Brakes might not be the most exciting part of biking - after all, you want to be going, not stopping! However, it goes without saying that a good bike needs good brakes. As with every element of biking, you can spend as much or as little as you like. In fact, there is a bewildering array of options out there for the cyclist. So we got together with the team at Bike Parts to break down (sorry for the awful pun) the best selection of brakes for any budget.
It is split into three categories, V-brakes, caliper brakes, and disc brakes, and then for each, I will look at a good option if you have a tight budget and then an option for those looking to spend a little more.
V brakes (sometimes referred to as cantilever brakes) are commonly found on mountain bikes. They are an older type of brake, and their popularity is slowly declining. However, they are still a staple, especially for older models of bike. The term “V brake” is actually a trademark of Japanese manufacturer Shimano, the leading designer of this kind of brake. So, it will come as no surprise that the two models of V brake featured here are from Shimano.
First up is the entry-level V brake: the BR-T4000. These are a great brake for those on a budget - functional and durable all at a reasonable price. The front BR-T4000s cost just over fifteen pounds, the rear ones come in just shy of twenty pounds, so you can be kitted out with a brand new set of brakes for a small amount of money. It is important to remember that these brakes are front and back specific, so you will need to buy both separately.
For those with a little more money to spend, we would recommend Shimano’s BR-T610 V brake system. These are still very affordable, and will certainly not break the bank (sorry!), however, they have improved brake pads for low noise and offer a higher degree of control over braking than the less expensive models.
Caliper brakes are typically found on road bikes because they lack the clearance to fit over chunky, mountain bike tires. This means that their design is optimized for performance on paved roads and tarmac. Again, we will be looking at two Shimano models of brake callipers.
First, for those on a budget, the BR-R451 comes highly recommended. It is a very reasonable price, you can get a new set of front and rear brakes for under fifty pounds, but still comes with an impressive level of performance. Operating friction is kept to a minimum by the dual pivot design, which means better braking stats. Also, it is built from lightweight aluminium, so is durable without adding extra pounds.
At the top end, we have the BR-R451. The main improvements here are: spring tension adjusters, that allow you to dial-in exactly the response you’d like from your brakes; improved durability for both bearings and pads; and also titanium parts, so it is both durable and super-lightweight.
Finally, we come to disc brakes. These are different from the previous two brake types because disc brakes do not act by applying pressure to the rim of the wheel. Instead, a disc attached to the center of the wheel is slowed by the brake, in turn slowing the wheel.
Because they do not need to apply over the rim of the wheel, disc brakes are commonly found on mountain bikes and hybrid bikes, as thick tires can be used without getting in the way of the brakes.
Sticking with the theme, we have two offerings from Shimano that are great, one budget and one more high end.
First, for those looking at entry-level disc brakes, the Shimano SLX BR-M7000 is a great way to get into disc brakes. If you have a mountain bike and have always previously used V brakes, this is a great system to swap to, as it is relatively inexpensive yet is still high quality and high performance.
In particular, these brakes have much better stopping power than V brakes, and the M7000s have powerful piston technology that means you can bring your bike to a dead stop with just one finger. Furthermore, even those these are entry level disc brakes, they carry over much of the tech from Shimano’s higher-end disc brake systems, so you get a phenomenal amount of braking power for your money.
If you are looking to go a little further, and have a little more money to spend, we would recommend that you look at the Shimano M8000 series. They are not a huge leap in price over the M7000s, but they pack even more punch. A key selling point here is that they are compatible with a wide range of brake disks, so you can swap out and experiment, allowing you to truly tune your riding experience.
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