September 05, 2015

1 comment

Rim Vs Mechanical Disc Vs Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Mountain bikes and hybrids/fitness bikes come with three major brake set options - rim brakes, mechanical disc brakes and hydraulic disc brakes. But how does one decide which kind of brake set should they go for while looking for a bike? Well, we've got just the gyaan you'll be needing to make this decision.

How do brakes work?

All brake sets work in a very similar way. When the rider pulls on the lever, the cables or the fluid help compress the brake caliper. This in turn causes the brake pads to come in contact with the rim (in case of rim brakes) or with the rotor (in case of disc brakes). Hence, slowing down the bike or bringing it to a standstill.

Rim Brakes

Rim brakes come in several different types - v-brakes, u-brakes, cantilever brakes or direct pull brakes. On most of the entry level mountain bikes and hybrids with rim brakes, its the v-brakes that will be predominant.


  • Lighter than disc brakes
  • Less expensive than disc brakes
  • Mechanically very simple to maintain
  • Easier to repair in the middle of the ride if something goes wrong.


  • Braking is compromised in wet and muddy conditions
  • Brakes are less responsive and have less stopping power than disc brakes

Disc Brakes

On most of the non-entry level mountain bikes today, disc brakes have become the norm. They comprise of levers, cables or fluid depending on if its a mechanical disc brake or hydraulic disc brake, calipers, brake pads and rotors.


  • Respond consistently in all riding conditions
  • Braking effectiveness is not impacted by mud, rain, and snow because the pads and rotors are near the center of the wheel
  • Better stopping power than rim brakes
  • Require less force to be effective so easier on the hands


  • Heavier than v-brakes
  • More expensive than v-brakes
  • More complicated to set up and maintain than v-brakes

Hydraulic Vs Mechanical Disc Brakes


Advantages of mechanical disc brakes:

  • Easier to set up and maintain compared to hydraulic disc brakes.
  • Cost lesser than hydraulic disc brakes.

Disadvantages of mechanical disc brakes:

  • The level of modulation is less compared to hydraulic
  • Have to apply more pressure to brake than hydraulic brakes

With hydraulic mountain bike disc brakes, instead of a steel cable, hydraulic fluid pushes pistons inside the caliper, which compress the brake pads.

Advantages of Hydraulic disc brakes:

  • More precise control and sensitivity, which is good for technical riding
  • Don't have to use as much pressure to brake
  • Have a crisper feel than mechanical brakes

Disadvantages of hydraulic disc brakes:

  • More complicated mechanically to set up and maintain
  • Can not fix on the trail if they fail because of the special equipment that is needed


1 Response


December 25, 2015

Re: cons of hydraulic sdisc brakes.

IME, this is tricky when it comes to maintenance.

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