LAST UPDATED: November 5, 2019
Best Mountain Bike Brakes: Boost Your Stopping Power
Brake harder and stop more quickly with these mountain bike brakes
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON November 5, 2019
If you are in need of new brakes or want to replace your stock ones, we’ve got a list of the best mountain bike brakes to consider. Over time, your old ones will wear down, and your stopping time will be reduced, which makes biking more dangerous. To avoid hitting trees or rocks, here are a few of the best mountain bike brakes on the market.
An affordable, entry-level hydraulic brake set with a versatile design suitable for a wide range of flat handlebar bikes.
- Includes three-finger steel levers tuned for entry-level riding and easy reach adjustment when used with smaller hands.
- Brakes are pre-bled and fully assembled for convenience and easy installation.
- The specialized mineral oil brake fluid requires a specific brake-bleeding kit.
- Poor modulation.
An inexpensive front and rear brake set that comes with wire cables and installation hardware. It can fit almost any bicycle.
- Components are high-quality for the low price point.
- Works seamlessly on a range of bikes.
- Comes with all the tools necessary for a painless installation.
- Not designed for heavy-duty cycling.
- Not intended for kid’s bikes.
- The screws can get rusty.
A fine-tuned mechanical disc brake system for mountain bikes designed with a sturdy aluminum body for enhanced durability.
- The lightweight brakes feature 160mm disc rotors and a stylish and sleek design.
- They are easy to adjust when needed and provide stopping power that is both efficient and quiet.
- Might not be compatible with all brake pads, so be sure to check before you buy
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Benefits of Mountain Bike Brakes
- Superior braking performance. The better your brakes, the more enjoyable your ride. If you have high-quality mountain bike brakes, you can go faster, experience different terrains, and try new riding styles with full confidence.
- Enhanced safety. Knowing that your brakes will respond when you need them to is vital for any biker, but it’s even more important on the rough, uneven terrain of the trails and during the downhill, gravity-led runs down mountains.
- Style. While it’s not the most important factor when it comes to something like mountain bike brakes, one of the benefits of replacing your original brakes is that you can configure your bike so it’s a little bit more you.
Types of Mountain Bike Brakes
The original type of bicycle brake, rim brakes—also known as V-brakes or direct-pull brakes—pinch the rim of the wheel to create friction, which slows and stops your bike. Hydraulic options are available, though not widely, and cable-action rim brakes are common everywhere. They’re light, cheap, and easy to maintain but can be negatively affected by bad weather and poor terrain.
Generally seen as the benchmark of a high-quality mountain bike and somewhat of a requirement on downhill bikes, disc brakes are either mechanical or hydraulic. A disc—or rotor—is fitted to the wheel hub, and piston calipers squeeze this (instead of the wheel rim) to create friction and slow the wheel. Because the disc rotor is further from the ground, disc brakes perform better in wet weather than rim brakes but are more prone to failure caused by overheating.
Drum brakes use brake pads or shoes to create friction by pressing against the inside of the drum. Brakes on cars are the same, but bicycle drum brakes are cable powered rather than hydraulic. Being fully enclosed means they provide consistent stopping power in all weather, but they are heavier and less efficient than rim brakes. They are not commonly found on mountain bikes.
Founded in 1921, Shimano Inc. is based in Sakai, Japan. It designs and manufactures leisure products, such as fishing tackle and rowing gear, although cycling components account for around 80 percent of its worldwide sales. The XT M8020 and the Deore M6000 are among its range of popular mountain bike brakes.
Mountain Bike Brakes Pricing
- $10-$69: This is where you’ll find almost all makes and models of V-brakes, some low-specification mechanical disc brakes, and parts that are available as single items.
- $70-$159: In this mid-price range, you’ll find most of the disc brake sets—including both mechanical and hydraulic—available on the market. This is a good place to start for any biker looking to upgrade or replace his or her braking system.
- $160-$250: At the very top end of the price range are the premium hydraulic brake systems—usually Shimano—that incorporate the most expensive materials and high-quality specifications designed for top performance riding.
These are the strong but lightweight metal discs that are affixed to your bike wheels when you employ a disc brake system. Pulling your brake levers causes the brake pads to squeeze the rotor—as opposed to the rim of the wheel—and the resulting friction slows the bike to a stop. Disc rotors are available in diameters between 140mm and 200mm. As a general rule, every 20mm increase in size translates to approximately 15 percent better braking power.
