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Mountain Bike Brakes

Disc brakes have replaced rim brakes on all but the cheapest mountain bikes. At the most basic level, disc brakes on mountain bikes aren’t that different from the disc brakes found on most cars these days. A disc, known as the rotor, is mounted to the hub of the wheel and brake pads pinch on the sides of the disc to slow down or stop the wheel. Mountain bikes feature two different types of disc brakes, hydraulic and mechanical.

Hydraulic disc brakes are more common these days because they offer more consistent braking in all conditions, superior performance on steep terrain, more progressive and stronger braking with less finger effort, and they self-adjust as the brake pads wear. Mechanical (cable-activated) disc brakes need to be adjusted manually as the brake pads wear. However, they are less expensive to purchase and maintain and are also generally compatible with older-style brake levers.

Rim brakes used to be the only type of brakes available and they still come on some entry-level mountain bikes. Rim brakes work by having the brake pads pinch directly on the outside of the wheel rims. Rim brakes are inexpensive compared with disc brakes but provide less stopping power, are less effective in wet or muddy conditions, and require more finger effort to brake aggressively.

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