Our pick of the best bike brakes.
1) TRP Spyke Alloy Mechanical Disc Brake Caliper | 2) TEKTRO R539 Fixie Track Road Bike Dual Pivot Brake Calipers | 3) Ashima Airotor Disc Disk Brake Rotor | 4) Shimano XTR SM-RT99 Freeza Center Lock Rotor | 5) Vilano Single Speed (Front & Rear 47-57mm) Road Bike Brakes | 6) SHIMANO SLX BL-M665 BR-M665 Hydraulic Disc Front Brake | 7) Diatech Magic–Tektro 316AG Rear Bicycle Brake Kit | 8) TOPCABIN CNC manufacture Aluminum Alloy Bicycle Brake Handle Mountain Road Bike Brake | 9) Shimano V-Brake Set X-type Front + Rear Set | 10) SRAM SRAM 990 TT Brake Levers | 11) Carl Brouhard Designs Brake Arm | 12) Shimano Flat Mount Road Bicycle Hydraulic Disc Brake Caliper | 13) Shimano Dura Ace BL-TT79 Brake Levers | 14) Avid BB7 MTN G2 Front or Rear Rotor | 15) Shimano XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake | 16) TOPHOME Fit for Suzuki Clutch DRZ400S Dirt Bike Pivot Brake | 17) Shimano brake set XT M8000, Hydraulic MTB Disk Brakes | 18) Dia Compe Tech 77 Right and Left Black Bicycle Brake Levers | 19) Shimano Deore BL-T611 Brake Lever | 20) Zeta (ZETA) lever guard duralumin |
How Do Disc Brakes Work?
As with v-brakes, all disc brakes are operated with a handlebar-mounted brake lever. At the business end of the brake system is the brake caliper, with front brake calipers mounted close to the bottom left leg of your forks, and back brakes bolted securely to the rear left seatstay. Attached to the hub of each wheel is a circular metal rotor, the outer strip of which runs through the caliper and is your braking surface.
While there are differences in how individual brake systems work the principles are generally the same. Inside the caliper are a number of pistons – usually two, one for each side of the rotor – to which the brake pads are attached.
Pulling on the levers will result in the pistons moving inwards, towards the rotor, and the brake pads making contact with its surface. The resulting friction is what will bring your bike to a controlled halt in all conditions.
Why Disc Brakes?
Disc brakes carry two main advantages over v-brakes or cantilevers.
Firstly, by moving the braking surface from the rim of the wheel to a hub-mounted rotor, they keep it clear of the inevitable water and mud that are part and parcel of the MTB experience.
This means a vast improvement in stopping power and reliability when things turn damp – compared to the ‘haul-and-hope’ experience that is v-brakes in wet weather – but also an end to having your rims and rubber pads constantly chewed by a grinding paste of gritty crud, thus lengthening the life of your kit.
Secondly, disc brakes offer great improvements in terms of pure performance over their rim-brake rivals, with much improved levels of stopping power increasing according to brake type, rotor size and more. While v-brakes still have their fans, most bikers have now embraced the multiple performance and longevity advantages of the modern generation of disc anchors.
Which Road Bike Brake Should I Buy?
As with v-brakes, caliper brakes for road bikes are functionally very similar across brands and price points – paying more will get you a lighter brake with sharper performance, but even the most budget calipers will work the same way as the most expensive.
Caliper brakes for road bikes fall can either be single-pivot, where both arms pivot at a single point (the centre bolt), or dual-pivot, where one arm pivots at the centre and the other at the side (the second pivot attached to the other arm).
Single-pivot brakes are generally lighter but dual-pulls offer more braking power. Most modern road bike calipers are side-pull (the cable actuating the brake is to one side instead of in the centre).
Caliper brakes for road bikes are usually attached with a bolt which threads through a corresponding hole on the frame – road bikes may have a short brace that connects the seatstays close to the seat tube, with the hold drilled through this, while on road forks the hold will be found just below the steerer tube.
NOTE: Most caliper brakes are used in conjunction with the combined brake and gear lever units found on modern road bikes. Separate brake levers are available but cantilever brake levers (e.g. v-brake levers) are not compatible with calipers as they require a different amount of cable to be pulled in order to work properly.
If you are considering a disc brake upgrade for your road bike, be sure to check compatibility. As with MTBs, disc brakes for road bikes will require mounts on the frame and forks for the brake calipers, and bolt holes on the wheel hubs for the disc rotor.
As disc brakes are only making inroads into the road market now, fewer road bikes will be ‘disc-ready’ as standard and it may be an expensive upgrade (also, for hydraulic discs you will need new brake/gear levers, or a cable-actuated widget called a disc brake converter which allows you to run hydraulic hoses to conventional road levers).
Either way, it’s likely to work out an expensive upgrade. The day will come when disc brakes on road bikes are a common choice, but it’s not quite here yet.