Best Mountain Bike Brakes
There is a specific pain that comes from constantly squeezing onto tired, old mountain bike brakes. Your hands are sweaty, the muscles on the inside of your palms feel like they’re on the verge of cramping up, and your fingers feel as if they may snap off and blow away. If this is you, it may be time to invest in some new brakes.
Many of the products on the market are for specific replacement parts, such as cables, brake pads, and calipers, and levers. Take into consideration exactly what you want when you are replacing your bike’s brakes. Do you need to buy a whole new set? Or just replace the hand levers? Perhaps you want to bust out your toolbox and upgrade your brakes completely. Or maybe, you want to switch from classic V-brakes to try out the much superior (and more expensive) disc brakes.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
1-finger stopping makes for less tired and cramped hands
- Shimano XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake
- Shimano Mountain Bicycle V-Brake - BR-T4000
- Shimano Deore Mountain Bicycle V-Brake - T610
- CYSKY V-Brake
- Ztto V-Brake
- Hope Race Evo X2
- SRAM Guide RSC
- I-Mart Hand Brake Lever
- BicycleStore Hand Brake
- VGEBY Brake Lever
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Shimano XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake
1-finger stopping makes for less tired and cramped hands
When shopping for new brakes for your mountain bike, one name that stands out from all of the other brands out there is Shimano. Shimano is the brand that leading mountain manufacturers put standard on their bikes because they know that these brakes are made from quality materials. The XL BL-M8000 is one of the best brakes that you can currently install on your beloved mountain bike.Read more
The brakes and the disc is made from sturdy aluminum, so that it doesn’t add any unnecessary weight to your bike, and it is incredibly durable. You don’t have to worry about anything breaking if you happen to wipe-out. The tool-less features allow you to hop off of your bike and make adjustments to the disc without the need for any tools.
This is where this these brakes really shine. Have you ever noticed when you are trying to control your bike on a steep downhill decline that the power behind your brakes tends to ‘fade’? This is typically due to the heat that builds, and it eventually reduces friction. Shimano’s radiator pads are designed with integrated fins to help reduce displaced tension to keep you in complete control the entire trip down the mountain. The braking system is also so incredibly easy to use that you can pull yourself to a complete stop using only one finger.
The design of these brakes will transform your mountain bike into a rocket ship. They are made from a mix of matte and shiny black metal and alloy and have a small enough design that they don’t appear to be too big or bulky when mounted next to your hand grips on your handlebars. The disc that affixes to your tire is thin and sports a slick design that looks like it is just another part of your wheel.
If you are looking to upgrade your mountain bike brakes to something that can perform under the harshest trails, you can never go wrong with a Shimano product. You might have a pay a little bit more than you would other brands, but it is definitely worth the added cost in the long run.
2. Shimano Mountain Bicycle V-Brake - BR-T4000
Easy to install
Additional tools are needed to make adjustments
Some report that they don’t come with proper installation tools
Once again, Shimano lands after one of the tops slots on this list. Shimano makes some of the best V-Brakes out there on the market, and they are offered at a more affordable price than disc brakes. If you were looking for a set of brakes that was more affordable, yet still as effective as disc brakes and carried the Shimano name, this product hits all of those marks.Read more
Just like any Shimano product, these brakes are made from quality aluminum and alloy metal that allow you to stop on a dime without adding any unnecessary weight to your bike. All of the tools that you will need are included in the purchase of these brakes, including the brake pads, and these brakes are incredibly easy to install.
You might be a little bit reluctant to purchase a set of V-brakes, because they are significantly cheaper than disc brakes, and many cyclists claim that they don’t have the same stopping power as disc brakes. While that might be true to a certain extent, Shimano designed these brakes to be incredibly powerful and almost as tough as disc brakes, because everything from the brake pads to the calipers is made from high-quality materials. Stopping with these brakes is also incredibly easy and can be controlled with just one finger. Less tension required from your hands to come to a stop and regain more control over your bike means that your hands won’t become tired as quickly and won’t cramp up the way they might with weaker brakes.
Just like any Shimano product, these brakes look incredibly sharp atop the handlebars to your mountain bike. They are composed of a mix of both matte and shiny medals, and they sit next to your rubber grips without sticking out too much, which makes them far easier to use.
