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3 Types of Brakes on a Bike, What's the difference?

3 Types of Brakes on a Bike, What's the difference?

    • Rim brakes
    • Disc brakes
    • Drum brakes

These brakes are the most widely used almost in all bikes nowadays.Let us study each type of brake in detail with its types, advantages and, disadvantages.

1. Rim Brakes

Rim brakes are the most widely used brakes of all. They use braking pads of leather, rubber, or cork. Braking (friction) pads apply braking force on the rim of the bicycle’s wheel. The brake levers get mounted on the handlebar.

Rim Brakes
Rim Brakes (Source:

Pros and Cons of Rim Brakes


    • Rim brakes are cheaper, lighter, and mechanically simple than any other brakes.
    • They are well-built and easy to maintain.
    • These brakes are durable, so many riders prefer rim brakes for daily commuting.
    • Rim brakes are popular among road racing cyclists for their lighter weight.
    • Rim brake stresses the bicycle frame and fork less than a hub brake.
  • Rims offer a large heat dissipating area on the wheels. So, rim brakes are relatively the same for speed control on long downhill roads.


    • The rims on the wheel can be overheated and cause blowouts.
    • Rim brake can carry debris from the ground on the brake pads while riding on unpaved surfaces. So, rim brakes are prone to clogging with mud and snow.
    • Rim brakes accelerate their wearing in wet and muddy conditions.
    • Brake pads are prone to uneven wearing, so you should make sure to check them regularly.
    • When a heavily loaded bike descents a long downhill road, heat-build-up occurs in the rims, which can damage various components and can cause brake failure.
  • On a rim brake bike, rims wear down quickly with regular use. So, if not checked periodically, rim wear may lead to severe accidents.

Types of Rim Brakes

Rod Brakes

The rod brakes use rods and pivots instead of cables to transmit force from hand levers to the friction brake pad. In many bicycles, front rod brakes get combined with rear coaster brakes. 

Rod brakes, although complex and heavy, are reliable and durable. You can fix them with simple hand tools, so they are low maintenance.

Caliper Brakes

Caliper brakes use cables to force transmission to the rim. They usually get mounted on dual pivot points or the arms pivot on a sub-frame in a single pivot point.
They consist of three types. Namely-

    • Side-pull caliper brakes
    • Center-pull caliper brakes
    • U-brakes

Cantilever Brakes

Each arm of cantilever brakes gets attached to a separate pivot point on each side of the seat. Due to the large distance between their mounts and pads, they often get fitted in mountain bikes.


They are also called linear-pull brakes or direct-pull brakes. V-brakes have longer arms where cable housing is attached to one arm and the cable to another cable arm.They use long brake pads, which makes the brake pad durable.

Delta Brakes

Delta brakes are triangular in shape and design, due to which they look attractive. They have a lower wind profile than other regular brakes.

Hydraulic Rim Brakes

Hydraulic rim brakes can get mounted on four-bolt brake mounts. These brakes are highly in demand among e-bike users for their powerful conduct.

Hydraulic brakes are relatively low maintenance. But they possess heavier weight and complex mechanisms.

2. Disc Brakes

Disc brakes consist of metal discs or rotors attached to the wheel hub. The metallic disc rotates with the wheel.

These are the most commonly used bike brakes.

Disc brakes may get actuated mechanically (by cable) or hydraulically (by oil). Disc brakes are most common for mountain bikes, tour bikes or, racing bikes.

Pros and Cons of Disc Brakes


    • Disc brakes work the same in all weather conditions.
    • They do not get clogged by snow, mud, or water.
    • They consist of materials that dissipate heat faster than rim brakes.
    • Wheel rims are lightweight, while brake pads are hard, which helps to manage maximum loads.
    • Disc brakes work efficiently with buckled wheels.
    • These brakes are compatible with front and rear suspension.
    • Disc brakes are cheaper and easier to replace than rim brakes.


    • Heat build-up can lead to failure with disc brakes. Disc brakes have heat disc, which provides a smaller surface to dissipate heat than rim brakes.
    • These brakes require a separate hub to fit the disc, front brakes, and rear brakes.
    • Disc brake applies potentially great torque moment on the hub. The torque moment transmits through wheel components- flanges and spokes.
    • To support the anchor points and weight of the caliper, the front brake should be heavier in size.
    • The size of the fork and wheel adds extra weight to the brake itself.
Disc Brakes
Disc Brakes (Source:

Types of Disc Brakes

Mechanical Disc Brakes     

Mechanical disc brakes are also called cable brakes. They are similar to rim brakes, but they apply friction on the rotor rather than the rim.

The resistance from the friction eventually stops the bicycle.
Mechanical disc brakes are simple in design and set up, so they are easy to adjust, repair, and maintain. They are affordable and suitable for beginners.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Hydraulic brakes are a better option than mechanical brakes because they function comparatively better than mechanical ones. They have a fluid-filled braking system that gets sealed inside-out. The fluid system replaces the steel cable.
After pressing the brake levers, the fluid in the braking system forces the brake pad to rest against the rotor. The friction creates a resistance that stops the wheels from turning.

They provide more braking power with less force applied. They require less maintenance than mechanical brakes due to their closed fluid-filled system.

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes work similarly to car brakes, but they use cables to create friction. Two pads get pressed outward against the braking surface on the inside of the hub shell.

They are popular with utility bicycles in countries with wet weather conditions.

The drum brake has two brake shoes opposite to one another. The brake shoes come outward on both ends, which produces friction inside the drum.

The drum is a part of the rear wheel which slows down and stops the bicycle due to friction.

Pros and Cons of Drum Brakes


    • Drum brakes do not get affected by wet weather conditions.
    • Clogging with mud or snow does not happen.
    • They do not wear out the rims and, their work does not get affected even if the rim tears.
    • Drum Brakes are easier to modulate and require less frequent maintenance.
  • They do not pull the wheel out of the fork.
  • They dissipate heat without overheating the tire.


    • The effectiveness of drum brakes depends on the diameter of the drum. Smaller drums are weaker and have poor heat dissipation power.
    • Drum brakes are heavier than rim brakes.
    • If the drum wears out, you need to replace the whole wheel.
    • Front drum brakes are less effective for an abrupt stop than front disc brakes.
    • Drum brakes sometimes stick and do not release while stopping the bike.


Types of Drum Brakes

Coaster Brakes

Coaster brakes are also known as back pedal brakes or foot brakes. They are integrated with the back wheel with an internal freewheel hub. They often get equipped with a single cog and chain wheel.

Crude type of coaster brakes is for childrens’ bicycles. They allow the bicycle wheels to roll forward without forcing the pedals to turn. This function is the ‘coaster’ part of the brakes.

These brakes operate by turning the pedals backward. Coaster brakes work well in any weather and require less maintenance. But, coaster brakes are heavy. They skid too much, causing tire wear.

They have low heat dissipation capacity and are non-compatible with derailer gearing or chain tensioners.

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