Brake pads are available in sintered, organic, and semi-organic varieties. Sintered usually means metallic and, as such, they are the most hard-wearing but are not as powerful as organic brake pads, which are constructed out of natural materials like rubber or resin. They are the most effective in terms of stopping power but do wear out much quicker than metallic brake pads. Semi-organic pads are often not available on the aftermarket but if you can get them, provide a great compromise between the other two in terms of longevity and performance.
Hydraulic or Mechanical
Rim brakes are almost exclusively mechanical, whereas disc brakes can be either mechanical or hydraulic. Both types of mechanical brakes employ a cable-pulling system to squeeze the calipers against the wheel rim or the rotor. Hydraulic brakes use brake fluid to transfer the force you put on the brake lever to the brake pads, which takes considerably less effort. Hydraulic brakes are much more efficient than cable-pull brakes and therefore come with a higher cost.
- Stopping Power: The confidence you have in your brakes ultimately affects the confidence you have in your bike. If you’re a downhill mountain biker, you need to know that you can stop at will. For guaranteed stopping at high speeds, choose disc brakes with metallic pads and at least four pistons. The greater the diameter of your rotor, the greater the performance in terms of braking force and heat resistance.
- Modulation: Modulation refers to the level of control you have over the braking power. In other words, does the amount of pressure you apply on the hand lever directly affect how much friction is applied to the wheel? The level of modulation depends on the manufacturer, but how important it is to your buying decision will depend on your riding style and personal preference.
- Maintenance: While a mechanical braking system will need cleaning occasionally, hydraulic brakes are fully sealed against the buildup of dirt and grime. They will, however, require bleeding and their brake fluid replaced on at least semi-regular intervals. The level of complexity involved in this process varies across manufacturers, so consider your expertise and how conveniently you could visit a bike mechanic, if necessary before making your decision.
- Price: Think sensibly about your specific requirements before choosing new brakes. Do you need a rotor with especially high heat resistance for top braking performance? If you’re more of an easy-going trail rider, two pistons will probably suffice over six. And similarly, there’s no point spending more on your brakes than you did on the entire bike.
Best Mountain Bike Brakes Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This is a complete set of front and rear hydraulic disc brakes with mounting brackets and a brake hose. The brakes also come pre-assembled and pre-bled by Shimano for maximum convenience and easy installation. This an affordable choice for those looking to upgrade from mechanical disc brakes and, as a top-end model, will provide much better braking performance than cheaper options on the market. The versatile design is easy to install and will suit most flat-handlebar mountain bikes. The easily-adjustable, three-finger brake levers are intended to be easily accessible with minimal reach and are therefore perfect for entry-level riders.
However, these brakes offer low modulation, and stopping power has been adjusted to suit younger riders. Since the levers have been sized specifically for small hands, this particular brake set may not suit larger or more experienced riders. Changing the brake fluid will also require specialized mineral oil and a specific bleeding kit, resulting in additional expense.
If you only take your mountain bike out once every few weeks, then you can replace the brakes with this affordable brake set for the front and rear wheels. The kit comes with a pair of V-brakes with 2.1-inch brake pads, a pair of 78-inch, barrel-ended brake cables, two cable end caps, and six end ferrules. The brake set is made of a combination of alloy and plastic, and the brake cable is made of high-tensile metal to make a strong brake system that can handle the pressure of instant braking. The brakes are easy to install and fit almost all bicycles, including mountain bikes, road bikes, and BMX bikes.
However, being a budget-priced brake set, it isn’t as durable as the higher-priced alternatives. The finish on the cable and screws wears down easily, especially with heavy-duty riding. Another thing to note is, it won’t fit the mounting hole on most kid bikes.
If you’re in the market for a complete overhaul of your mountain bike braking system, check out the Rujoi Bike Disc Brake Kit. It’s a complete and total replacement solution that includes two aluminum front and back 51 mm brake calipers, two aluminum brake handles, two stainless steel 160 mm rotors, two sets of six bolts, and the necessary brake cables. This kit boasts easy assembly and installation due to an upgraded tool-free pad adjuster that lets you change your brakes without disassembling the calipers, so there’s no need for a plum six-angle screwdriver.
