What Type of Brakes Are Best for Road Bikes

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Braking is perhaps the most crucial safety element on your road bike. This is why it’s imperative to consider what type of brakes are best for road bikes.

Ideally, you’ll need to pick between disc brakes and rim brakes based on your necessity. Figuring out which variant works for your model can be tricky, so we have a comprehensive breakdown of your options below.

We dive into the differences between the two braking systems and also present a list of five of the best brakes for road bikes.

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The top five braking systems to break into our list include the following:

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How Do You Choose the Best Brakes for Road Bikes

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The factors below will help you pick out the best brakes for your road bikes.

Disc Brakes vs Rim Brakes

There are two major categories of brakes to consider when picking out a system for your road bike—disc brakes and rim brakes.

Rim Brakes

Rim brakes (or cantilever brake) are a highly common braking system utilized in road bikes around the world. These systems are much lighter than disc brakes, apart from being easier to adjust and low in maintenance.

You can use a rim brake by simply pulling on the lever that’s attached to your handlebar. This increases the tension of the brake cable and pushes the calipers of the brake pads against the rim of your wheels.

These brakes are usually made out of lightweight materials such as aluminum, and this makes them quite durable as well. The only portion of the rim brake system that’s prone to wear and tear is the brake pad. Fortunately though, these pads are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace.

Rim brakes also have a classical look in terms of their design, making them appealing to a large audience.

One of the issues with this braking system, however, is that it’s not as reliable as its disc counterpart when it comes to tackling a wide range of conditions. The fact that the pads need replacing from time to time means that you can’t count on these brakes to hold up against tougher conditions with consistency.

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are the other major category of braking systems that you can apply on your road bike. These are modern braking systems and can utilize either a hydraulic or mechanical setup.

Mechanical disc brakes are similar to rim brakes in their operation. You can activate the brakes by pressing on your brake lever and increasing the tension of the cable. This presses the pads against the in-built rotor, leading to the halting of your bike.

Hydraulic disc brakes, however, have a complex design that leads to a more precise braking system. It uses a master cylinder that contains a liquid known as brake fluid, and this liquid is released into the braking system every time you use your lever.

The fluid pushes against the caliper brakes instead of the usual pads, and this leads the rotor to halt your bike when necessary.

Disc brakes are far more powerful than rim brakes and are also known to be the most consistent braking system. You can use them with confidence across a wide range of conditions including wet terrains, thereby giving them a major edge in comparison to rim brakes.

There’s also a greater level of modulation in the braking performance, offering an ideal balance between the pressure applied by the user and braking power response of the system.

Due to these notable factors, these brakes also tend to be far more expensive than their counterparts.

 

How To Pick the Right Disc Brake for Your Bike

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Based on what disc brakes have to offer, they tend to be a more popular option compared to the rim variety. When finalizing your options, you should consider the following factors:

Flat Mount vs Post Mount Disc Brakes

Disc brakes were first utilized extensively in the mountain bike category, but were eventually transferred to road bikes as well.

Until recently, disc brakes used to utilize a post mount system that was also widely used in road bikes. This system utilizes forks and rear triangles in the design, and this was seen in road bikes as well.

A flat mount design was only recently created for road bikes as they’re lighter, sturdier, and more ergonomic than flat mount brakes.

If you have the option of picking between a post mount or a flat mount system, we would suggest going with the later because of the above mentioned factors.

Cable Brakes vs Hydraulic Brakes

There’s no comparing the stopping power of hydraulic brakes with any of the other braking systems available for road bikes. These brakes utilize brake fluid in order to offer maximum braking force with a minimal amount of effort.

Cable disc brakes may not be as powerful as hydraulic brakes, but they still offer better braking in comparison to rim brakes. The fact that a cable is utilized in this method instead of braking fluid means that some of the power is lost in transition. It also uses pads in the design which means that they’ll need to be replaced from time to time.

When picking between these two options, we’d recommend opting for a hydraulic disc brake system.

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Our Top Picks for Bike Brakes for Road Bikes in 2020

We now present our review of the best brakes to use on your road bike in 2020.

Our Overview

While the TRP Spyre comes with cable-actuated brakes instead of the hydraulic systems, they’re definitely the most powerful brakes in this category. The fact that they’re well priced propels them to the top of our list.

This model uses a cable to tighten the carbon arm in the design to produce a dual-sided actuation on the brakes. This ensures that there’s even braking and also prevents any warping in the long run.

You’ll find a barrel adjuster with this purchase. This makes it easy to adjust your brakes without requiring any tools whatsoever.

The calipers of this model are compatible with both the Shimano and TRP pads, allowing you to find an easy replacement whenever you want.

You also have the option of picking up this braking system in either a post mount or a flat mount option, and this is a huge bonus.

