Cycling Brake Systems

Brakes might not be the most exciting part of cycling – 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 cycling, you can spend as much or as little money 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 (pun alert) break down the best selection of brakes, for any budget.

Braking systems are split into three categories; V-brakes (or V-pull), calliper brakes and disc brakes. In this article, I look at a good option for those looking for a low budget solution and one option for those looking to spend a little more.

V Brakes

v-brake imageV brakes (sometimes referred to as cantilever brakes) are commonly found on mountain bikes. They are an older design 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 bicycle 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 Shimano 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 around £15, the rear ones come in just shy of £20, so you can be kitted out with a brand new set of brakes for a small amount of money – compared to other brake options. 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, I would recommend the Shimano BR-T610 V-brake system. These are still very affordable, and will certainly not break the bank, however, they have improved brake pads for low noise and offer a higher degree of control over braking than the less expensive models, something to consider if you are cycling in wet conditions and/or steeper declines.

Calliper Brakes

shimano-105-road-brake-caliperCalliper brakes are typically found on road bikes because they lack the clearance to fit over chunky, mountain bike tyres. This means that their design is optimised 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 Shimano BR-R451 comes highly recommended, judging by the positive reviews online. It is a very reasonable price brake option, you can get a new set of front and rear brakes for under £50 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 Shimano 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.

Disc Brakes

disc brakesFinally, 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 centre of the wheel is slowed by the brake, via brake pads, 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 tyres can be used without getting in the way of the brakes.

Road bikes are increasingly seen with disc brakes, albeit generally on winter brakes as the they offer superior stopping power in poor weather conditions.

Continuing with our 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.

This article was produced with expert input from, which was started in 1985 by the Founder, who had a skill for repairing old bikes and selling them on from his garage, getting old unloved bikes back on the paths and roads for others to enjoy.

Originally known as Biggin Bikes, the business provided a hit with local cyclists and as a consequence, it grow, eventually becomming an online business.

Today, the business has rebranded, redesigned and rebuilt to make online shopping a pleasure for customer across the World.

Disclaimer: No money, goods or services have exchanged hands in the creation of this article.