As much as we enjoying going fast and heading forward when we’re out on our bikes, we like to know that we have enough stopping power when we need to slow down. The brakes on your bike are extremely important, and they need to function reliably, whether it’s wet or dry, hot or cold, during gentle slowdowns or emergency stops.
This holds true if you do long road races, mountain and trail riding, or in-town commuting. You may face different obstacles — such as long downhill descents, trees and rocks, or aggressive cars and pedestrians — but the need is the same: you must be able to rely on your brakes.
Bike brake technology hasn’t stopped evolving, and there are some impressive new brake systems on the New Zealand market. Some of the old, traditional bike braking systems have benefited from the competition, and they’ve been improved with modern materials and updates.
Here’s our list of the best bike brakes out there.
There’s a good reason caliper systems became the standard for bike brakes over the years: they’re robust and cheap. When set-up properly, with the brake pads aligned perfectly using the right amount of toe-in to eliminate squealing, cantilever brakes work well. And they give you good feel and feedback.
The problem is that they quickly fall out of alignment and often need to be readjusted. You’ll notice that many older bikes have caliper brakes. Some manufacturers still include them — especially on low-end brands — but we’re seeing fewer and fewer these days.
These brakes are a variation on caliper brakes. They still use rubber pads that rub against the rim to cause friction and slow the bike down, but they’re more powerful thanks to longer cantilever arms. V-brakes are a smart choice for off-road and mountain biking because they don’t tend to accumulate mud and dirt as much as caliper brakes.
V-brakes are often designed with a quick-release cable, which makes removing your front wheel easier. As with caliper brakes, they require precise positioning and angling to work best, which can be difficult to obtain, especially when you’re out on the trail.
Using technology long since perfected on cars and motorcycles, bike disc brakes have had a breakthrough the past few years and are becoming more and more popular. Originally extremely expensive, and reserved only for high-end bikes, you can find disc brakes on more and more mid-market bikes these days.
If you bike in wet, muddy conditions, disc brakes offer your best stopping distances. They make use of a disc mounted to the hub and a caliper to stop you, instead of a pads on the rim of the wheels, which can get wet and dirty. Cable-operated disc brakes exist, though for maximum stopping power hydraulic is the way to go.
Different lever designs can be used with all of the previously mentioned bike brake systems. Choose the handles that feel the best to you and give you the most control. Brake pad or caliper choice is important because they come in direct contact with your wheel and apply the force to stop your bike.
If you’re looking to purchase a new bike, or upgrade your current bike, make sure you consider your braking system. Start by browsing our BikeExchange marketplace to discover all of the brake parts for sale in New Zealand.
Now that you’ve found the ride brakes for your ride, learn how to descend like a pro!