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Types of Bicycle Brakes

When you’re buying a bicycle for the first time, you will notice three different types of brakes in your research, but what is the difference and does it matter which ones you get.

We will discuss on the three types of bicycle brakes in this article and provide you with some helpful advice to ensure you get the right bike with the right brakes for you.

Table of Contents

Linear Pull Brakes

Linear Pull Brakes are those which you pull on the triggers from the handlebars also known as V-brakes. With excellent tire clearance and more powerful braking, linear pull brakes often offer a lot of advantages, especially to the beginners.

Basically linear pull brakes are the upgraded version of the cantilever brakes which provide better leverage. What makes linear pull brakes stronger than the cantilever brakes are the specially-designed brake lever which helps to pull more cable and also the brake arms which are a lot longer and positioned at a different angle.

Linear pull brakes are currently one of the most widely used style of brake. This is because the pads for the linear pull brakes are much easier to find and replace when compared to cantilever brakes.

Coaster/Foot Brakes

The coaster brakes are also known by other names such as foot brakes, back pedal brakes, torpedo, contra and contropedale in Italy.

As the name foot brake suggests you use your feet to pedal backward in order to activate the brake. This type of brake was first invented back in 1898 and basically, it is a type of drum brake with an internal freewheel that is being integrated into the back hub.

The coaster brakes can be found in both internally-geared or single speed hubs. The coaster brake, unlike most drum brakes, are designed to run for smooth and quiet operation with all of its internal parts coated in grease.

Bicycles with coaster brakes are usually equipped with chain wheel and a single cog and more often than not, they use 3.2 mm (1/8 inches) wide chain. The advantages of using coaster brakes is that they can still perform well in rain or snow due to the fact they are being protected from the elements.

However, they can become much more complicated to repair than the rim brakes when it’s necessary and they are only made for rear wheels.

Disc Brakes

The third type of brakes is the disc brakes which can be both mechanical or hydraulic and they are often being used for more advanced bikes and riding styles.

The disc brake activated by pulling on the handlebar brake levers which are connected to the disc on the inside on the wheel rim, Disc brakes are known as the most significant advance technology since suspension. Without doubts, disc brakes are the most powerful and precise style of brake.

The leader among all manufacturers of disc brakes for bicycles includes Hayes Brake of Wisconsin, the same company that makes Ford and Harley Davidson.

One advantage of disc brakes is that it’s not being hindered in term of brake performance if the wheel goes out of true a bit and instead of rubbing on the brakes, the wheel will turn freely.

Once disc brakes are properly installed, you might get one year or more of heavy use without the need to perform maintenance at all.

But, which do I need?

Depending on the style of riding you’ll be doing and your budget will determine the best brakes for you. If may find the type of bike will also dictate the style of brakes used.

Pleasure Rides

If you’re thinking of doing simple leisurely rides on a bike path to the beach or park then coaster brakes or linear pull parks will be fine.

Many cities or beach cruiser bikes will have a coaster/foot brake, as well as the retro or vintage style bikes as this is in style with the history of the bike. Whereas the commuter, hybrids, and basic mountain bikes will be linear-pull brakes as these are the most commonly used brake style in the bicycle industry.

It may just come down to your personal choice of whether you are accustomed to the pull brakes or if you can adjust to the old school foot brake.

Daily Commute

For your average hybrid which you’d use for your daily commute to work as well as weekend pleasure rides then the linear-pull brakes are going to be the best here.

The brakes are easy to care for and cheap to replace so there’s nothing stopping you from making the most of your new bike riding it every day if you can.

All Terrain

If you plan on riding off-road or taking up cycling as a sport (road racing, triathlons, or the like) then you’ll most likely be looking at the higher end bikes which have disc brakes.

The ability to stop quickly and efficiently when mountain biking for example is extremely important.

You will be counting on reliable and well-adjusted brakes when you’re looking for a new bicycle. Most high-quality models of brakes will easily do the job for you but you will have to consider what type of riding styles you will be performing.

Thus, learning on the difference of bicycle brakes is a must before purchasing your own bicycles.


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