Best Mountain Bike Brakes
There is a very specific pain that comes from constantly squeezing onto tired, old mountain bike brakes. Your hands are constantly sweaty, the muscles on the inside of your palms feel like they’re always 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.
Shopping around for new brakes can be a confusing process, especially if you are looking for an entire set of 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 really need to buy a whole new set? Or do you want to just replace the hand levers? Perhaps you want bust out your tool box and upgrade your brakes from the ground up. Or maybe, you want to switch from the classic V-brakes to try out the much superior (and far more expensive) disc brakes.
Regardless of what types of bike brakes you want to switch to, we have sorted through some of the best mountain bikes brakes on the market to bring you the cream of the crop, so that you will always be in control of your bike, even on the toughest of trails.
- SHIMANO XT BL-M8000
- High quality materials
- Easy installation
- SHIMANO T610
- Controls with one finger
Best Mountain Bike Brakes
Shimano XT BL-M8000 Disc Brake
The design of these brakes will transform your mountain bike into a rocketship. 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.
The brakes and the disc is made from a 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 allows you to hop off of your bike and make adjustments to the disc without the need of 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.
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.
- Name recognition
- High quality materials
- 1-finger stopping makes for less tired and cramped hands
- Slightly expensive
Shimano Mountain Bicycle V-Brake - BR-T4000
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.
Just like any Shimano product, these brakes are made from a 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.
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 are incredibly easy to install as well.
- Name recognition
- Easy to install
- Additional tools are needed to make adjustments
- Some report that they don’t come with proper installation tools
Shimano Deore Mountain Bicycle V-Brake - T610
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 handle bars. Both the black and the silver colors options are covered in a matte finish, so they won’t show ever fingerprint and smudge.
As with any Shimano product, the brakes are made 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.
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.
- Name recognition
- Controls with just one finger
- Difficult to install
- Difficult to make brake pads level with all tires
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.
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 decline with the simple pull of one finger.
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.
- Easy to install
- Difficulty fitting some mountain bike tires
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.
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 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.
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.
- Easy to install
- Doesn’t come with cables
Qikour Brake Handle
The design of this handle is sharp, as it is made from painted black metals with stainless steel accents and grips. It’s simple footprint looks as if it was designed specially for your bike, and it doesn’t stick out too high or sit too long on the handlebars. If you were looking for a brake handle that was simple, this is the perfect solution.
This handle is made from something called ‘high hardness’ aluminum that is tough and durable, and keeps hands cool. It sits low enough on the handles and is made from tough enough materials that it should be fine in the event that you suffer front a wipe-out.
Where this handle really shines is in the performance. Tired hands from one too many downhill descents can really affect how long you stay out there on the trails and how far you travel. What’s great about this handle is that it is designed to be used by just three fingers. With this handle, gone are the days pulling off to the side to wring your hands because they feel like every muscle is cramping up from gripping the brakes too tightly.
If you are looking to upgrade your mountain bike with something that looks a little bit more modern, but also is functional and you don’t want to spend a lot of money achieving this, the Qikour Brake Handle is an excellent purchase.
- 3-finger stop
- Sharp design
- Not suitable for disc brakes
CISNO V-Brake Set
The handles that sit next to your rubbers grips are stainless steel with polished black accents. They sit very low on the handlebars, so that they are easy to access when you need to brake quickly.
The brake itself and the handles are composed of aluminum alloy and PVC, so they are incredibly durable and resilient without weighing your bike down. You won’t have to worry about ordering this set only to discover that it doesn’t come with a certain component that you need, as each order comes with 2 brake pipes, 2 levers, and the proper cables with housing, as well as all of the screws and brackets that you will require to mount it onto your mountain bike.
While this set is a little more difficult to install than some of the other products on this list, it does serve as an excellent to your older and weathered brakes that are likely already installed on your mountain bike. The sturdy materials make it so that if you happen to take a fall out there on some of the more difficult trails, your brakes will likely hold up after you pick yourself up off of the ground.
If you are in the market for a complete brake set for your mountain bike and don’t want to spend the extra money, this is an excellent solution. However, you must be sure that you approach the installation process with a little bit of time and a patience.
- Complete set
- Made from sturdy materials
- Past users have found it difficult to install
- Instructions are not clear
- Reports that one-size-fits-all cables are too short for some bike
I-Mart Hand Brake Lever
The design of these brakes are 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.
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 o f 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 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.
- Easy to install
- Does not fit all sizes of handlebars
- Reports note that some of the mounting hardware did not work
BicycleStore Hand Brake
The design of these are 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.
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.
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.
- Easy to install
- Comes in three different colors
- Plastic adjuster nuts
- Bolts are difficult to tighten
VGEBY Brake Lever
The design of these brake levers are what set 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.
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.
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.
- Easy to install
- Comes in many colors
- Lever sits a little higher than most
The Criteria We Used To Find The Best Mountain Bike Brakes
Shopping for mountain bike brakes can be a difficult process, especially if you don’t really have a lot of knowledge on how exactly your brakes work and the components needed. Many of the products out there either sell the mounting brackets, or just the hand lever. Even in cases where they sell all of them together, it is often discovered only after trying to install your brakes, that something like the cable or the brake pads weren’t included in the purchase.
Of course, selling all of these components could serve as a benefit to you if you were looking to replace one part, so that you can simply update the hand levers or buy a new disc or cables. Whatever you are looking to buy for your mountain bike, be sure to read the product descriptions to ensure that the product comes with everything that you need. When we sifted through all of the products out there to determine the best mountain bike brakes, there were a few things that we kept in mind.
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.
Type of Brake
Generally speaking, there are two different types of brakes that are used for mountain biking: disc brakes and V-brakes. 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 as 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.