What type of brakes do you use on your bike?


I’d be interested to see what type of brakes everyone is using on their main bike. Therefore, I’ve put together this quick poll.

When we’ve got the results, I’ll write up an article on the pro’s and con’s of each type.

Feel free to share any thoughts in the comments too!

Note: I realise this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the different types of brakes available.

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37 Responses to What type of brakes do you use on your bike?

  1. Daniel 06/07/2012 at 10:22 am #

    Excellent, look forward to reading this. Love the blog Andreas.

    • Andreas 06/07/2012 at 10:23 am #

      Thanks Daniel – I’m interested to see the results!

  2. Alexander Baxevanis 06/07/2012 at 10:23 am #

    After going on holidays and cycling in Copenhagen, I’ve been seriously considering fitting a hub with a coaster (‘back-pedal’) brake on my rear wheel. Main advantage: hands-free braking!

    • Andreas 06/07/2012 at 10:24 am #

      They are good once you get the hang of them. When I first hopped on it was rather scary making sure you remember to back pedal!

      • Hugh 06/07/2012 at 2:45 pm #

        I have a coaster brake on my commuter, and my main problem is when I get back on my road bike I always go to back pedal when braking for the first corner. Scary.

    • Ray 06/07/2012 at 10:27 am #

      Hi Alexander

      I used to have the same braking system on my BMX when I was young. Made controlling and be able to balance so much easier.

      A single speed rider now and things are very basic but would love to convert back.

    • barton 09/07/2012 at 8:47 pm #

      My winter bike has this set up, as any other type of brake is going to get all mucked up and/or frozen solid in our Minnesota sub-zero (Farenheit) winters. It is a bit tricky during the first few days on it (and conversely, off it in the spring) trying to remember how to break (as well as clipping in/out on the road bike). If you bike at all in slush, snow or on ice, they also really help (counter-intuitively, you’d think at first) maintain balance on quickly shifting road conditions.

      I’m guessing with all the precipitation the UK has gotten this summer, this could be a serious help.

  3. goonz 06/07/2012 at 10:39 am #

    Some great useful blogs today Andreas, thanks for that.

    Seems most subscribers have road bikes.

    I have always wondered why disk brakes are not fitted to road bikes. It may be a simple answer such as safety but does anyone know?

    • Andreas 06/07/2012 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks Goonz – off the top of my head I’d say the weight of the disk brakes would be what would put people off. Think disk brakes are becoming more common on Hybrid bikes though.

    • Chris 06/07/2012 at 11:02 am #

      I’d say there are lots of contributory factors….

      1. Tyre friction. It’s already much easier to lock up the tyres on a road bike with caliper brakes than it is a mountain bike with much more rubber on the road, and once you’ve reached that point, any extra braking ability is just a waste.

      2. Weight. Disc brakes would add much more weight as a percentage of total to a road bike.

      3. Need. In theory, there’s less chance of wading through mud on a road bike, so less need for keeping the braking surfaces away from it. In practice, commuting through London in a deluge is enough to wipe out all my braking capability!!!

      4. The UCI. By banning them on cyclocross bikes (which was surely the natural crossover point from mountain bikes to road bikes) they stopped this from happening. Now that they’ve revoked the ban, I’d expect them to become far more widespread far more quickly.

  4. Richard 06/07/2012 at 10:51 am #

    Looking forward to the article on brake types. I have a touring bike and V-brakes are often mentioned as the best for touring due to their simplicity. Many adventure tourers tend to avoid disk brakes as if the disk is damaged it can leave you stuck. That said some have toured the globe without a problem with disk brakes.

    • barton 09/07/2012 at 8:50 pm #

      this is my fear. What if I find myself in po-dunk rural US (a distinct possibility the way I ride and where I ride) with a busted disc? With the right tools (which I carry) and small replacement pads (which I also carry) I can fix v-brakes enough to keep me moving.

      But how good are the odds that the small bike shop that only sells two types of low priced bikes will know how to fix disc brakes, let alone keep the necessary parts on hand?

