What Are The Best Brakes for Mountain Bikes? (In-depth Analysis)

Hydraulic disc brakes are best for mountain bikes. It is more firm than other brake types and has more bike-stopping power.

Brakes are a crucial investment for a solid mountain bike. They secure the safety of an MTB, potentially saving your life every time you ride on a rough or slippery trail.

Knowing which brakes are suitable for your bike is essential, too, because only some brakes go with every mountain bike. This might leave you wondering, what brakes are best for mountain bikes?

You can’t choose brakes randomly; you have to consider how you use your mountain bike and get brakes that fit your needs.

With that being said, this post should work as a guide to identifying which mountain bike brake is for your bike.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hydraulic brakes are better than mechanical brakes.
  • The prime differences between mechanical and hydraulics are their structure systems.
  • If you are a heavy off-road rider, give quad-pistons a chance.
  • Hydraulic brakes are mostly low maintenance.

Which Brakes are Best for Mountain Bikes?

Hydraulic brakes are hands down the best brakes you should go with for your mountain bike.

Disc brakes have been in the market for the longest time. It puts pressure on the brake lever, and the bike stops eventually. The reason why it’s a better choice than rim bikes is that rim bikes take longer to stop the cycle and could damage the mountain bike tire as you continue using it.

Then you have mechanical disc brakes, which function similarly to hydraulic disc brakes. Both systems use pressure on the brake levers. Mechanical disc brakes use a wire and have designated pistons for the braking system. In contrast, hydraulic disc brakes have a fluid system for braking and don’t require wires.

Hydraulic brakes have master cylinders that keep the fluid system intact. The piston is inside the cylinder, moving only when force is applied to the brakes.

This fluid system makes hydraulic disc brakes better than other disc brake options. Let’s put two of the most popular braking system side by side and see which one is better.

Mechanical Brakes vs. Hydraulic brakes: Which is better?

Note that both are equally good, but there’s a reason why hydraulics are called the upgrade. Here’s how.

Mechanical Disc Brakes Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Mechanical disc brakes use a steel wire system to stop the bike. Mechanical disc brakes use a steel wire system to stop the bike. Uses a fluid approach to control the bike.
They are inexpensive. More high-end.
They are heavy. Lightweight
Requires regular maintenance. Once you install hydraulic disc brakes, you can forget about it; no maintenance is required.

Hydraulic brakes are reliable and generally a better option as they have a robust braking system and require low maintenance. One advantage of mechanical disc brakes is that it’s easier to fix. While hydraulics are harder to repair, and sometimes, you may not find the part.

Many athletes prefer using mechanical disc brakes only because they have a higher part availability. Developing countries might not even have authentic parts for hydraulics, so it might be a dealbreaker for some.

We know how important it is to have nice brakes, especially when it’s raining, because of how easy it is for mountain bike brakes to fail when wet. Mechanical brakes barely function in wet conditions, which makes the rider prone to accidents or brake failure.

With hydraulics, you don’t have to worry about brakes failing even in soaking conditions. Hydraulics have a sealed fluid system, which makes it impossible for things to harm the brakes during the rain. Whereas the wire in mechanical disc brakes can slip in the rain quickly.

Best Mountain Bike Brakes You Can Get Right Now

Now that we have settled the mechanical and hydraulic brakes debate, here are the best ones for mountain bikes you can purchase. We have tried to shortlist the brakes to only the best ones available.

Brake Name Price (Excluding parts) Weight (Excluding caliper)
SRAM Code R $222 242g
Magura MT5 $189 255g
Formula Cura X $553 226g
Shimano Deore XT $73-80 266g
TRP G Slate $150 285g
Best Brakes for Mountain Bikes

1. SRAM Code R

From the original creators who first introduced hydraulic disc brakes, SRAM Code R. It is efficient and one of the budget-friendly options for people who want something that is high-end and will last long.

The brakes have a “Matchmaker” clamp to which the lever is attached directly. The brakes have RS2 rotors, allowing the bike power and more control.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Has power
  • Provides control
  • Own clamping system

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • It might take a while for the brake to come to a halt.

2. Magura MT5

Magura MT5 is another underrated gem with four pistons, which allows more flexibility for the brakes. It has decent power and will not break the bank.

The fluid system is made out of mineral oil.

Pros:

  • Has four pistons
  • Affordable
  • Allows good power and control
  • Mineral oil fluid system
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • High maintenance
  • Part unavailability

3. Formula Cura X

Formula Cura has started making brakes recently and has gained popularity for its minimalistic design and amazing brakes. Formula Cura X is no different. It comes with a hose length of 175mm and a weight of 226 grams; it’s one of the best brakes for mountain bikes. It is one of the best brakes for Mountain Bikes.

MixMaster is Formula Cura’s own clamps, allowing levers to quickly get directly attached to them.

Pros:

  • Minimal design
  • Strong power and controlling system
  • Lightweight
  • Mineral oil fluid system

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Part unavailability
  • Mediocre pistons

4.  Shimano Deore XT

Shimano Deore XT could be Magura’s competitor. With four pistons and an ideal pricing point, that is.

XT has big levers which allow the bike incredible mobility and power. Even if you bite early, you shouldn’t struggle with control. Besides, Shimano brakes have great structure, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance.

Pros:

  • Good brake system
  • A+ power and control
  • Budget-friendly
  • Low maintenance

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • It might not be beginner friendly

5. TRP G Slate

G slate has a silver body with easy assembly. The brakes have multiple rotor options with two pistons.

We like our brakes to have four pistons for the best performance, but two pistons work just fine. The fluid system is made of mineral oil, and the clamps are made of alloy silver.

TRP G slate provides average control and power, nothing too crazy. Making the brakes excellent for everyday use and occasional off-road trails.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Part unavailability

Cons:

  • Mediocre stopping power
  • Heavy

Final Verdict

As days go by, many brakes are being added to the market. While rim brakes or mechanical disc brakes might be traditional ones, hydraulics easily beats them.

Mechanical brakes have only wires which don’t allow much control and can cause accidents easily. Hydraulic disc brakes have a seal-tight fluid system with cylinders, making brake failure almost impossible.

Hydraulics are strong, fast, and have so much more stopping power. We recommend saving some money and getting the better option.

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