ContentsQUICK ANSWER – THE BEST MTB BRAKESMTB BRAKES REVIEWSSHIMANO XTR BR-M9020 TRAILSRAM GUIDE ULTIMATESHIMANO XTR BR-M9000 RACEHOPE RACE EVO X-2SHIMANO SAINT BR-M820AVID CODESRAM GUIDE RSCHOPE TECH 3 V4TRP SPYKE ALLOYAVID CODE RCOMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST MTB BRAKESHOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MTB BRAKESHYDRAULIC OR MECHANICAL BRAKESHYDRAULIC BRAKESMECHANICAL BRAKESTYPE OF RIDINGTRAIL RIDINGDOWNHILL RIDINGROTOR SIZEBRAKE PADSORGANIC PADSSEMI-METALLIC PADSMETALLIC PADSCOMPONENT COMPATIBILITYFRAME AND FORK MOUNTSROTOR SIZINGROTORS AND CALIPERS The best MTB brakes are lightweight and stop on a dime, but upgrading your brakes isn’t only about stopping. Better brakes improve control and handling, letting you ride faster with more confidence on every trail. Riders and manufacturers have long overlooked brakes, but the industry is shifting. Recent advances in disc braking technology have lowered costs and weights, making disc brakes the de facto standard for mountain biking, and bringing new attention to this humble component. Modern disc brakes are just as sexy as the shiniest wheelsets and silky-smooth shifters, even at the entry-level. The rapid pace of development has left consumers with a surfeit of options across a range of manufacturers, making it difficult to choose. We’ve done the research to give you the confidence you need to pick the best brake for your ride. For more of out top mountain bike gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: Men’s Bikes | Women’s Bikes Pedals | Wheels | Tires | Brakes | Saddles Chains | Cranksets | Derailleurs | Gear Shifters Helmets | Lights | Computers | GPS | Pumps Shorts | Jackets | Shoes | Gloves CLICK HERE to Download our FREE Quick Starter Guide to Mountain Biking Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/stefanschurrPhoto by istockphoto.com/portfolio/ikick QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST MTB BRAKES Shimano Xtr Br-M9020 Trail Sram Guide Ultimate Shimano Xtr Br-M9000 Race Hope Race Evo X-2 Shimano Saint Br-M820 Avid Code Sram Guide Rsc Hope Tech 3 V4 Trp Spyke Alloy Avid Code R MTB BRAKES REVIEWS SHIMANO XTR BR-M9020 TRAIL Check out the latest price on: Amazon | Jenson USA BEST FOR: High-power on fast trail rides SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 255g PROS: Great power, easy setup and maintenance, resists heat buildup CONS: Loud in wet weather, weight, cost SRAM GUIDE ULTIMATE Check out the latest price on: Amazon | Jenson USA BEST FOR: Top of the line performance for trail riders SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 218g PROS: Great stopping power and modulation, very adjustable, lightweight CONS: Cost, require more fine-tuning than other high-end brakes SHIMANO XTR BR-M9000 RACE Check out the latest price on: Jenson USA BEST FOR: Lightweight brakes for trails SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 182g PROS: Lightweight, easy to setup and maintain, good modulation CONS: Lower power, loud when wet, cost HOPE RACE EVO X-2 Check out the latest price on: Amazon | Jenson USA BEST FOR: Lightweight hydraulics for trail riders SYSTEM: Hyrdaulic WEIGHT: 198g PROS: Lightweight, good customer service, easy to install, modulation CONS: Cost SHIMANO SAINT BR-M820 Check out the latest price on: Jenson USA BEST FOR: Maximum stopping power with one-finger braking SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 450g PROS: Great stopping power, easy to install CONS: Poor modulation, cost, weight AVID CODE Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: High-power downhill riding SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 410g PROS: Great stopping power, customization, weight CONS: Price, difficult to install SRAM GUIDE RSC Check out the latest price on: Amazon | Jenson USA BEST FOR: Downhill riding on a budget SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 381g PROS: Great power and modulation, cost, lightweight CONS: Hard to adjust, maintain, lower stopping