Brakes are an essential part of mountain bikes, A good set of brakes can make your day and vice versa, the braking system on mountain bikes is really well thought and the brakes on the bikes are most suited for the purpose they are being purchased for but still, it doesn’t mean they will always be used for that purpose since touring and riding other trails come into play as well.
Mountain bike brakes come with a disc system however they are being differentiated on the basis of hydraulics and mechanical/wire systems.
Now there are other things here that come into play as well such as pistons and disc sizing but for now, let’s see the main difference between the hydraulic and mechanical systems and why are they preferred and why not.
How does the braking system work on mountain bikes:
The braking system on the mountain or road bikes is the same except for the materials used in them simply because road bikes do not need so much of the braking power since roads provide quite a lot of resistance already but on mountain bikes, the material differs on the basis of the conditions the riders are riding but the overall braking system works the same on both types of the bikes.
The braking system used in both is a disc brake system that’s mostly used in four wheels as well, but in bikes, they are two types of brakes wired brakes and hydraulic brakes.
in the wired brakes the when you pull the brake lever the pistons are pressed and the pads close in on the brake disc/rotors which in terms stops the routers from rotating as the routers are installed on the wheel stops as well
As for the hydraulic brakes, the system works the same way but instead of wires hydraulic system uses fluid to push pistons and those in terms of pushing the pads and brakes are applied.
As for why the brakes are applied on the routers instead of on the wheels directly, unlike the traditional cycles, road and mountain bikes are made to either run a lot faster or on rough terrains and rubber brakes are simply not up for the job, and also the discs or routers are used in order to save the tires because the braking pads are mostly made up of metals.
Difference between hydraulic brakes and mechanical brakes :
Both the hydraulic and mechanical systems are used based on their pros and cons
Hydraulic brakes :
Hydraulic brakes use fluid to push the pads on the wheel and that’s how the braking system works they are mainly used because of their ease of applying they are really soft and you can easily pull the brakes with even one finger and that’s why they are mostly used.
Mechanical/wire brakes :
Mechanical/wire brakes utilize the wire systems to pull the brake pads and that’s how the braking system works.
These are widely used and more trusted because of their reliability but they may need some force application as well, but still, they are more trusted in terms of reliability but hydraulic brakes are the new trend and people are starting to trust and use them as well.
Which is better for you :
Both the wire and hydraulic systems are great they both perform well and are reliable. But both are preferred based on really simple characteristic differences.
Wire brakes are preferred because if they break down you can easily fix them right on the trails and keep riding
While hydraulics are preferred simply because they provide more ease while braking.
Both are just fine its typically rear to see the hydraulics work out of the condition or the fluids getting hot but typically if you are going on long rides are doing a lot on brakes I would say wires are the way to go since the brakes may heat up and you may see braking fluid coming out on the hydraulics and that could be bad.
All in all either one is just fine to use what you feel most comfortable with.
How different breaking pads affect braking:
There are mainly two types of pads that are used in the disc brakes system in mountain bikes
- Resins/organic pads
- Metallic pads
Organic/resins pads are coming to fame in recent years because they make less noise and are almost as reliable as metallic pads but they do may come short on the braking power compared to metallic pads.
Organic pads are good for drier climates or drier areas to ride on and metallic pads are typically made for heavy-duty work they are good if you are riding hard and fast or the trails you are riding are more downhill or if the weather conditions are bad in your area if the trails you are riding are wet muddy or they are fast to break it down
Organic pads :
- less braking power
- good for dry areas
- less noise
- good for normal trail riding
- typically more swapping
- great for general trail riding
- bad for fast/heavy trail riding
- bad for steep downhill trails.
Steel/metallic pads :
- good braking power
- good for muddy/rainy areas
- good for downhill ridings
- good for racing
- last longer
- increased noise
There you have it though you might want to check the plates/rotors if they are compatible with them since a lot of the mountain bikes are equipped with organic pads and do not support steel pads the reason being the metal brakes chew through the routers a lot faster.
What most people use:
Most people use organic pads instead of metallic/steel pads since they don’t make much noise and you don’t need that much braking power from steel pads as you may think but everything depends on the conditions you are riding in or the trails you are riding on.
What role do the rotors play in all this :
Discs/rotors on mountain or road bikes are made up of high-quality stainless steel they are mainly there to save the rim of the tire since braking pads are made up of metals and this system is more reliable than the rubber v brakes or other types of braking systems the discs/rotors are there to take the damage from braking pads to save the rim and they can be easily replaced.
They come in different diameters ranging from 60-180 for good reasons the bigger the router is the better becomes the braking system but still, you can’t use one on your own you need to know exactly what kind of fork your bike uses and how many rotors you can install with them since when you press the brakes the weight shifts and it might be too much for your forks/shocks to handle
As to how to get the most out of the rotors?
You can use a bigger size rotor on front wheels since they are mostly responsible for braking
What are pistons and how do they play a role in braking systems :
if you did or didn’t know their pistons in the braking system of mountain bikes and road bikes but especially mountain bikes to increase the power output in brakes.
To put it simply the more pistons you have the more the braking power increase that also means you will need to change the rotors and braking pads faster as well.
Normally and typically the there are 2 pistons used on the trail and cross country mountain bikes and 4 pistons set up is used on the Arduino mountain bikes.
It’s generally ok to use 2 pistons because you may not need all the braking power on the cross country/trail bikes but the 4 pistons are good for Arduino since they are mostly used for racing and you need higher grip power to cut corners fast and you need that much of braking power output on them.
the pistons can be larger and they are for more power size means power in this case but the pistons do not generally go higher than 4 only the size increases and that’s due to the fact that you need more power and the larger pistons dissipate more heat so they don’t heat up fast and still perform fairly well in the heat and keep functional.
Before making any kind of changes to your bike please ask your bike manufacturer if your bike is compatible with it you may end up causing it more harm than good.
Let me know if this article was useful to you in any way and if you had like me to write on some problem you are facing or you have any questions regarding this article. I will be happy to answer them for you and help you in any way I can.