylish black finish and boasting a stainless steel heat shield, you can ensure that your fluids will remain at safe and reliable temperatures, and because the core parts are made out of that same stainless steel, you will also be using an extremely durable product.
The HOPE XCR Pro brake set is lightweight, featuring a carbon lever blade backed with an endurance-tested titanium metal frame. Not only are you trading heavier, clunky brakes for something that will go the distance along with you, but you’ll also be doing it in style, as the HOPE XCR comes in a very crisp silver-on-black design. The system is also disc-based, although certain cyclists might consider this option a bit out of their budget.
If the phrase “So nice we did it twice” were to retain any true form of relevance, it’d be with the back-to-back entrance of the HOPE brand. Still, this time, the primary color scheme is orange on silver. Still, you will be getting the same level of versatility. Still, this model is catered to people who want that hydraulic feel.
Other than that, you won’t find many significant differences between the two, but for the same price as the other HOPE and the option to choose your favorite break style, you can’t go wrong.
Shying away from some pricier models, the Shimano Deore goes for a more minimalist design on its brakes. This bad boy features a hydraulic-based system with a black powder-coated finish.
The metal utilized in the build is aluminum, so it will take a considerable amount of force for you to break or bend it, and the BR-M8120 4-piston caliper that this particular brake comes with is intended for more strenuous and difficult rides, so if you prefer a challenge, this brake set will look you in the eye and ask who is quitting first.
As the name might imply (subtly, might I add), the SRAM Level Ultimate brings everything you need and more. Featuring stainless steel on carbon fiber in design, you’ve got a solid metal base and lightweight fluidity all wrapped into one fantastic design. The brake is mechanical instead of hydraulic, but your ride will still be incredibly smooth. This brake also features a unique heat management design, keeping your brakes in optimal performance regardless of the weather.
What Should You Look for When Purchasing Mountain Bike Brakes?
When looking for mountain bike brakes, there are quite a few things you should consider before getting something. Let us take a look at it below.
1. Lever Adjustment
Having options in any situation can feel like a win, and when it comes to the amount of stopping power offered by your bike, this is no exception. Having a pair of brakes that can swap seamlessly from an immediate stopping power in more dangerous environments to a more gradual slowing based on the amount of pressure used is a fantastic feeling. Bear this in mind when shopping around!
2. Brake Pad Material
Not all brakes are created equally, and the same can be said of the brake pad material being utilized. There are three primary kinds to choose from:
Each of them offers varying degrees of stopping power and lasts for different amounts of time as well. Their biggest discernable differences genuinely boil down to stopping power and the ability to endure the weather.
3. Four-Piston Brakes vs Two-Piston Brakes
Four-piston brake sets give you more stopping power and dependability when riding more intense courses and trails. Four-piston breaks should be taken if stopping power is necessary. On the other hand, two-piston brakes offer less stopping power, allowing you to shed some weight from your overall design.
4. Brake Fluid
When it comes down to brake fluid, your two biggest choices will be either DOT fluid or mineral oil. Those of us who prefer to keep things natural might like going with mineral oil, that and its innate ability to be cleaned more easily than the messy DOT fluid, which can quickly ruin a paint job or irritate your skin if exposed directly to it.
5. Pad Removal
An essential part of your mountain bike maintenance routine is the ability to remove your pads, which will let you clean them, thus giving you more time to enjoy your bike and keep it at peak performance.
What Brakes Are Better on a Mountain Bike?
The best brake depends on the kind of ride you want to have. Truthfully, hydraulic brakes offer a smoother ride on most terrain. In contrast, mechanical brakes will keep you from slamming into something in an emergency or give you the hard stopping power you may need when encroaching on unexpected obstacles.
Are Disc Brakes Worth It on a Mountain Bike?
The decision to go with disc brakes depends on several factors, personal preference being one of them, but the weather in your location also makes a considerable difference in this decision. Disc brakes are also centered on your bike directly above the wheel instead of being integrated into its design.
Is It Worth Upgrading Bike Brakes?
Yes, but you should probably try to have a tangible reason for investing prior. If your current brakes are going bad or have been damaged, for example, or aren’t offering you the stopping power you need to remain safe on your trails, but an investment into your brakes is an investment in your safety, and to that end, it is worthwhile in the long run.
It will ultimately take time to figure out a bike brake that will eventually fulfill all of your needs, wants, and desires. Still, with enough research and testing, you will find that perfect fit that you can emulate until the end of time, with any luck that process will be short.