  5. Matti 06/07/2012 at 11:02 am #

    I hate the idea of disk brakes on bicycles (except downhill mountain bikes etc., where the power is pretty useful). A good set of caliper brakes can stop a road bike just fine and v-brakes can be very strong. I know they have advantages beyond braking such as not wearing out your rims, but I find them a) overkill, b) more complicated and c) ugly.

    That said, I find any bike not made of steel and a level top tube a bit ugly too… I’ll just go back to my 25 year old tourer and its cantilevers.

  6. ian 06/07/2012 at 11:17 am #

    I have disc brakes on my commute bike which is a Kona Honky Inc. I ride a 34 mile round commute in London in all weathers and was fed up of eating through rims and taking an age to stop in the rain. Modern disc brakes do not add a lot to the weight of the bike and I find I have much more confidence in the stopping ability of disc brakes then rim brakes. Essential for London/City commuting.

  7. coney 06/07/2012 at 11:44 am #

    After experiencing discs on my MTB I can’t go back. Avid Elixir R’s with a 180mm rotor up front and a 120mm rear – stops me dead every time rain or shine.

  8. Nick D 06/07/2012 at 11:52 am #

    Unless you’re really doing something hardcore (eg downhill mountain biking) disc brakes are just not worth the hassle.

    They are expensive to buy, make it way harder to change tyres / wheels, require far more frequent & expensive maintenance and make what should be a simple vehicle un-necessarily complicated.

    Yet people see them as ‘better’ – I say in most situations they’re far worse….

    • Chris 06/07/2012 at 4:46 pm #

      Was that a typo when you said discs make it harder to change wheels??

      I have three bikes. In descending order of difficulty when it comes to changing wheels, they are as follow:

      Hardest (although not exactly hard) – Campag caliper brakes with Shimano shifters. For this I have to let the tyres down, as Campag have the brake release in the shifter, whereas Shimano have it on the brake.

      Very easy – Campag caliper brakes and shifters. Push the release pin on the calipers to open the brakes up, loosen QR skewer, remove wheel. Reverse to refit.

      Easiest (by a slight margin) – Shimano discs & shifters. Loosen QR skewer, remove wheel. Reverse to refit.

  9. Nick D 06/07/2012 at 11:53 am #

    May I add – I have never had any problems stopping with rim brakes – and I go fast…

  10. William Hook 06/07/2012 at 12:15 pm #

    I have hydraulic disc brakes on my bike – 180/160mm rotors with Avid Elixar 3 brakes, though it is a proper mountain bike. On the road, it doesn’t make that much difference compared to a good rim brake, but when mountain biking it makes a HUGE difference.

  11. Adam 06/07/2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Be sure to mention the difference in performance between mechanical and hydraulic disc brakes (they’re very different beasts!) and even the difference in tune-ability, reliability and performance of old single pivot vs modern dual pivot road calipers.

  12. Adam 06/07/2012 at 1:19 pm #

    @Nick D and Matti.

    Disc brakes on cargo and load carrying bikes can be vital. They’re not just for off road / downhill MTB use.

  13. gordon 06/07/2012 at 1:24 pm #

    I would say that disc brakes (hydraulic) causes less problems in the long run as they run far longer without maintenance as they are self adjusting and work far better in the rain than rim brakes, also taking the wheel off is far easier as you would only have to release the quick release to remove the wheel whereas with v brakes you have to release and reconnect ( which as a cycle mechanic I can assure you barely 50% of cyclists know how to do ) also the pads last far longer you rim will last far longer due to no wear I could go on listing reasons why discs are much better than rim brakes, ftr I use both disc on commuter and caliper on my road bike.

    • Nick D 06/07/2012 at 2:03 pm #

      How long can you go without changing your disc brake pads or maintaining them?

      I went literally years – cycling on average 5-10 miles per day, without needing to change my caliper pads or doing any maintenance (other than oil) – and changing them was a 2 minute job and cost almost nothing.

      I know people with disc brakes – admittedly might be different to yours – but they had a lot of issues with alignment – and had to change the pads far more regularly – and the whole things was just way more complex and harder to work out requiring specialist knowledge and tools.

      ive never had any problems braking in the wet on the road.