power than other downhill brakes HOPE TECH 3 V4 Check out the latest price on: Amazon | Jenson USA BEST FOR: Downhill riders looking for the lightest brakes SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 344g PROS: Great customer support, easy to install, modulation, stopping power CONS: Cost TRP SPYKE ALLOY Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Sub-zero weather and budget SYSTEM: Mechanical WEIGHT: 169g PROS: Cost, best mechanical disk brake on the market, great power and modulation, all-in-one purchase CONS: Requires regular tuning and maintenance, stock pads perform poorly and need replacement AVID CODE R Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Budget riders who want a cheaper version of the Code SYSTEM: Hydraulic WEIGHT: 395g PROS: Great stopping power CONS: Hard to install, lacking customization COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST MTB BRAKES PICTUREBRAKEBEST USERIDE STYLEOPERATIONWEIGHTPRICERATING PICTUREBRAKEBEST USERIDE STYLEOPERATIONWEIGHTPRICERATING SHIMANO XTR BR-M9020 TRAILOverallTrailHydraulic255.0 g$$$$5 SRAM GUIDE ULTIMATEOverallTrailHydraulic218.0 g$$$$4 SHIMANO XTR BR-M9000 RACELightweightTrailHydraulic182.0 g$$$5 HOPE RACE EVO X-2LightweightTrailHydraulic198.0 g$$$5 SHIMANO SAINT BR-M820High PowerDownhillHydraulic450.0 g$$5 AVID CODEHigh PowerDownhillHydraulic410.0 g$$N/A SRAM GUIDE RSCHigh PowerDownhillHydraulic381.0 g$4.5 HOPE TECH 3 V4High PowerDownhillHydraulic344.0 g$$$5 TRP SPYKE ALLOYBudgetTrailMechanical169.0 g$4.5 AVID CODE RBudgetDownhillHydraulic395.0 g$N/A Gear up for mountain biking, without breaking the bankGet the Latest Deals on MTB GearSent right to your inbox...GEAR UP FOR MTB HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MTB BRAKES HYDRAULIC OR MECHANICAL BRAKES Disc brakes fall into two basic categories, hydraulic or mechanical. Both systems have merit, but hydraulics are the most popular, and are best for most riders. HYDRAULIC BRAKES Hydraulic brakes follow the same principle the brakes in your car or motorcycle follow, detailed in this Bicycling Magazine article. Hydraulic disc brakes are fast, reliable, and have great modulation, or control, over the stopping force exerted. The main drawbacks with hydraulics are cost and complexity; they should be installed by an expert and inspected regularly for leaks or air bubbles. Old fluid needs to be bled and replaced occasionally, which can be time-consuming and messy. MECHANICAL BRAKES Mechanical brakes are typically heavier, cheaper, and easier to fix or troubleshoot on the trail. They operate like traditional v-breaks via mechanical tension. Pulling the brake lever pulls a metal cable, tightening the calipers in a similar rotor/caliper setup near the wheel hub. Their biggest advantage is in subzero temperatures, ease of set-up, and cost. Brake cables need to be cleaned and maintained like shifter cables and replaced when they’ve frayed or stretched. If any of this left you feeling lost in the woods, see our previous article on mountain bike parts for beginners. TYPE OF RIDING Brakes, like mountain bikes, are designed for different types of riding and uses. Mountain bike categorization is a deep and sometimes controversial topic, but most bikes can be sorted into two broad groupings for brake recommendations. The first, trail, includes cross-country (XC) and most light-duty mountain bikes, suitable for riding on singletrack or other man-made trails. The second, downhill, is a narrower range of bikes designed for fast descents on steep inclines. Some manufacturers have re-branded these bikes with the term gravity. We include freeride bikes in this category. TRAIL RIDING Trail riding is a versatile discipline encompassing both mellow and tricky, technical courses. Brake system weight is a key factor, as trail riders tend to ride flowing trails over longer distances than their downhill compatriots. Look for a balance between the lowest weight and sufficient stopping power for your trail or XC bike. These brakes may be designated