The only downside of this model is that you’ll probably need to consider purchasing a compressionless housing for the brakes in order to improve the overall feel of the system.

 

Pros:
  • Reasonably priced.
  • Best in segment.
  • Low overall weight.
  • Can be adjusted without any tools.
Cons:
  • Requires a compressionless housing for the best experience.
Our Overview

If you’re looking for a set of sleek, hydraulic disc brakes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better model than the Shimano Ultegra R8000. This is a lightweight model that clocks in at a mere 1 pound for the pair.

While the Shimano Dura-Ace may be the flagship model offered by the brand, the Ultegra offers a similar performance without the exorbitant price tag.

This is a flat mount system that utilizes Shimano’s one way bleeding system for maximum braking efficiency. It also includes the Shimano IceTech brake pads that are tough and durable.

The sleek dual pivot design also offers the perfect balance between stopping power, weight, and rigidity, making it the perfect set of brakes for a wide range of conditions such as wet or muddy roads.

One drawback, however, is that there aren’t any cables or housing available with the purchase.

Pros:
  • Low maintenance, thanks to a sturdy design.
  • Highly durable.
  • Excellent hydraulic system.
Cons:
  • No cables or housing provided with purchase.
Our Overview

If you’re looking to pick up rim brakes instead of the disc brake alternative, then you should aim for the best product possible. In this segment, we can confidently name the SRAM brake caliper as the best rim brakes in terms of safety and durability.

This model offers adequate balance between weight and stopping power by utilizing lightweight materials and using an excellent design.

The front profile of these brakes are designed to boost the overall aerodynamics of the system, and is a great improvement from the previous offerings from the SRAM brand.

It also uses the patented AeroLink arm in order to boost the modulation for the user, allowing you to attain timely stopping without applying too much effort.

The cable clamp used in this design relies on spring adjusters for maximum effectiveness, while the four-position release lever allows you to make minor adjustments to the brakes on the move.

Only one downside can be associated with this product, and it’s the price tag that can be a bit too much for casual riders.

Pros:
  • Spring adjusters in the cable clamps.
  • Adjust your brakes on the move.
  • Improved aerodynamics for smoother movement.
Cons:
  • Hefty price tag.
Our Overview

This is a high-quality option to consider when you’re looking to replace your existing braking system but don’t have the budget for high-end brakes.

This cable brake system weighs only 0.4 pounds for the set and is available in flat and post mounts based on your requirements.

In terms of the design, TRP has looked to combine the best of hydraulic and cable-actuated systems by mounting the converter directly onto this brake’s caliper. This allows you to utilize these brakes with drop bar levers and you can also utilize Shimano brake pads whenever you’re looking for a replacement.

The pre-stretched cables of this model offer excellent power and stopping capabilities, but they’re on the heftier end when considering similar products.

One disadvantage to consider here is that the hydraulics of this model are positioned in such a way that makes it difficult to access the bolts of the brakes.

Pros:
  • Best compromise between cable and disc brakes.
  • Offers an automatic compensation for pads wear.
  • Top-of-the-line design.
  • Well priced.
Cons:
  • Hydraulics positioned in an awkward way.
Our Overview

Our final product is yet another Shimano brake, thereby highlighting the immense quality offered by the brand. This model is a low-maintenance, low-price variant, and includes a large number of the features of the Ultegra without the hefty price.

This is one of those systems that you can simply fix onto your bike and then forget about it entirely. The durability is truly impressive thanks to the superior build quality. It’s one of the most low-maintenance braking systems available in the market currently.

The flat mount caliper system is fully compatible with the IceTech finned pads produced by Shimano, so if you’re ever looking for an upgrade, this has got to be the accessory you seek out.

On your purchase, you’ll receive the brake caliper, hose, and brake lever to attach to your bike.

The use of a short stroke servo-wave mechanism in this model ensures that the power and engagement has been maximized for the user.

The overall weight of this model is 1.3 pounds, making it heavier than some of the others.

Pros:
  • Purchase includes brake lever, hose, and brake caliper.
  • Extremely durable.
  • Lightweight and rigid forged caliper.
Cons:
  • Hefty brakes.

From Discs to Rims

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There are plenty of options to consider when you’re looking for a new braking system for your road bike. As long as you understand these options, and hopefully you have after reading our reviews, you’ll be able to make the right decision for your needs.

The TRP Spyre SLC Mechanical Disc Brake Caliper is the best product to consider when you’re looking for a high-quality rim brake for your bike. This model is well priced and offers great stopping power for the user.

In the disc brake category, however, it’ll be hard to find a better product than the SHIMANO Ultegra R8000 Caliper Brake Set. This supreme offering produces fantastic braking and can be used across a wide range of conditions.

Brakes are crucial for your riding experience, and we hope that we’ve helped you find the right ones to ensure safe travels!

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