      Changing / repairing tyres never involved the brakes in any way.

      • gordon 06/07/2012 at 2:51 pm #

        more than 2 years without touching them once with over 8 thousand miles per year.

        • Nick D 06/07/2012 at 2:54 pm #

          Really? I know that’s not always the case with discs.

          How fast / easy is it to change the pads of it goes wrong? What about hydraulic related issues – or finding spare parts etc (specially if cycling in remote locations).

        • Andreas 06/07/2012 at 4:12 pm #

          Changing pads on disk brakes is very easy. Maybe a 10 minute job?

        • gordon 06/07/2012 at 4:13 pm #

          can change a set of pads in less than 3 mins, release quick release the wheel then one bolt holds both pads and spring in place once removed slide out, slide in new replace bolt, then replace wheel, if alignment is slightly out use a cable tie to hold the brake shut while tightening two mount bolts, also just measured a set of pads and compared them to a brand new pair and less than a third used over two years.

        • Nick D 06/07/2012 at 6:18 pm #

          so is there no validity to the expense / complexity / reliability / repairability argument?

        • Nick D 06/07/2012 at 6:28 pm #

          oh and weight too?

        • barton 09/07/2012 at 8:56 pm #

          I go only six months without having to change the pads on my rear V-brakes. I do about 120-170 miles a week commuting (plus a weekend rides), and we have some hills here that, while not long (1/2 mile long for the longest but this one is only 6% grade), are steep are very curvy, have poorly maintained pavement and a LOT of sand/sediment along the space given to cyclists, so in order to keep my skin on my body, I tend to brake frequently to keep the speed down on descent. I therefore am chaning my pads every 1500/2000 miles.

          As I am not going to speed up on my descent (again, I like my skin where it is) maybe disc brakes would be a good option on the next bike.

  14. Anthony Cartmell 06/07/2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Drum brakes, full chaincase, hub gears on my Dutch bike, so nothing dirty. Jump on and ride whatever you’re wearing 🙂

  15. Tom 06/07/2012 at 7:24 pm #

    I have a set of Avid BB7 road mechanical disc brakes on my cyclocross bike I use for a 16 mile commute, they are fantastic, require way less maintenance that the v brakes on my old bike ad have really consistant stopping power whatever the weather. I’ve done about 4000 miles on them so far and am yet to change the pads.

  16. recur 06/07/2012 at 11:12 pm #

    You’ve left out brakeless fixed gear. I’d guess that’s “other.”
    I ride with an emergency caliper brake, but very rarely use it.

  17. SoTyred 07/07/2012 at 6:48 pm #

    we be interesting to compare this with a ‘what bike do you ride’ survey

  18. J Lynch 09/07/2012 at 8:46 am #

    Hi, I bought a caliper for the front of my fixie, much like my fellow fixie comment. Only problem is that I can never get the brake to fit snug enough so that I have the brake pulled only half way; without the brakes rubbing the rim when I release the brake.

    Any thoughts?


  19. Phil 09/07/2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I have been using Deore hydraulics on my commuting bike for 8-9 months now, and will not go back to V brakes or cantis, of any hue. No piddling about adjusting for block wear or cable stretch, no swearing as the brake arms ping out of my fingers just when I’ve got the noodle in the right place, no worrying about how much wear I’ve got left in the rims, truing needed far less often ( Mavic 721 ), easier to swap pads, better braking in the wet going down a 1 in 8.

  20. Moshbear 12/07/2012 at 9:31 am #

    Disc brakes: Hayes Stroker Ace calipers and Hayes Nine levers – 160/160 F/R.

    The wet braking with them is nothing short of awesome and I’ve been able to consistently pull 30 degree stoppies from 4 mph, given a 25-ish lb bike and 275 lbs of me + backpack.

    The fact that the cables very rarely need replacement, and that ceramic is just more universally responsive than rubber, make my life far easier. Plus, T25-headed bolts just last longer than hex ones.

    In fact, the main reason I’m staying away from cyclocross frames is because STI / dual pull brifters aren’t disc-compatible, nor do there exist reasonably-priced mechanical to hydraulic adapters.

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