XC or Trail in the model name. DOWNHILL RIDING Downhill riders need stopping power above all else. Downhill brakes tend to weigh a little more, just like the heavy duty bikes they’re designed for. Reliability is always important, but it’s crucial for downhill riders, who tend to build up more heat in their brakes, which can degrade braking performance. Larger rotors and extra pistons, four or six instead of the standard two, will ameliorate this danger and keep braking power high even when the brake fluid heats up to boiling. Some brakes in this category will have DH or Gravity in the model name. ROTOR SIZE Rotor size is partially influenced by riding style and rider size and weight. There are three common sizes for rotors: 160, 180, or 203 mm. Trail riders usually pick 160 mm rotors, while the heavy 203 mm rotors are best for downhill riders and maximum stopping power. The 180 mm rotor is a good compromise pick, perfectfor heavier riders or anyone who needs a little more stopping power on their XC bike. BRAKE PADS According to mountain bike enthusiast site Singletracks, brake pads come in three varieties: organic, semi-metallic, and metallic. We break down the three to help you decide what’s best for you. ORGANIC PADS Organic pads are made from a mixture of natural materials such as glass, fiber, or rubber, and a heat-resistant resin that binds them together. Some manufacturers call them resin pads after the bonding technique. These pads don’t get as hot as metal pads and provide good modulation, making them a versatile choice. They aren’t a good choice for downhill or inclement weather riders as they wear out quickly in wet conditions and are prone to failing at high temperatures. SEMI-METALLIC PADS Semi-metallic pads are the most common stock pads, but most riders tend to upgrade to metallic or organic. They provide decent stopping power for all riders and last longer than organic pads. METALLIC PADS Metallic pads are less effective at lower speeds and temperatures, but come into their own as they heat up. These are the pads of choice for downhill riders, although they tend to produce much more noise than organic pads. They are hard-wearing and durable. COMPONENT COMPATIBILITY Component compatibility is the easiest and the trickiest aspect of selecting mtb bikes. Instead of subjective considerations like ride feel and preference, you’ll need to check sizing, mount types, and other cut and dry specifications. Several of these considerations are listed in-detail on the Chain Reaction Cycles site under the heading MTB Disc Brakes: In-Depth. FRAME AND FORK MOUNTS Frame and fork mounting is the first concern. International Standard, or IS, and Post Mount are the two different standards. Some frames use IS on the rear and Post on the front, but adapters exist that should let you use most brakes with most bikes. ROTOR SIZING As disc brakes work by applying friction to a rotor on the wheel, they also need specific wheels built for rotors. International Standard is the most common standard for wheel and rotor mounting, but Shimano, Hope, and other manufacturers use proprietary systems that tend to cost more and restrict rotor selection. ROTORS AND CALIPERS Your rotors and calipers also need to be compatible, both in width and diameter. By this point in your research, you should have already decided on your rotor size, leaving you to just check the calipers to make sure they can accommodate your rotor. Compatibility is important, but none of these issues should be deal breakers: adapters and converters exist for most standards and parts, and are often sold as add-on products. MOUNTAIN BIKING RESOURCESTABLE OF CONTENTSMOUNTAIN BIKINGTABLE OF CONTENTS 1. MTB BASICS 4. MTB MAINTENANCE 2. MTB CLOTHING 5. MTB SKILLS 3. MTB EQUIPMENT 6. MTB TRAINING 1. MTB BASICS 2. MTB CLOTHING 3. MTB EQUIPMENT 4. MTB MAINTENANCE 5. MTB SKILLS 6. MTB TRAINING Disclosure: The Adventure Junkies is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. 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