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Bicycle Brake Choices
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by Sheldon "Stop!" Brown
revised by John "Gimme 2 brakes" Allen
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This page is intended to point out the advantages of different types of bicycle brakes, and to link to separate articles about them.

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

What brakes do

Brakes use friction to convert kinetic energy into heat. Pads of one type or another press against the wheel rim, a drum or disc,which dissipates most of the heat, as the pads are smaller, sometimes enclosed, and often of a material which conducts heat poorly.. The surface of the pads is in contact with the rim or disc, and so it is at the same temperature.

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.

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.

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.

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What Brakes Would Work Best for Me?

Different types of riding favor different brakes.

Gimme Two Brakes!

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

Notable exceptions are:

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