The automatic lever position requires no adjustments and ensures quick breaking. This set is designed to be universally compatible with all brake pads, but since it doesn’t include brake pads in the kit, it’s the perfect opportunity to replace those as well. If you’re not planning on replacing the brake pads, be sure to check with the manufacturer for compatibility before purchasing.
The Wake Mountain Bike V Brakes Set is a good quality replacement set of v brakes that is easy to install and simple to use. Great as a replacement for a child’s bike brakes, this option is a super bargain that includes brake pads as well. It will fit 99-percent of all v brake bike setups. This set of replacement brakes is constructed from durable aluminum alloy and plastic.
The arch size is 110 mm and the size of the brake pads is 55 mm, so just double check that they work with your bike set up before purchasing. Also, keep in mind that this is a budget set of brakes, so keep your expectations realistic and don’t expect Shimano quality components at this price point. This kit does come with all necessary mounting hardware, which is a pleasant surprise, given the price point.
The Litetop Disc Brake Rotor is offered at a great price point and rivals models that are much more expensive. It's sold as a set of two, and the outside diameter measures 180 mm, the center distance measures 44 mm, and the thickness is 1.9 mm. They have a standard six-bolt pattern and are constructed from high-quality, rust-resistant stainless steel, making them a durable and long-lasting choice. The design ensures excellent and efficient heat dissipation during braking, making them a great option for your Shimano Alivio or Shimano Deore disc brake system.
The package also comes with 12 screws for accurate and secure mounting. These are not a complete kit, but just replacement rotors, and while we love their similarity to the more expensive TRP-29 rotors, our one concern is that the small drilled holes may not clear out mud very efficiently when mountain biking on super mucky trails.
For a reasonable price, you get a complete brake set for smaller mountain bikes for kids or teens starting from the brake lever to the brake cables and the brakes. This brake set is made of forged aluminum metal that’s designed for durability, and maximum heat dissipation during extreme weather or harsh braking conditions. It’s also lightweight and therefore easier on the brake disc for smoother, noise-free braking. The set is then topped off with a sleek black finish that not only upgrades the general look of your bike but also helps to prevent rust or corrosion.
The brake lever has an ergonomic shape to conform to the rider’s hand, but it requires quite some effort to squeeze it. You may have to slightly readjust it when installing the brakes. Also, it’s not a universal fit, and may not fit on some kid’s bikes, especially ones with a wheel diameter that’s less than 20 inches.
This set of front and rear mechanical disc brakes from BlueSunshine is designed to be used with linear-pull brake levers, which are not included. The set does feature two sets of aluminum alloy calipers, two stainless steel G3 160mm disc rotors, and 1.5-meter brake cables, leaving you with everything necessary for easy installation as well as 12 mounting bolts for maximum convenience.
The components are well built for the low price point, largely because the set does not include brake levers, but the brakes’ universal design can be used with any existing pull brake levers, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. These brakes make use of Avid’s Caliper Positioning System (CPS) for easy setup and adjustability.
The cables on this braking system may be difficult to amend due to poor fitting housing. You might also find that overall stopping power leaves a little to be desired compared to pricier, more high-end models.
- If you are working with disc brakes, be careful not to put too much pressure on the disc. They are thin and lightweight and can bend or bow easily.
- If you have extra cable, don’t worry. You can trim it down to the exact length you need in order to connect it to your brakes and handlebars.
- Think about using a professional bike detailer to install any new brakes to ensure they function effectively.
Q: How do I replace my mountain bike brakes?
A: Disconnect the cables from the handlebar controls, and then feed them through to the actual brakes. You can remove the brakes by loosening the screws holding them to the wheel.
Q: How long do bike brakes last?
A: Pads will be the first to wear out, and they don’t tend to last that long. Check them after strenuous rides to make sure they are still in working order. Brakes can last several years, but it depends on how often you ride and how difficult the terrain is. If you ride daily, then you need to change your brakes more frequently.
Q: Why are my bike brakes squeaking?
A: Noisy brakes are something you will deal with from time to time. New brakes may squeak because of condensation, dirt, or debris that builds up inside of them. However, if the noise gets worse over time, it may be time to replace the pads.
For one of the best mountain bike brake systems that offer reliable and quick braking performance, consider the Shimano M6000 Hydraulic Disc Brake Set.
You can also choose the less expensive Boao Bike Brakes Set, which offers decent braking power.