Cycling Tips

Types and Features of Brake Systems

Types and Features of Brake Systems

This article aims to give you a comprehensive understanding of brake systems. Brake systems are categorized into two main types based on the frame mounting method: disc brakes and rim brakes.


Disc Brake Systems


Disc brake systems have gained popularity in recent years, especially in the realm of mountain bikes and high-end road bikes. They generate braking force by squeezing brake pads against a rotor (disc) attached to the wheel. Depending on the transmission method, disc brakes are primarily classified into hydraulic disc brakes and mechanical disc brakes (cable-actuated disc brakes).

Hydraulic Disc Brakes:

These brakes utilize fluid transmission to apply braking force, resulting in greater and more responsive braking power. Hydraulic disc brakes offer reliable braking performance in various conditions.

Mechanical Disc Brakes:

Braking force is applied through cable actuation. When the brake lever is pulled, the force exerted on the brake cable compresses the brake pads against the rotor. The force applied to the brake lever must be greater than that generated at the caliper.


Rim Brake Systems


Traditional rim brake systems, also known as rim brakes, are common in bicycles. They can be further categorized into different types based on their operating principles and structures, including caliper brakes, V-brakes, and U-brakes.

Caliper Brakes:

These are the most common type of rim brakes, typically used in road bikes. They generate braking force by clamping onto both sides of the rim.


Found mostly on mountain bikes, V-brakes offer greater braking power and are suitable for rougher terrain.


Mainly used in BMX bikes, U-brakes have a compact structure and provide moderate braking force.


Brake Feel


In terms of braking force exertion, the brake feel ranges from light to heavy as follows:

Hydraulic Disc Brakes:

Light and responsive, requiring less force to brake effectively.

Rim Brakes:

Moderate force required.

Mechanical Disc Brakes:

Require more force to operate.


Stopping Distance


The stopping distances for each type of brake are as follows:

Hydraulic Disc Brakes:

Quick stopping with shorter distances.

Rim Brakes:

Moderate stopping distances, slightly longer than hydraulic disc brakes.

Mechanical Disc Brakes:

Stopping distances fall between moderate and longer distances.


Brake System Selection Advice


Hydraulic Disc Brakes:

Ideal for those seeking efficient braking performance, offering excellent performance in various weather conditions, including wet environments.

Cable-Actuated Hydraulic Disc Brakes:

Provide performance enhancements and compatibility but may not match hydraulic disc brakes' efficiency in wet conditions.

Mechanical Disc Brakes:

Despite being cheaper, they require more force to brake effectively and need continuous maintenance.

In summary, hydraulic disc brakes outperform other brake types in terms of efficiency, especially in wet conditions. Rim brakes remain a reliable and economical choice for daily commuting, road cycling, and leisure riding.


Weight Comparison


Rim Brakes:

Typically lightweight, adding minimal weight to the bicycle, ranging from 200g to 400g.

Disc Brakes:

Generally heavier, with hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes weighing between 400g and 1000g. Additional components like brake discs and calipers increase the overall weight by approximately 200g to 500g.


Price Comparison


Rim Brakes:

Relatively affordable, with standard models priced between $20 and $50, while high-end models may cost around $100.

Disc Brakes:

Generally more expensive, with cable-actuated disc brakes priced between $50 and $100, and hydraulic disc brakes typically ranging from $100 to $300. High-end models can be even pricier.

By comparing different brake systems, you can make a well-informed decision based on your specific requirements and preferences. We hope this article helps enhance your understanding of brake systems and aids in improving your cycling experience.


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