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Mechanical Disc Brakes


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How to choose mountain bike mechanical disc brakes: Just like everything else money can buy, bicycle components come in varying levels of sexiness. For some people, only the most cutting-edge, hip products are worthy purchases. Others, however, find products that work for them and stick with it. These people drive reliable vehicles, always value function over fashion, and are never late for their weekly ride. They may also have a trusty set of mechanical disc brakes mounted securely to their bikes. Unlike their hydraulically driven counterparts, mechanical brakes get their power by from a cable that is actuated by a common brake lever, the cable then pulls on a small moveable part on the caliper which pushes the brake pads into contact with the rotor. This creates friction, which slows down the wheel. Mechanical disc brakes provide reliable, relatively hassle free performance at a very competitive price.

Mechanical Disc Brakes


All mechanical disc brake systems are fairly similar, but there are some technical differences to set models apart. The most noticeable of which are external adjustment knobs. These allow for quick and easy trailside tweaking of braking power and pad contact. Combined with the barrel adjuster on the brake lever, these knobs can have a brake feeling like new in just a few minutes. Next is the use of bearings in the pivot on the caliper that allows the cable to pull on a small lever and push the brake pad against the rotor. More expensive models use high quality bearings in this location to improve feel.


Disc brakes come in three standard rotor sizes of 6, 7 and 8 inch (160, 180 and 200mm). Larger rotors provide more stopping power and shed heat faster, but smaller rotors are lighter and provide increased modulation. It is becoming more common for riders to mix and match rotor sizes for increased performance. For example downhillers may use an 8'' rotor in the front and a 7'' in the rear, whereas trail riders will use 7'' up front with a rear 6''. When changing rotors, keep in mind that every rotor size requires a different adapter.


Mechanical brake calipers are made from aluminum to ensure low weight and reduce heat transfer. Disc rotors are made from stainless steel. Disc brake pads come in a variety of materials.

Things To Look For

Installing a new set of mechanical brakes can be a very simple and fast process. If the bike they are to be mounted on is equipped with disc hubs and disc tabs on both the frame and fork, then installation is only a matter of bolting the new parts on. Furthermore, if you are upgrading from a V-brake system, there is no need to replace the brake lever because your old ones will work with a mechanical system. Front and rear brakes are mounted with adapters designed for a specific brake. Note that front and rear adapters are different. Brake adapters are inexpensive and should be found in most bike shops.

How Much To Spend

Mechanical disc brakes range in price from $35 to $75.

In the $35-$55 range, models are available in all sizes and provide all the advantages of disc brakes at a very affordable price. These models have few, if any, external adjustments, but provide superior modulation and stopping power in wet conditions compared to rim brakes.

The $55-$75 range includes top of the line mechanical braking technologies. They use aluminum calipers to save weight, ball bearing pivots for increased smoothness and feature easy to use external adjustments that allow for instant power.

Product Reviews

Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.

We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, our mountain bike forums are a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders. Your local bike shop is also a great resource.

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