Accessories Bicycles Parts Specials Tools

Search sheldonbrown.com and sheldonbrown.org

Bicycle Brake Choices
Translations of this article:
Chinese Chinese flag

find us on FB

Sheldon Brown photo
by Sheldon "Stop!" Brown
revised by John "Gimme 2 brakes" Allen
Spoke Divider

This page is intended to point out the advantages of different types of bicycle brakes, and so link to separate articles on servicing them.

Also see the table of contents page covering articles about brakes.

Brake types

A bicycle brake may work at the rim, or at the hub.

Rim brakes have the advantages of light weight, large heat-dissipating area, and low stress on the bicycle frame, fork and wheel -- though heat dissipation is limited by risk to the tire.

Hub brakes are more weatherproof, and and are not affected by rim dents or wheel true. Because heat-dissipating area is smaller than with rim brakes, these brakes run hot -- but some are designed to. Hub brakes allow replacement of a wheel with another which has a different rim diameter. All hub brakes except disc brakes have a reaction arm, complicating wheel installation and removal.

Bicycle brakes are operated by hand levers by way of cables, or sometimes hydraulic lines -- except for one type of rear hub brake, called in British English a "backpedaling brake" or "foot brake". In American English, it is called a "coaster brake", an expression which dates back to the its introduction in the late 19th century -- also allowing coasting, unlike a fixed gear.

Most cable-operated disc brakes, and direct-pull brakes (one kind of rim brake, also called V brakes) require special brake levers, mostly available for flat handlebars. About these brake levers, please see Tom Deakins's page about handlebars.

There is also a page about cables on this site. Poor brake performance often results from cable problems.

Spoke divider

Spoke divider

What Brakes Would Work Best for Me?

Different types of riding favor different brakes.

Gimme Two Brakes!

With only a couple of exceptions, every bicycle should be equipped with two brakes -- front, and rear. Any brake will fail sooner or later, and then you really need the other one!

Notable exceptions are:

Spoke divider

Spoke Divider

Articles by Sheldon Brown and others
Harris
Home
Beginners Brakes Commuting
Lights
Cycle-
Computers
Do-It-
Yourself
Essays
Family
Cycling
Fixed Gear
Singlespeed
Frames Gears &
Drivetrain
Bicycle
Humor
Bicycle
Glossary
Bicycle
Links
Old
Bikes
Repair
Tips
Tandems Touring What's
New
Wheels Sheldon
Brown

Accessories Bicycles Parts Specials Tools

Copyright © 1997, 2007 Sheldon Brown

Harris Cyclery Home Page

If you would like to make a link or bookmark to this page, the URL is:
http://sheldonbrown.com/brake-choices.html

Last Updated: by John Allen