Which Brake System is Best for Mountain Biking
The answer depends on the type of mountain biking that you will be doing the must.
If you want the most responsive and consistent braking performances in all trail conditions, disc brakes may be better choices that rim brakes. On the other hand, if you want the shave every possible ounce of weight from your mountain bike and you don’t mind some small variables in braking performance, or if you want to keep the cost of your mountain bike down and still have a dependable braking system, rim brakes can’t be beat.
Rim brakes on mountain bikes have evolved over the years since mountain biking first became popular. The brakes used on mountain bikes at first were the original cantilever brakes, which are still used on road bikes, followed by the short-lived U-Brake, and finally the Shimano trademarked V-brake, which have been the brake of choose for most of the past two decades. Under most conditions, the performance of the V-Brake is quite adequate.
However, when used in wet or muddy conditions, rim brakes perform poorly. Rim brakes have other disadvantages. Over time, the friction of the brake pads against the side of the rim can wear out the rim and may result in the rim braking apart. Rim brakes work best with straight, undamaged rims.
Disc brakes have been around for a long time and were first used on cars brakes. Disc brake didn’t catch on with the mountain biking crowd until the mid to late 1990’s due mainly to some bugs in earlier models. The disc brakes of today, either cable actuated or hydraulic actuated, function faultlessly without much constant adjustment.
The stopping power of disc brakes is considerably better than that of rim brakes, especially in wet or muddy conditions. Disc brakes usually require less force to actuate and their performance aren’t affected by condition of the rim or wheel.
The main disadvantage of disc brakes is the weight. The weight of a typical disc brake system is heavier that the weight of a typical V-brake set up. Another disadvantage of a disc brake compared to a V-brake is the cost. Disk brake systems are usually more expensive compared to rim brakes; and hydraulic disc brake systems can cost significantly more than mechanically actuated systems. Given a choice between a disc brake system or a V-brake system costing the same amount of money, go with the V-brake since it is probably better quality when the disc brake will be of lower quality.
It’s cheaper to pick the brake system you want when you first buy your mountain bike instead of switching systems after you brought your bike. If you want to switch brake systems, you will, in most cases, have to buy a new set of brakes and a new wheel set. Rims that are made specifically for disc brakes cannot be used with rim brakes and the standard hubs used to build rim brake wheels will not accept discs brakes.
When deciding on the brake system for your mountain bike, weight the advantage and disadvantages of each system against your type of riding. Some mountain bikers prefer disc brakes, while others prefer rim brakes. The choice is really a matter of personal preference when it comes to the best brake system.