Brakes are one of the most important components in our bicycles, whether it is a touring bike, urban mountain bike... It allows us to ride safely and to be able to brake in time to avoid traffic accidents, to avoid an object on the road or simply to get out of a traffic light more comfortably. There are different types of brakes and each one offers its pros and cons, v-brakes or calipers are the most widespread in urban bicycles due to their simplicity, good performance and low maintenance.
Gradually, disc brakes are being introduced on high-end urban bicycles, as they offer the best braking power on the market, but require more maintenance than conventional brakes. All brakes require basic maintenance; the more complex the braking mechanism, the more maintenance is required.
Below we will detail the types of bicycle brakes with their particularities as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
V-brakes are the most widespread brakes on all types of bikes, both urban, classic and mountain bikes. Its powerful braking and simplicity of operation make it one of the most efficient and affordable brakes for a non-expert public
The possibility of manufacturing them in plastic, makes brands like Decathlon (btwin) or Carrefour, mount plastic V-brakes in their most basic ranges, losing a little braking power due to the bending of the plastic, but within the quality standards for cheap bikes. The quality V-brakes are usually made of aluminum, due to their low flex and low weight, they offer powerful braking and a very contained weight, which makes the bikes have an efficient braking, with little effort with the brake lever, in fact many cargo bikes mount v-brakes to rely on their braking.
Calipper or fork
Caliper bicycle brakes are very common on road bikes, their light weight and easy anchoring (by means of a single bolt to the frame or fork), makes them very easy to repair and replace any part. It is true that the braking power is not as good as with v-brakes, but they make up for it with their ease of adjustment and light weight.
There are two types of fork brakes or calipers, single pivot and double pivot. Single pivot brakes are the oldest, the two brake cams rotate around the same pivot, and braking is quite poor, due to the little leverage that the two cams attached to the same pivot can do. The double pivot fork brakes are more modern, the mechanism is more similar to that of the v-brakes than to the classic caliper, because its operation is based on the fact that each brake cam rotates around a different pivot, so the leverage is much greater than in the single pivot caliper brakes, although the braking is much improved, it does not reach the power of the v-brakes.
Cantilever brakes began to be included in mountain bikes in the mid 80's, because it leaves a very wide wheel arch, thus being able to drain the mud accumulated on the wheels and later, for this same concept, it was extended to cyclocross bikes
Nowadays it is common to see cantilever brakes on cyclocross and touring bikes, because they have a lightness and braking power similar to the V-brake and easier drainage for dirty wheels, but undoubtedly the biggest drawback of cantilever brakes is their complicated adjustment.
Rod brakes are the most classic and rudimentary brakes today, their great virtue is their aesthetics, but on the other hand, they are very complicated to install, they are heavy mechanisms and their braking is not very efficient.
Normally their installation on older bicycles is quite tedious and it is necessary to lengthen or cut rods to make the assembly fit perfectly. The rims for this type of brakes have a special braking track, as the brake pads act vertically instead of horizontally.
The drum brake is a type of brake that has been in use for many years, due to its reliability and low maintenance, many Nordic bikes, mostly Dutch, have been using it for years, and it is not difficult to see retro bikes over 30 years old that still brake, without having changed any part. The big problem with these brakes is their low braking power and weight.
Disc brakes are undoubtedly the most powerful brakes on the market, in its two variants, both mechanical or hydraulic, they are usually mounted on modern mountainbikes and increasingly on high-end urban bikes, its braking power and its pleasant feel makes it the most efficient existing brake for bicycles, also because the brake caliper, blocks a disc and not a rim, the rim will not be braked even if it is slightly off-center. The only drawback of these brakes is their high maintenance and the high price of spare parts, such as brake pads.
Coaster-brake or coaster-brake
The backpedal brake consists of a drum brake on the rear hub that is operated by backing up the pedals, the pros and cons of these brakes are very similar to those of conventional drum brakes, they are heavy and have low braking power, but on the other hand they require almost no maintenance and in this case all cables are eliminated, since the brake is operated by the pedals and no wiring is necessary.