If you really wanted to upgrade your brakes to Shimano, but didn’t want to spend the extra money that you would require from Shimano’s disc brakes, these are an excellent option that is incredibly easy to install as well.
3. Shimano Deore Mountain Bicycle V-Brake - T610
Controls with just one finger
Difficult to install
Difficult to make brake pads level with all tires
Shimano dominates this list, yet again, with the Deore V-Brake system. The Deore is a little bit more expensive than the BR-T4000, but it in no way is as expensive as a set of Shimano disc brakes. This model is extremely sharp looking and is a cinch to install on most mountain bikes.Read more
As with any Shimano product, the break high-quality from high quality aluminum, so that it won’t add any extra weight to your bike. The purchase of this set only is available in the front set or rear set, so that if you wanted to get brakes for your front and rear wheels, you would have to make two separate purchases.
Not only do these brakes look incredibly sharp, but they also perform like a dream. Often, when you are running a trail with tired brakes, your hands feel like they are doing all of the work for you instead of the brakes. Tired and cramped hands make for one miserable ride. These brakes, however, can be controlled with just one finger. And this eliminates tired and cramped hands, so that you can be out there longer. Fitted properly, these brakes will allow you to stop on a dime without so much as breaking a sweat.
These brakes look like they were designed to be the brakes of a space shuttle. They are available in two very sharp colors, black, and silver. They are slightly smaller than the other two Shimano products on this list, and they look like they were built specifically for your handlebars. Both the black and the silver colors options are covered in a matte finish, so they won’t show every fingerprint and smudge.
If you are in the market for a new set of brakes, you simply cannot go wrong with Shimano. These V-brakes are not only incredibly affordable, but they are effective and look incredibly sharp. The only reason that they did not land a higher spot on the list is because some of the past users have come across some issues with the installation process.
4. CYSKY V-Brake
Easy to install
Difficulty fitting some mountain bike tires
If you are looking to upgrade the existing V-brakes on your mountain bike, the CYSKY V-Brakes comes at an excellent price. They are easy to install, work like a dream, and come with both the front and the rear brakes. Keep in mind, however, that this set is only the components for above the wheels and works off of existing brake handles that come with your mountain bike.Read more
What’s great about these brakes is not only that they are incredibly affordable, but they are also made from high-quality materials. The mounting frame is composed of an aluminum alloy that is both durable and lightweight, so you don’t have to worry as much about the status of your brakes if you ever suffer a minor crash.
If you are taking the time to upgrade the brakes on your mountain bike, the more important thing to look for is how well they perform. And these brakes can stop on a dime. What makes these brakes a little different is that the brake pads fit incredibly snug against your wheel, which is exactly what you want in a V-brake. The closer the pads sit on the wheel means the less force you will need to create friction between the pad and the brake. Less room means that you will be able to control the speed of your bike on the decline with the simple pull of one finger.
The design of these brakes are simple and are meant to blend in seamlessly to your bike. They don’t stick out and are completely black, including the mount and brake pads. If you are looking for a simple upgrade to your existing brakes, this is a wonderful (and affordable) solution.
For cyclists that are looking to upgrade their existing V-brakes on their mountain bike, and don’t want to spend the extra cash on some of the more recognized companies, this is an excellent choice that will save you a little bit of money.
5. Ztto V-Brake
Easy to install
Doesn’t come with cables
The Ztto V-Brake set is a perfect solution for cyclists that are looking to upgrade their bike brakes, but they don’t want to spend the extra cost of some of the more known brands and don’t want to invest the money for disc brakes. These are a great choice for mountain bikers, because they are able to bring you to a stop without putting much strain on your hands.Read more
Like any quality set of brakes, the Ztto V-brake is composed of alloy metal to ensure that they are able to take a blow if you happen to suffer a wipe-out on the trails. All the screws and bolts that are included are thick and made from alloy metals as well (some companies use plastic screws that aren’t as durable).
Just like any good set of mountain bike brakes, these were designed to be able to stop quickly and efficiently and allow the driver to control the speed of their bike on steep downhill descents. The purchase of one set of these comes with units that work for both front and rear tires, making them an excellent deal at their price point. It is important to note, however, that they do not come with cables. You are either going to have to use existing cables that you already have, or buy new ones.
