Do you know what type of brake your bike uses? Knowing the components of your bicycle can be very useful since it will make it easier for you to find spare parts or communicate better with your mechanic. This time we will review the types of brakes that we can find and their basic operation. You can see all types of brakes in the best fat bikes under $500.
Bicycle brake types
1. Single Pivot Side Pull Caliper
These brakes are the simplest of the caliper brakes class. It consists of a mechanism with two arms, with a shoe in each of them. Both arms rotate around a single screw. This screw fulfills the double function of fixing the system to the bicycle and as a pivot. The shoes press both sides of the ring when actuated. The lining is attached to one of the arms and the whip to the other.
The brake has a single central screw that in turn functions as a pivot for both arms. The lining (black hose) is attached to one of the arms, while the whip is attached to the second arm.
2. Dual-pivot side-pull brakes
As with single-pivot brakes, the lining is attached to one of the arms while the whip is attached to the second. The difference between these mechanisms is that it has two pivots. The kingpin fixes the system to the bike and is used by one of the arms. While the second pivot, which is asymmetrical, is used by the other arm. Both arms are connected through a cam that allows the two to travel the same distance, both to close and to open.
This brake has a central screw that holds and serves as a pivot for one of the arms and the cam. The screw seen on the right side of this image is the second asymmetric pivot.
3. Center-pull caliper brakes
The system is fixed by means of a central screw. The base of this system is a kind of “inverted U” with two screws on each side, which function as pivots for two arms.
When the mechanism is activated, each arm rotates around one of the lateral pivots of the «inverted U» to press the sides of the ring. In this case, both arms are connected by a transverse whip which in turn connects to the central cable. Hence its name.
4. Center-pull cantilever brakes
These were quite popular on mountain bikes. Until a few years ago (2005 or so), almost all bicycles of this type were equipped with this type of brakes. The system consists of two independent arms, one on each side of the wheel connected by means of a transverse link. A central whip is the one in charge of activating the system.
In cantilever brakes, the shoes are between the axis of rotation and the clamping of the cross cable. A disadvantage of these systems is that if the center leg fails, the arms tend to open, causing the cross leg to hit the cover. Remember that mountain bikes often use high studded tires, which could result in sudden braking. Shimano solved this problem with the introduction of the “Link Wire.”
One of the advantages of this type of brakes, and that still maintains them in force in some bicycles, is that they allow the use of wider wheels than those of calipers.
5. Direct Pull Cantilever Brakes (V-Brakes)
These brakes replaced the Center Shot cantilevers in the mid-’90s and are better known as V-Brakes. It is important to note which V-Brake refers to Shimano’s trademark for this type of brake.
In this system, the lining is attached to one of the arms through a “quick release” system, while the whip is attached to the second arm in a traditional way. When activating the mechanism, the liner pushes one of the arms while the whip pulls the other.
The arms of this type of brake are mounted parallel to the bike frame and are relatively long in order to keep the cable away from the tire. One of the advantages that led these brakes to dethrone the center-pull cantilevers was that they eliminated the transverse whip, which, as we saw, could be somewhat dangerous.
Eye! Due to its configuration and operation, this type of brake requires specific levers to be used with this type of mechanism.
We can see how the left arm is attached to the lining terminal by means of a «quick release» system, while the whip is attached to the right arm.
6. Rod brakes
Rod brakes were used on older bikes and some utility bikes. Unlike the mechanisms that we have seen so far, this system uses a system of rods and pivots to transmit the force of the levers to the shoes instead of the legs.
The peculiarity of this type of brakes is that they can only be used with Westwood type wheels. These types of brakes do not have movable arms. They use “omegas,” which are pulled perpendicular to the axle of the wheel. Therefore the shoes apply the braking force on the inner face of the ring. For this reason, they need special wheels.
It is important to note how the rims of this wheel have practically no side faces. When these brakes are applied, the rod pulls the shoes up.
These brakes combine the characteristics of caliper and cantilever brakes. Each arm has a pivot on each side of the wheel, just like the cantilevers, with the difference that the pivots are located between the whip clamp and the shoe, so they work, rather, as caliper brakes, such as a clamp.
This mechanism has a central pull. Use a transverse whip that joins a central whip. This type of brake was very popular on mountain bikes in the ’80s and it seems that its use with Freestyle bikes is resurgent.
8. Roller-Cam brakes
The operation of these is quite similar to the U-Brakes. Similarly, they are not considered either caliper or cantilever since they combine characteristics of both classes.
Unlike other mechanisms, this one has a lever shaped like a fishtail, which is attached to a central whip. In addition, each arm has a roller at its upper end. When the mechanism is activated, the cam moves the arms, which makes the shoes come into contact and press the side faces of the ring. This type of brakes is not very common today because they are very complicated to adjust and make it difficult to mount and dismount the wheel.
We can see a plate shaped like a fishtail. This is the cam, which, when moving upwards, opens the upper part of the arms and consequently applies to press the shoes against the side faces of the ring. What appears to be two washers on the top of the brake are the rollers that allow smooth movement of the cam and keep it aligned.
9. Drum brakes
The use of Drum Brakes is not that common, mainly because they are heavy compared to other systems. Its operation consists of a pair of shoes contained in a cylinder or drum. When activating the mechanism, the shoes press outwards against the internal face of the cylinder and generate the braking force.
There are drum brakes built into the hub and others that are external. The problem with integrated is that if they fail, it is necessary to change the entire wheel. With the external ones, you simply have to change the pure brake. Although its performance is not affected by the presence of water, its weak point is its small area to dissipate heat.
Shimano makes a variation of the drum brakes known as Rollerbrakes. The difference between Rollerbreakes with other drum brakes is that all their braking surfaces are metallic and that they use three shoes. Roller brakes are only compatible with Nexus and Nexave hubs made by Shimano.
10. Disc brakes
Disc brakes have had a great boom, first in mountain bikes, but for some years, it is more and more common to see them in the road, hybrid, gravel bikes, etc.
This is due to its efficiency and the simple fact that a rotor (disc) is less likely to get wet or muddy than the rim brake track. Another great advantage is that disc brakes do not affect their performance as a result of rim imperfections.
The system consists of a rotor, which is fixed to the hub generally by means of screws and a caliper with two pads that, when actuated, press both faces of the rotor. Its drive can be mechanical (by means of a whip) or hydraulic.
Warning! Disc brakes should only be used on scissors specially designed for this type of brake, as it requires special supports to hold them.
Adapting any fork to use disc brakes is not recommended. First, because the effort they transmit is extreme and can damage the scissors. In addition, when braking, such a force is generated that if you do not have the right fork, you can get the wheel out of place.
11. Coaster brakes
The last brake we’ll see is quite common on kids’ bikes and Cruiser bikes. The coaster brake is practically a hub with two special characteristics:
Allows the rear wheel to turn without the need for the pedals to be in motion, similar to the freewheel.
When pedaling backward, the mechanism works as a brake.
Unlike the rest of the brakes that we have reviewed, the Coaster does not use whips or hoses of any kind, so they require minimal maintenance. All its parts are metallic and it is enough to keep them lubricated. These brakes are ideal for those who do not have a lot of strength in their hands. Hence they are popular on children’s bikes.