Mountain Bike Disc Brakes: The 10 Best

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Source: The following is excerpted from a review of mountain bike disc brakes by Andy McCandlish posted on

Looking for new brakes for your mountain bike? Our list of the best mountain bike disc brakes has put 10 popular hydraulic disc systems head-to-head.

Having good brakes on your bike makes you go faster. Sound like an oxymoron? Maybe, but it’s true. The fact is, if you know you can quickly and efficiently bring your speed under control, you’re more likely to let it creep up into the red zone. You become a faster and more controlled rider.

For more bike control, you want not only power, but also effective modulation of that power, where subtle variations in lever force give a much more controllable braking force, rather than an on/off feel.

Related post:
Disc Brakes for Gravel Bikes – the Best Ones

That way, you’ll reduce unintentional skidding and the resultant reduction in braking power and bike control. You want the precision to take yourself right to the edge of breaking traction, which is where you’ll get maximum stopping power.

It used to be that only gravity riders would consider four-pot calipers, but with trail bikes getting more and more capable, they need more powerful brakes to keep them under control. Four pistons deliver more braking force and better heat dissipation, so they’ve steadily crept their way into the mainstream, becoming the choice of more and more riders, both as original spec on complete bikes and aftermarket replacements.

Of course, two-pot units still have acres of power on hand, so don’t write them off if you prefer a simpler setup with fewer pistons to get sticky or malfunction, less weight (although this is marginal) and a lower cost.

Some level of adjustability is helpful for effective control and to reduce hand fatigue. Riders with smaller hands will want a shorter lever reach, an adjustment which most sets have as standard, but the ability to change the bite point of the brake can also help get it in the sweet-spot where your fingers have the most leverage.

Practically speaking, you want stoppers with low maintenance requirements, which hydraulic units generally bring (save for the occasional bleed), and easy swapping-out of brake pads when the time comes.

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With all this in mind, we bolted 10 sets of brakes on, with a 200mm rotor up front and 180mm at the rear, and scraped our way down descents, checking for power, feel, fade, modulation and rliability.

There was a lot of bike swapping in the middle of downhills to directly compare setups, plus plenty of fitting and dismantling sessions, before a final head-to-head shootout.

The extensive review and list of brake systems can be viewed by clicking HERE.

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