The design of these brakes are sleek and sharp and don’t sit very high up above the wheels of the bike. They are offered in a matte black color with black brake pads and silver accents. They are designed to be used on both mountain bikes and folding bikes. If you want a new set of brakes that is really going to look great on your mountain bike, these are an excellent choice.
If you are a cyclist looking to make some upgrades to your mountain bike but are unwilling to pay the higher price tag as some of the other brakes out there on the market, the Ztto V-brake set is an excellent solution to keep you safe out there on the trails thing summer.
6. Hope Race Evo X2
Great for mountain and cross country
Rotor and disc not included
With one reviewer referring to these brakes as "sexy," you'll definitely want to check them out. This set from Hope is lightweight, has durable materials, and is reliable.Read more
These brakes feature titanium/aluminum hardware, an alloy lever, and a polyester enforced line. The disc and rotors are not included with this set.
The 2-piston caliper provides great stopping power. The lever is easily accessed and adjusted with an allen key. Also, the main cylinder reservoir is also easy to reach, making the lines easy to bleed.
These brakes have futuristic qualities about them. The design and intricacies are well thought out and deliver. You won’t need to worry about adding any bulk or excess weight to your bike. They are only available in black, which is pretty standard, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
With the final assembly, not including the disc, these brakes weigh in at .54-pounds! These are one of the lightest and most powerful on our list. If you are looking for something new and versatile, these may be the perfect fit for you.
7. SRAM Guide RSC
Made from sturdy materials
Hose is too long for some bikes
Rotors not included
This set of disc breaks brings you the confidence to bomb those hills without a jerking brake reaction. The lever is Matchmaker compatible and easy to install. These are perfect for many terrains and a great alternative to the big-name brands.Read more
This set comes with a strong aluminum lever along with a 4-piston caliper with dual diameters of 14mm and 16mm. The lever can be adjusted without tools and the mounts are ambidextrous. These brakes come ready to install, but some have noticed that the hose is slightly long and recommend bringing it to your local bike shop to have it cut. The design makes bleeding the lines a breeze. Rotors are not included.
These SRAM brakes are really making a name for themselves. Often compared to Shimano brakes, these brakes are smoother. They won’t jolt you and bring you to a dead stop. They are smooth and responsive while still giving the confidence to go down a steep hill. One customer said that he also likes to use these brakes with his cross-country bike because of the 4-piston caliber stopping power.
With no glaring brand names or unattractive features, these brakes look very sleek. They are available in black or silver and 2 positions, front/left or rear/right.
If you’re looking for something a bit less mainstream but with a great reputation, these are a great buy. They are a great value and very durable. Just don’t forget to rotors and the possibility or shortening the hose.
8. I-Mart Hand Brake Lever
Easy to install
Does not fit all sizes of handlebars
Reports note that some of the mounting hardware did not work
If your current handles to your mountain bike brakes are worn and weathered, or you just don’t like the ones that came standard, these I-Mart hand brake levers will make a stylish and sturdy addition to your bike. They are easy to install to your existing hardware, and are simple to use.Read more
Just like any great handle lever, this product is made from a high-quality aluminum alloy, meaning that it is tough and durable, but it won't add any unnecessary weight to your handlebars.
This lever hooks right up to the cables of an existing set of calipers, and hooks onto the handlebars right next to your rubber grips. It is able to affix to any type of handlebars that have a diameter of approximately 22 mm. These levers are incredibly easy to install and only require three fingers in order to come to a stop.
The design of these brakes is one of the best features about them. Instead of coming in classic black or silver, they are coated with a shiny white finish with black accents. They are sure to add a little extra style to your mountain bike.
The best feature about these hand levers is the incredibly affordable price. One pair of these will set you back about the same amount of money that you probably spent this morning on a coffee and pastry. They are incredibly easy to install and really add a little bit of style to your mountain bike.
9. BicycleStore Hand Brake
Easy to install
Comes in three different colors
Plastic adjuster nuts
Bolts are difficult to tighten
If you are looking to get your hands on some new brake levers that affix to preexisting mounted brakes, these are an excellent choice. Not only are they easy to install, but they also bring a little bit of style to the handlebars of your mountain bike.Read more
Like any good product, these levers are made out of a high-quality aluminum alloy, so that if you happen to take a bit of a tumble, your brakes should be able to withstand the fall.
