When it comes to biking safety, there are a few essential things you need to consider. Other than knowing how to ride a bike, one of the most significant factors of biking safety is the quality of bike brakes you have. Not only that, but each brake has its niche use in each type of biking, from casual riding to biking on trails. But what are the different types of bicycle brakes?
There are a good variety of bicycle brakes on the market. You can use each type of brake in every type of biking. However, each type of brake suits better in different situations. The most common types of bicycle brakes are as follows:
- Rim Brakes
- Drum Brakes
- Disc Brakes
As you continue to read this article, we will be going more in-depth about each of the types of brakes listed above. Furthermore, we will also discuss where each of the breaks above excel.
How Do Bicycle Brakes Work?
The rider operates bicycle brakes by applying pressure to brake levers located on the handlebars of the bicycle. You can also operate brakes by pedaling slightly backward on some bicycles as well. When brakes are applied, pressure is sent via cables, rods, hydraulics, or chains to engage the brake pads on the bicycle’s wheels. During this process, the pads are pressed against either the rim of the bicycle or the disc located in the center of the wheel.
When brakes are applied, the brake pads are pressed up against the bicycle wheel, causing friction which slows down the bicycle. The more surface the brake pad can touch when applying the brakes, the faster your bike will slow down.
Every bicycle brake system has three main components:
- The trigger that first engages the brakes (brake levers or bike pedals)
- The component that transfers pressure which applies the brakes to the wheels (Cables, Chains, Rods, Hydraulics)
- Brake pads that apply pressure and friction slowing down the bicycle
Furthermore, there are four types of brake pads:
Metallic Brakes are fully metallic brake pads with metallic grains bonded together with super high pressure. These brake pads are perfect for mountain biking as their high performance and long lifespan are able to sustain the sudden and often braking of mountain bikers.
Semi-Metallic Brakes are a mix of resin and metallic brake pads. They offer improved stopping power over resin pads. However, they do not last as long as metallic. Semi-metallic brake pads are an excellent choice for an all-around biker who does various types of biking, from off-road mountain biking to casual road biking.
Resin Brakes are also known as organic brake pads and are an eco-friendly option for bicycle brakes. Resin brake pads are made of organic materials like glass or rubber. Resin brake pads will make less noise and cause less heat to your bicycle rims. However, they are not as powerful as the other options.
Ceramic Brakes are very similar to metallic brake pads. However, they are not as widely used and are more expensive. Ceramic brake pads provide the same stopping power level as metallic brake pads but produce less heat.
Different Types Of Bicycle Brakes
When it comes to the different types of braking systems on a bicycle, there are three main types; drum, rim, and disc brakes. Each type of brake is exceptional at slowing down your bicycle. However, each brake does have its strengths and weaknesses and is better suited for different types of biking.
- Drum Brakes
Drum brakes are the least common variation of bicycle brakes. Still, they do use the same general braking system as the other types. Drum brakes are usually engaged with lever brakes on the handlebars, primarily using levers and cables to operate the braking system.
Drum brakes work by using a flexible piece of material that wraps around the outside of the brake drum itself. When the brakes are applied, this flexible piece of material tightens and pushes the brake drum against the bicycle’s rim.
The most significant advantage when it comes to drum brakes is that they are much more reliable in rainy, muddy, and dirty conditions. Furthermore, they require less maintenance than the other types of brakes as well. However, the biggest downside is that drum brakes are by far the heaviest type of brake while also having a more complex braking system.
- Rim Brakes
Rim brakes have a wide variety of braking systems. Not only that, but rim brakes are the most popular braking system for bicycles. Rim brakes can be used for just about any form of biking, from racing to advanced mountain biking. With that said, we will only be covering the most popular types of rim brakes.
- Caliper Brakes
Clipper brakes are the most popular out of the different kinds of rim brakes. Clipper brakes work by attaching them to the bike frame or suspension fork. The brake pads are attached to the braking mechanism and are suspended just above the rim of the bicycle. When the levers on the handlebar are squeezed, the pressure is sent to the caliper brakes, which causes them to clamp onto the rim of the bicycle, slowing it down.
The arms of the caliper brakes need to be positioned in just the right spot where they are able to reach past the tire and touch the rim. Because of this, caliper brakes are far less standard on bicycles with wide tires.
- Cantilever Brakes
Cantilever brakes are incredibly similar to caliper brakes. However, instead of being one solid piece, cantilever brakes are made of two pieces. Each of the two parts that make up one cantilever brake is placed on either side of the bicycle tire just above the rim.
Due to how a cantilever brake is constructed, they can accommodate bicycles with wider tires. In fact, cantilever brakes are most commonly seen on cyclocross bikes.
V-brakes are actually a bicycle braking system made by Shimano. V-brakes work the exact same way as caliper and cantilever brakes. However, the construction of v-brakes is much different. V-brakes have long arms that attach to the frame or suspension fork of the bicycle and are more potent than the previous two rim brakes. V-brakes are most commonly seen on off-road and mountain bikes due to their stopping power.
- Disc Brakes
Disc brakes are sort of similar to the brake system that we use on cars. They consist of a metal plate and brake pad located in the center of your bicycle wheels. Like the other types of barking systems, these brakes are activated by either a lever system or a pedal system which causes the brake pads to rub against the disc, slowing down the bicycle.
There are two main types of disc brakes; mechanical disc brakes and hydraulic disc brakes. In addition, there is a third kind of disc brake called hydraulic rim brakes, but these brakes are far less common than the other two.
- Mechanical Disc Brakes
Mechanical disc brakes are very similar to rim brakes. However, instead of the brake pads resting on the rim, a metal disc is installed in the center of the tire. When a braking system is installed at the center of the bicycle tire, there is more potential for greater stopping power with less force applied.
As you pedal your bicycle, the energy you input into the pedals is transferred to the gears in the center of your back tire. This means that the force you apply to your bicycle is concentrated at the center of the wheel. Therefore, when you apply a stopping force to the exact spot where the force causes movement, you stop faster.
The biggest downside to mechanical disc brakes is that they can not be installed on every bicycle. Disc brakes require the bike frame to have compatible hubs while also requiring a specific type of wheel.
Because of the superior stopping power that is granted by mechanical disc brakes, they appear on just about every mountain bike. The stopping power is so superb that disc brakes have started appearing on other types of bicycles.
- Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Hydraulic disc brakes take the increased stopping power of the mechanical disc brakes and amplify it even further. Instead of using cables that apply pressure to the brake pads, hydraulic disc brakes use a closed piston-cylinder system filled with hydraulic fluid. The braking system is very similar to the brakes used on a motorcycle.
The biggest downside to hydraulic disc brakes is the maintenance. It is recommended that you replace your brake fluid every six months. Unfortunately, replacing the hydraulic fluid can be a tedious process.
As you can see, there are quite a few different types of braking systems for bicycles. There are more than we have described above. However, the differences are very minimal and are typically very rare to see. All of the brakes we have described above have a place where they shine the brightest. But you can use every braking system everywhere effectively.
IntermountainBikes.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We also participate in other affiliate programs which compensate us for referring traffic.