Which type of Disc Brake is Suitable for Mountain Bikes?

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Disc brakes were mostly used in motocross, however, they have recently been used in off-road bikes as well, such as mountain bikes. Since the disc provides a powerful brake, they are ideal for all weather and terrain, as well as for trail riding.

Rather than using soft pads against the rims, disc brakes make use of a rotor and metallic or ceramic based pads. This allows for more weathering to occur with less damage to the piece, as these are more water-resistant.

Some disc brakes use cables to provide a powerful brake mechanism, but for an even more powerful braking, some disc brakes use hydraulics. This gives us two options to choose disc brake types.

For most bikes, we can use disc brakes as well. Disc brakes are so versatile that we don’t have to change the hub, rim, or spoke, but we do have to do a little frame modification to ensure proper fitting and safety.

Disc brakes don’t overheat tires if we are applying braking a lot, they don’t wear down rims, they allow for wheel switching, and modifications.

Bike brake parts labeled

Bike brake parts labeled


Choosing Disc Brake:

We have two choices in choosing disc brakes types. They are

  1. Mechanical disc brake and
  2. Hydraulic disc brake.

There are a few differences between the two, so whichever has the best options for us is the route we should take.

Hydraulic disc brake and mechanical disc brake

Hydraulic disc brake and mechanical disc brake

First, mechanical disc brakes use cables and are placed on traditional cantilevers and V-brakes. This makes installation and adjustment simpler. They are lighter than hydraulic brakes and are less complicated to maintain.

However, with mechanical disc brakes the cables can become stretched. This can make our brakes feel squishy and we would not get as powerful a stop as we would like. Since these are exposed, they are susceptible to rust, dirt, and buildup that can damage our brakes.

Second, hydraulic disc brakes offer a closed system with hoses containing special hydraulic fluid. This is what operates the brakes. When the brake is pressed, a plunger pushes fluid through a hose, into a caliper that pushes the pads against the rotor to stop the bike.


Disc brake working

The good thing about this type of disc brake is that the brakes are covered and protected from debris and buildup. The braking with this brake is smooth and powerful. It also allows for near-to-none maintenance once it’s properly installed.

The downside to the hydraulic disc brake is that they have to constantly withstand high amounts of pressure, so these need to be installed by a professional and checked regularly to ensure proper function. If there is a leak in a hose it can cause loss of braking power or complete failure of the brakes. If there is an air bubble in the hose, it would be best for a professional to fix it properly.

What we should consider is the requirements to fitting our bike with a disc brake. We need to have special fittings and hubs, they are more complicated and expensive to maintain, and they are heavier than regular brakes.


Maintaining Disc Brake to make Bike Function Smoothly:

Maintenance is an important part of keeping our bike in perfect condition. In order to maintain a mountain bike, we do have to do daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance, as well as every six months and yearly.

Disc brake maintenance

Disc brake maintenance

Hydraulic disc brakes need little maintenance since there are no cables to get dirty and clogged. This is a good option for an individual if he/she can afford the hydraulic disc brakes.

We need to clean our bike. This is very important to do because it extends the life of your bike. Clean your bike with a biodegradable cleaner, sponge, and a towel. This allows the frame to nicely maintain and for no buildup of grime, rust, or grease.

Always check brakes for functionality and strength. Check the brake pads for any wear, check them against the disc, and squeeze the brake to make sure there is no loose movement with the bike. Over time, brake pads wear down and need to be replaced.

Make sure wheels spin smoothly and straight. We need to elevate bike to do this properly. Check for any dents, wear, and low tire pressure. Tire pressure on a mountain bike should be (depending on the tire width) between 65-100 psi.

disc brake features

Lubricate bike’s chain and check for any damage or kinks. You should rotate the chain counter-clockwise and allow the chain to run through the lubricant equally. Also, lubricate any other moving parts as this will help keep grime to a minimum.

Finally, make sure not to forget to have your bike serviced at regular intervals. This will allow for properly secured fittings and extends the life of your bike. Rather than have components stop working because you didn’t service your bike properly, take care of your bike and you will have lots of fun!

Spread the Knowledge

Denise is a mountain biker who enjoys cross-country biking all around the world. She worked as a trainer for 6 years before becoming a co-founder of a private biking lessons school to teach people how to properly train and ride bikes to prepare them for cross-country and any activities they want to indulge in. She is also a co-founder of MountainBikeEZ.

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