Installation is easy. Simply hook up these levers to the existing cables from your mounted brakes. The lever of this particular model sticks out a bit more than some of the others, so you will have to reach your hand just a little bit farther. The good news is that it only requires the use of three fingers to pull the lever down so that you won’t suffer from tired fingers and hands when you get to where you are going.
The design of these is a solid and matte black that has silver accents for the hardware. They are easily affixed to your bike and sit just below the rubber grips on your handlebars. They are also available in a midnight blue shade with black accents or silver with black accents.
If you are looking to upgrade the hand levers for your mountain bike, and you don’t really want to spend a whole lot of money, these are an excellent choice. The cost of these will set you back about the same amount that you spent on breakfast this morning.
10. VGEBY Brake Lever
Easy to install
Comes in many colors
Lever sits a little higher than most
For bikers that are looking to add a little bit of color to their bikes without spending a lot of money, these bike levers from VGEBY are an excellent choice that are offered at a good price. They come in various colors, are easy to install and work off of existing brakes.Read more
These are made from incredibly durable aluminum alloy. This type of material is perfect because it won’t weight the handlebars of your bike down, but it also is durable enough to withstand a wipe-out.
The lever sits a little higher than some of the others, so you will have to reach your hands a little bit further up in order to stop. They are designed to be perfect for mountain bikes and folding bikes and are incredibly easy to install.
The design of these brake levers is what sets them apart from some of the other out there on the market. They are available in four different colors: black, metallic red, metallic royal blue, and silver. Each color has black accents and silver hardware, making them look incredibly sharp when mounted on your handlebars.
If you want to add a little bit of color to your bike, and didn’t want to spend a lot of money, these are an excellent choice.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
For brakes to work properly and stand up to whatever you throw at it out there on the trails, it is important that they are made out of quality material. You may be surprised to know that some companies construct their components out of plastics and PVC materials that may crack under the pressure of a wipe-out. The best products in this particular area are generally made out of aluminum alloy, because they are incredibly strong, but still lightweight, so that it won’t add any unnecessary weight to your bike.
It goes without saying that this was the most important thing we looked at when selecting brakes. Sure, it’s great for them to look good and be made from quality materials, but if they don’t make you slow down and stop, they are virtually useless. When selecting the best of the best, we took the time to sort through all of the things that people were saying about each product. Something that makes a set really stand out is not only how well these products can make you stop, but how easy they are to use. One of the best features we came across was the ability to stop with just one finger – a feature prevalent in Shimano products. The one-finger stop makes it so that you can keep control of your bike without taking your hand completely off of your rubber grips. The less force from your hands that is needed to regain control of your bike on descents makes for a far more pleasant ride.
It may seem a little vain, but you probably spent a lot of time and money carefully selecting a mountain bike that was powerful and also reflected your personal style, so the last thing that you probably want to do is add new brakes that look bulky and sloppy. We took that into consideration when sorting through all of the different makes and models of brakes. We selected products that stop on a dime, but that also look great.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Disc brakes are a little more complicated and can rack up a pretty big bill. However, they are considered to be more powerful and have a tendency to last a little bit longer. V-brakes are a little less complicated, have an easier installation, and more importantly, they come at an affordable price point. While we did include some disc brakes on this list, we mostly gravitated towards V-brakes, because they can fit universally on more bikes, and they are the more affordable option. Plus, it seems that more casual mountain bikers prefer to use the tried and tested design of V-brakes.
You should clean every groove of your mountain bike every week. Inspect each piece to make sure it isn't overrun with grime or build up. Along with this, if you have disc brakes, you should also bleed the line. Without realizing you could have air in the line and this will cause you major problems out on the trail.
Other Factors to Consider
There isn’t much room for any other brands of brake companies on this list. Shimano reigns supreme in this particular space. Shimano was founded in 1951, and they currently hold approximately 51 percent of the global market share when it comes to biking components. You may have noticed in the past, that some of the components that come equipped on a bike that you purchased from a bike shop already comes with a Shimano component. That is why Shimano takes the top three spots on this list. It’s hard to compete with their quality, design, and durability.
Mountain bikers love Shimano, and it is the brand that all other brands are held against. But that isn’t to say that we did not look at some of the other brands out there. Some of the other companies make excellent parts with the same grade of materials as Shimano, and they are offered at a more affordable price point.
