6 Types of Bike Brakes Used in Bicycles

  • Simon Archer
  • June 17, 2019
  • 0

Brakes are just as important as the tires in a bicycle. There are a couple of different types of bike brakes, each with its unique way of functioning, advantages, and disadvantages. The following are some of the different types of bike brakes used in bicycles:

1. Calliper Brake

Also known as a side pull, it features a pair of arms that are curved and at the lower end of the arms. You will find blocks that are meant to act as the friction material. With the help of a flexible cable, the friction material blocks are pulled in towards each other, so the two outer surfaces of the wheels’ rim are squeezed in between them, bringing the bicycle to a stop.

Found in many popular types of bikes, a calliper brake is pretty light and cheap. However, when exposed to the elements, it may be affected negatively. For example, if rainwater gets into contact with the friction blocks, they will become slippery, and you definitely don’t want that to happen with your brakes. A chromed steel wheel rim works efficiently when dry but is completely ineffective when wet.

Aluminum wheel rims are considered a safer option since, although they are not as effective when dry, they still get the job done and perform well when wet. The wheel rim’s material also affects how well the calliper brakes work. How good or bad the brake ‘feel’ mostly depends on the construction of the calliper and the friction material.

2. Band Brake

These types of bike brakes are mostly used on Chinese bicycles. A band brake functions with the help of a flexible band made up of friction material. The band is firmly fastened on one end and then loosely wrapped around a rotating steel drum. The other end is attached to a lever that controls the braking system.

The bicycle slows down and comes to a halt whenever the lever is pulled as the brake band is forced to tighten around the rotating steel drum. An important thing to note about band brakes is that they do not work in reverse, so if you find yourself going down a hill and the bicycle is facing backward, band brakes will not be of much help.

Band brakes can be defined as low-tech devices due to their structural simplicity, which explains why they are cheap. Just like calliper brakes, the efficiency of band brakes can be affected by the elements.

3. Drum Brakes

Drum brakes are also referred to as hub brakes, or more specifically, an internal expanding shoe brake. For the most part of this century, this was the go-to braking system, but things changed when disk brakes were introduced since they are much cheaper.

These types of bike brakes feature a drum containing two brake shoes that with friction material on them. The brake shoes are placed opposite one another. Drum brakes utilize a mechanism that helps push the brake shoes apart on either one or both ends. The shoes are then pressed against the inside part of the drum to produce friction, which brings the bicycle to a stop.

These brakes use a cable linked to a cam that helps push the brake shoes outwards. Though drum brakes tend to be heavy compared to other types of brakes, its combination with the hub gear makes up for the weight penalty. Hub brakes also have a distinct ‘feel’ and progressive action compared to other brake types.

4. Backpedal

As the name suggests, the back pedal brake is otherwise known as a coaster. It simply requires you to pedal backward to activate the brakes. This type of brake works by pushing a metal cone right through the hub, which then pushes the brake shoe segments against the shell of the rotating hub to either slow or bring the bike to a halt.

The advantages of a back pedal brake are that its structure does not leave any cables and levers exposed. It also lasts longer compared to the other brakes. This braking system is mostly used on BMX bikes.

5. Roller Brake

Roller brakes are basically a combination of the backpedal, drum and disc brake all in one. This type of brake uses steel rollers that are pushed outwards by a cam so that the brake shoe rubs against the rolling steel drum, creating friction, which eventually stops the bike.

Some designs come with a cooling disk because heat build-up can be a problem. Compared to other types of brakes, roller brakes come in last in terms of the ‘feel,’ and they need to stay greased at all times, and failure to do so will lead to unpleasant metal noise.

6. Disc Brake

A disc brake uses two friction pads that are pushed against the opposite sides of a steel disc. Although the discs build up heat, they are well exposed to let the heat dissipate. This type of braking system has become increasingly popular in recent years, not only for bicycles but also cars, trains, motorcycles, and aircraft.

Whatever bike brakes you prefer, the most important thing is that they work whenever you activate them.


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