If you are looking to get brakes that all of the serious mountain bikers love, you are going to want to buy Shimano. If you are looking to save a little money and try a different brand, another brand is a perfectly viable option as well. It all depends on how important buying made brand products is to you.
While it is important to buy brakes that are functional, we also kept an eye on the price. Sometimes, and especially when it came to disc brakes, the price tag can inch up pretty high. You want to make sure that you buy the best brakes that you can get, but it is human nature to also want to save a little bit of money when you can, and that is something that we kept in mind while selecting the best products out there. You will find name brand products on this list, but some are offered at prices that are incredibly reasonable, so that you have a little more money to spend on other biking accessories.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What’s the difference between V-brakes and disc brakes?
There are two distinct camps when selecting new mountain bike brakes. You will have to decide if you want to use disc brakes or V-brakes. Many of the more casual bikers typically gravitate to V-brakes, because they are easy to install, use a simple system of brake pads and calipers and cables, and most importantly, they are significantly cheaper than their counterpart. Disc brakes use a system of rotors in addition to the standard brake pads that never come into contact with the actual wheel. They are generally more expensive and take more time to install, but cyclists find that they are the better option. With this in mind, you will have to make the decision to choose which one best suits your needs.
q: How do disc brakes work?
Disc brakes work much the same way that V-brakes work. They have a mounted caliper with a brake pad that is attached to the handlebars via a cable. However, when you squeeze the lever by the handlebars, the brake pads squeeze against the mounted rotor instead of directly against the tire. The benefit of using a rotor has to do with losing control on long descents. The way brake pads work is that when the pad material comes into contact with another surface, the friction that is generated causes the wheel to come to a stop. If you have ever used traditional V-brakes, you might have noticed that the longer you hold down the brake, the less control you have over your bike and the tighter you need to pull down the lever. This is due to the fact that as the pad continues to make contact with the moving tire, it begins to generate heat, and when things become hot, they lose friction. The use of a rotor reducedsthe heat that is generated, because it usually has fins, or little bumps. These are there, because they help eliminate the amount of heat that is generated, so that you can keep control over your bike, even on those long and gradual declines in the trials.
q: How do V-brakes work?
These types of brakes are similar to disc brakes in every way for one exception: the brake pads squeeze up against the tire instead of on a rotor. Everything from the levers, cables, calipers, and brake pads are virtually the same. As we stated above, when the brake pads come into contact with the tire, the friction created generates heat, and heat is the reason that brakes gradually stop being as effective. In essence, V-brakes aren’t as powerful as disc brakes, but their benefits lie in their drastically lower price point, and their ease of installation. One way to work around the disadvantage of losing power when under stress for long declines is to ‘pump’ your brakes. If the brake pad only comes into contact with the tire for brief moments, it reduces the time require to generate heat, and therefore you won’t lose any power.
q: I’m afraid I won’t know how to install my brakes myself, what should I do?
Even the greenest of mechanics can find instructional videos with the power of the internet! If you find that the instructions that were provided with your purchase weren’t clean enough for you, there are tons and tons of instructional videos on the internet that can take you step by step through the installation process. There are even some videos that are specific to the very brand that you purchased. However, if you truly are concerned with your installation skills (especially with something as important as brakes), you always have the option to take it down to your local bike shop and as them to do it for you. Many shops are happy to help, and will mostly likely charge you a small fee. Depending on the bike shop (and how well you have come to know the staff) some might even offer to do it for free.
q: Why do mountain bike brakes squeal?
There is nothing more annoying than when your brakes start to squeal. The reason for this could be a number of reasons, and they are all pretty easy to fix. Think about the brakes on your car. Whenever the brakes on your car start to squeal, what does that generally mean? That’s right, it means that you are going to have the painful task of calling in an appointment to your mechanic because your brake pads are wearing thin. The same rules apply to the brake pads on your bike. Squealing can be a sign that it is time to change those pads (and luckily for bikes, it is a far less expensive than replacing the brake pads on your car).
Another reason they may be squealing is that they are coming into contacting with a substance on your tire. If you think that this may be the case, the solution is even simpler. Just wet a cloth with a little bit of rubbing alcohol and wipe down the sides of your tire.. It is important to keep in mind that you must use rubbing alcohol and nothing else. If you use anything than rubbing alcohol, you might just end up making the squealing worse.